Remote Desktop Vs VPN: Which One Should You Use?

remote desktop vs vpn

Remote access to your company’s machines has become a common practice in the post-pandemic world. Sharing your screen with remote employees so that they can execute their routine chores from home is essential for their productivity. VPNs and Remote Access are the most popular remote applications used worldwide.

While they share some common features, they are different in terms of their services, functionalities, and purpose. In this remote desktop vs. VPN comparison guide, we’ve shared the common differences between the two. Read till the end to know which option is better and most suitable for you.

What is Remote Desktop?

Remote Desktop is a software application that builds a virtual connection between two compatible devices remotely. You can use AnyDesk to set up a secure remote connection.

Using a remote desktop, you can access your office’s machine remotely, i.e., from the comfort of your home or another location. It looks like you are sitting in front of your computer at the office but in a different location.

It’s an ideal solution for frequent travelers, work-from-home workforce, hybrid workforce, and outsource IT help desk companies that need remote access to their client’s system to troubleshoot technical issues and address them remotely.

Once the remote desktop connection is established, you can access the client’s computer, which is probably located hundreds of miles away, and edit all files and applications on the host computer. The connection is stable as long as the main machine is not in use. Note that a remote desktop doesn’t allow two computers to work simultaneously.

What is VPN?

If you have been accessing applications that are restricted in your country, you must be familiar with VPN. It’s a virtual private network that hides your IP address and allows you to work on a local network on the internet.

It’s a secure way of accessing a network without revealing your IP address. Once the VPN is activated, the websites and applications you visit can see the random IP addresses that keep changing.

Suppose you are traveling somewhere and need to connect to your office’s printer to get some office stuff printed. But the printer is connected to the local network of your workplace and requires your physical presence there in order to execute printing operations.

With VPN, you can access your office’s local network anywhere and access the shared networks effortlessly. This includes printers and just about any device connected to your organization’s network.

It’s an all-in-one solution for corporate users that need to access their business network from different locations securely. But you can’t expect the VPN to give you complete access to your office’s computer. That’s one of the areas where remote desktops and virtual private networks differ.

Remote Desktop Vs VPN

Remote desktops and VPNs differ in terms of access, security, and features. VPN is commonly used to access secured and restricted networks on the internet by hiding your IP address. RDP gives you remote access to a computer at your workplace. Let’s check out the key differences between the two, so you can choose the best.

1. Access

The clear difference between a VPN and a remote desktop is the level of access each one offers. VPN gives you broader access to different websites and applications, including the censored and restricted ones across the internet.

For instance, if you are visiting a country that has banned social media sites, you can use VPN to change your IP address to another country and access the restricted social app.

Remote Desktop is like a screen-sharing software that allows you to open your computer on another device and view & edit files on the host computer. As mentioned earlier, it’s for remote employees that need to access the office’s computer remotely so they can continue their work without visiting the office.

2. Security

RDPs are not designed for privacy and security. It’s a functional software that allows people to connect to other machines remotely. Since hackers are always looking for vulnerable connections, there’s a risk someone might breach your security and set up unauthorized access to your office’s device.

VPNs, on the other hand, are highly secure. By masking your IP address, these services encrypt the traffic and give you secure access to the private network from any location. That being said, VPNs can also be unsafe. Free VPN service providers often sell customers’ data to third-party vendors.

3. Productivity

Remote desktops increase user productivity by giving them quick access to their desktops at the office remotely. It supports work-from-home culture and allows employees to work at their flexible times. Their activity session can be monitored to track their productivity.

VPN enables users to access Gmail, WhatsApp, Microsoft Office Suite, and other work-related applications that might be restricted in your country. So, for those traveling to international countries with limited access to internet services, a VPN might come in handy.

Which is Better?

As you can see, VPN and Remote Desktops have different applications. One allows you to connect to the private network securely, while the other gives you access to your office desktop at home or other locations.

You can implement both for robust security and high productivity. VPN is recommended for those who can bring their hardware to different locations, but need access to the company’s local network. However, you must buy paid VPN services from a reputable company to ensure a safe connection.

Remote desktops are perfect for those who can’t access the hardware. For your remote teams that work in a hybrid setting, RDP is the best choice.


You can use RDP and VPN together, to prevent attackers from getting access to your desktop. Once your connection has been encrypted with VPN, you can rest assured that your screen can be shared with only the registered user, and the information transferred between the devices won’t be hacked. It lowers the risk of man-in-the-middle, ransomware, malware, and other attacks. You can research both services in detail and pick the one that suits your needs.

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