The difference between a VPN and Smart DNS comes down to that of a virtual private network and a proxy. Because a “smart” DNS is essentially a proxy service with some degree of automation. Making this comparison a rehash of our VPN vs. proxy comparison, albeit one that still has to be made for one particular use case – unblocking streaming services.
When Smart DNS is preferred over a VPN
You see, if the whole reason you’re looking for a VPN in the first place is to access Netflix Japan’s collection of documentaries or something in that vein, you’re better off with a Smart DNS than a VPN. And that’s on the sole basis of proxies being inherently faster than VPNs, at least those of the premium variety which act as a dedicated IP VPN.
For everything else, there’s VPN
But, much like a proxy, a Smart DNS won’t encrypt your traffic, meaning it’s not an acceptable alternative for scenarios wherein either privacy or security are of any import. E.g. Hulu certainly wouldn’t care if it turned out you circumvented its content blocking algorithms to watch Polish telenovelas from the ‘80s, but an oppressive government finding out your history of posting Winnie-the-Pooh memes on Weibo probably wouldn’t be as indifferent.
Which brings us to the conclusion of this simple comparison between VPNs and Smart DNS software – articulate why you need to alter your network traffic and then pick one or the other accordingly. Luckily for you, many of today’s top VPN solutions like ExpressVPN and NordVPN offer Smart DNS automation as part of their basic subscription tiers, so you may not even have to decide between the two, depending on your provider of choice.