What Is Better Than A VPN? (6 Alternative Options Considered)

For most everyday internet users who value their privacy and security, want to escape internet censorship, or simply want to download torrents and stream other countries’ Netflix libraries, a reliable VPN is the best choice. 

Simply put, a well-known, paid VPN doesn’t have a good alternative and is the best all-in-one product for most use cases. That being said, there are alternatives to VPNs that excel at one or two things but aren’t a complete package that a VPN offers. 

Let’s see what some of these alternatives are and how they compare to a VPN.

1. Smart DNS 

smartdns diagram

SmartDNS is another type of configuration that hides your true location. When you activate it, it will route all DNS queries to its own servers and instruct others that you’re in a specific location without changing your other information.

In general, SmartDNS is only beneficial if you want to stream content, access geo-restricted content, or avoid lags while playing online video games.

Best VPN Overall
Best VPN Features

Unfortunately, SmartDNS is not good at protecting your privacy. It’s not its fault. It simply wasn’t designed to keep your information private, and you’ll need to use another system, like VPN, if you want to hide your information.

SmartDNS vs. VPN

Smart DNSVPN
StreamingYes,
no speed loss
Yes
TorrentingNo,
doesn’t protect privacy
Yes
SpeedNo Speed LossDepends on
VPN servers
Security & PrivacyNoYes,
encrypted connection
Unblocking websitesYesYes
Ease-of-useEasy to set upYes, with a VPN app

Smart DNS and VPNs are different on many levels. For those who only want to unblock geo-restricted content, the difference probably won’t be very important. 

You do need to be aware that the two systems operate differently and will have varying consequences on your overall experience. 

If your only goal is to maintain connection speeds or just access different content providers, Smart DNS is a viable and affordable alternative to VPNs. If you’re after privacy and security, a VPN is a much better choice.

SmartDNS is so useful, though, that many VPN providers offer it as either a separate service or as part of their core features. 

If you’re not sure which service to get, we recommend starting with one that has a minimum of one week in its free trial. This gives you enough time to configure it and access a lot of content before deciding whether to go with the subscription.

If there’s no free trial, a 30-day, no questions asked, money-back guarantee will do as well.  

Smart DNS Recommendations

1. SmartyDNS

smartydns

SmartyDNS is a mixture of VPN and SmartDNS. They allow for a 3-day free trial of their services, making it easy to test them out and see whether or not they meet your needs before you opt-in for membership. 

There’s also a 30-day money-back guarantee, which provides some extra support on top of their basic services and is great if you only need it while traveling for up to a month.

However, SmartyDNS only bundles its services together, so you’ll pay more for this than some other providers.

2. ExpressVPN SmartDNS

expressvpn

ExpressVPN packages its SmartDNS system (known as MediaStreamer) with its VPN. You can easily enable it by following the instructions for your device and using the DNS addresses. 

ExpressVPN is also one of the better VPNs and is a great choice if you also want to maintain your privacy while you’re online.

This company offers a 30-day money-back guarantee, which isn’t quite as good as a free trial but can be used for vacations, travel, etc.

3. KeepSolid SmartDNS

vpn unlimited

KeepSolid SmartDNS is a non-VPN provider that allows you to use it without installing anything and on unlimited devices you own. It’s coming from the creators of VPN Unlimited.

There’s a 7-day free trial, which is long enough for many vacations if you want to access the content at home then. That alone makes this service worth looking at.

Find out more in our When And How To Use Smart DNS.

2. Tor 

Tor Network

Tor is a volunteer-run, free-to-use, open-source server that can help you do all sorts of things online with increased privacy and safety. More than seven thousand relays (also called routers or nodes) make up the system to keep your data private. 

Tor is short for The Onion Router, and its name comes from the layers of security, like the layers of an onion. 

The router originated in the United States Naval Research Laboratory to help keep their information safe. Now it’s used worldwide for political protest, free communication, and private research, among other things. 

Tor lets you enter the dark websites that aren’t available on the usual servers. Access to the dark web means that you can find some exciting and sometimes dangerous things on Tor.

What’s Tor good for?

  • Private communication
  • Free expression
  • Accessing hidden sites
  • Finding torrents

Tor vs. VPN

Both Tor and VPN are valid forms of adding a layer of privacy and security, and both are secure when you have them on and active. 

The main difference is that Tor works for your browser’s activity and a VPN protects all internet activity coming in and out of your device once active, not only the browser. 

If you have other apps or programs on your device, Tor doesn’t offer any protection.

RELATED: Torrenting over Tor

3. Silo 

silo

Silo lets you shift your risk but centralizes your control. It’s a secure, execution environment based on the cloud for all your web-based activity, but mainly for research and safe data access for remote workers, researchers, and others. 

Silo is basically a cloud-based browser that was created by Authentic8. The browser does much more than mask your connection. It also completely isolates the browser from your local IT environment.

To use it, you have to first book a demo, and it’s generally meant for organizations such as research institutes, media, and their journalists, and similar. 

Silo vs. VPN

Like Tor, Silo will only give you browser-based protection, meaning that other apps will still be unprotected when accessing the internet. Yet again, if you need protection for the whole device and not only the browser, a VPN is the way to go. 

4. Whonix 

whonix

Whonix is a piece of software that you can install on Windows, macOS, and Linux, making privacy and anonymity its main goals. 

For that reason, all connections are forced through the Tor network, and various security mechanisms are used. 

Whonix is basically an operating system that you can install on top of your existing OS. It has a web browser, IRC client, office suite, and other pre-configured programs with security in mind.

Whonix vs. VPN

Whonix is a second operating system that has to run on top of the existing one you already have. It has its own set of apps that are configured, not only for privacy and security but also for anonymity. 

A VPN is just an app that you install and hit connect. It’s easy to set up and beginner-friendly. Your whole device is protected and all the apps that you’re using. It doesn’t offer anonymity, though. 

READ ALSO: Why Aren’t VPNs Illegal? (A Full Answer)

5. Proxy

proxy
A proxy will hide your real IP address

Proxies and VPNs often get tossed into the same bag, and the terms get used interchangeably. There are, however, big differences between the two. 

Let’s start with what a proxy is. Similar to SmartDNS, a proxy will hide your real IP address so that the websites only see the proxy’s IP. However, a proxy will only work on the app level and reroute the traffic coming from this individual app you set your proxy up with. 

A proxy differs from a VPN in that it doesn’t encrypt your traffic or give you any security and a range of other useful features. A VPN runs on the operating system level and redirects ALL your traffic, no matter if it’s coming from your browser or an app.

Is VPN better than a proxy?

A VPN is a better choice as it implements privacy and security by routing your traffic through a secure VPN server and encrypting all your traffic. 

On the other side, a proxy merely transfers your traffic through a remote server but doesn’t offer any extra protection in the process because it doesn’t encrypt the traffic. 

Unlike proxies, VPNs work on the operating system level and protect all your traffic. Between the two, VPN is definitely a winner.

6. Psiphon

psiphon

Psiphon is a circumvention tool that employs VPN, SSH, and HTTP Proxy technology to let you access the Internet without restrictions for free. The Psiphon client is a clever tool that will automatically learn about new access points to maximize your chances of bypassing internet censorship.

Circumvention tools generally work in one of these two ways:

  • by diverting web traffic so it avoids the machines that filter
  • by disguising the traffic to appear like traffic that is not subject to filtering. 

The Psiphon app does both and always updates its technology, methods, and strategies to continue evolving.

READ NEXT: VPN Vs. Remote Desktop: What Is A Better Option And When?

Psiphon vs. VPN

VPNs are different from the Psiphon app in that VPNs don’t disguise the nature of their traffic and only communicate through one type of protocol. For that reason, VPN traffic can be identified, and censors can easily block VPN traffic. 

Several countries are already filtering or degrading VPN connections, while others block VPNs during elections or political protests. 

Psiphon, on the other hand, disguises the type of traffic that’s transmitted and even where it is coming from. Psiphon is designed to be resilient to censorship and uses several secure protocols that all appear different to censors, making it difficult to distinguish between Psiphon traffic and other types of traffic. 

Because Psiphon uses several protocols, even if one traffic type is filtered on a network, Psiphon can easily connect through a different one. 

The downside is that the encryption is only limited to browser traffic, and it doesn’t increase privacy on your other apps. Psiphon also collects some data from its users like user activity data, aggregate data, and shareable aggregate data. 

The data is used to monitor the health and success of the Psiphon network, among other things. Data collection is a cause of concern for most people, and you should study their privacy policy in more detail if you’re interested in Psiphon. 

Summary

To have a private internet connection can be made possible in more ways than one, and a VPN isn’t the only solution for added security and privacy. There are modern solutions such as SmartDNS, Tor, Silo, Whonix, Tails, Psiphon, Proxies, and others that can help you achieve more or less similar things.

The main difference between a reliable, well-known VPN and these other applications, OSs, and browsers is that a VPN is a complete and simple, turn-key solution that lets you connect to the internet securely and privately for a couple of bucks a month. 

Recommended VPNs

Surfshark

surfshark

Surfshark is one of the best, most popular, and most inexpensive VPNs out there that has thousands of servers around the world and the latest VPN technology and features that help you access the internet even from the most strict countries that curb western internet content.  

Surfshark lets you use their VPN on an unlimited number of devices and offers, hands down, the best encryption available today. They also have a strict no-logs policy which means that they aren’t observing and, more importantly, logging everything you do online. 

Find out more about Surfshark VPN in our full review.

CyberGhost

cyberghost

CyberGhost is really cheap and literally costs less than a cup of coffee a month. Despite that, it’s an excellent VPN that works with Netflix and other streaming platforms even when other VPNs fail. 

It’s very easy to subscribe to CyberGhost’s multi-year plan as the company has an industry-leading 45-day money-back warranty. 

With more than 7,500 servers worldwide many of them are specialized for streaming Netflix Germany, France, UK, and the US, as well as BBC iPlayer, Hulu, YouTube, etc.  

Aside from dedicated streaming servers, there are additionally gaming and torrenting servers. Find out more about CyberGhost in our full review

NordVPN

nordvpn

NordVPN is another top choice for anyone valuing their privacy, safety, and money. Not only is NordVPN at the cutting edge of technology, but it’s also super cheap, making it an excellent investment. 

NordVPN will keep prying eyes at bay and keep your data and location safe. It’s available as an app on all major operating systems that will let you connect to one of almost 6,000 servers worldwide. 

The company has made a comprehensive package that checks all the boxes for seamless browsing, streaming, and P2P, but also speed, privacy, and security.

Read more about it in our full NordVPN review

We also highly recommend ExpressVPN as a more expensive alternative to the ones above. ExpressVPN is, however, an outstanding selection that can stream 4K videos from Netflix and has many other outstanding features.

Best VPN Overall
Best VPN Features
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