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VPN vs. VDI - Which one to choose

Definition of VPN and its uses

VPN or Virtual Private Network creates a secure connection between a device and another network. It is used commonly for allowing remote access for employees from different types of devices like laptops and PCs.

Creating a secure tunnel is essential for users accessing a private network that contains confidential data, and safe transmission from one network to another is critical. Since there are potential threats of transferring data over the internet, creating a tunnel ensures that organizational resource does not fall into the wrong hands. A VPN establishes a secure connection by encrypting all the traffic between the two networks and masking the IP addresses.

IT administrators configure VPN access policy and then set up shared resources. An employee will thus have remote access to only those resources within the access policy defined in the system. Remote users can download and store data on their devices and work offline.

Definition of VDI and its uses

VDI is a short form for Virtual Desktop Infrastructure. It represents a system in which virtual desktop environments are hosted and transmitted to remote users over a network.

A dedicated central server in an organization and hosted in a data center run multiple virtual machines. Each virtual machine or VM executes a desktop environment and provides remote access workstations to users.

The virtual network computer system provides dedicated resources and workstations and ensures that productivity and highly secure performance are ensured. It enables users to connect to their virtual desktops from any remote location and device.

The Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) is device agnostic. It is not dependent on the hardware used by remote end-user users.

The VDI is a centrally managed system where administrators look over the operating system (OS) configurations and updates. Using the VM template such as golden image, one can install new software and manage workstations. The golden image gets replicated across multiple desktops in a cluster.

VDI Vs. VPN – what are the differences?

Though both VDI and VPN look similar, they work differently and provide various services. VDI allows access to remote desktops on which users can carry on with their work. In contrast, the VPN establishes a tunnel between the end-user and the private network of the organization. They are both popular solutions for remote work, and many businesses are unsure which one to use. One should compare the solutions provided for each attribute and then decide which is best suited for a specific use.


VPN is dependent on user hardware as all the processing gets done on the users’ devices. Old hardware and obsolete operating systems impact performance and productivity, while VDI has lesser hardware requirements. It is not affected or dependent on the end-user devices for the overall experience. The processing is done on the server-side using dedicated resources linked to each virtual machine running the virtual desktop. It is possible to use outdated or cheap devices for VDI.

Data Security and Storage

There is a substantial difference in how VDI and VPN handle data. VPN protects data in transit by sending it in an encrypted tunnel. When the data arrives from the tunnel to the user, it has no security once it is on the user's desktop. It can be copied onto the user’s device without any restrictions. There is a potential data breach when company files get copied locally.

While using VDI, both the data and applications remain on a virtual machine running the workstation. Here the files are protected on company servers or the cloud. The advantage here is that administrators can restrict data movement outside the organization network by configuring virtual desktops.

When it comes to larger workloads, VPN loses out. Since VPNs depend upon end-user devices, end-user connection speed and resources are restricted. Therefore, it is evident that different users deliver different performances as they are device and connection- dependent. Encrypting and decrypting a heavy load of data can impact the overall speed.

VDI has better UX and provides a faster environment because each user has resources allocated accordingly for their workstation. Here one does not rely on the user’s devices, but the dedicated server resources used by VDI are helping to customize and improve performance capabilities.


In VPN management, the VPN server is less expensive to maintain. However, maintaining users’ devices can be complicated as they need to utilize off-site resources. It requires connecting to the device for updates or troubleshooting. In VDI, admins can update and fix issues on a virtual desktop infrastructure with a centralized management system.

With centralized access, admins have the advantage of updating multiple devices simultaneously and have closer and better control over the system. However, maintaining this kind of system includes running and managing multiple Virtual machines for different functioning.


Cost plays a significant factor in choosing between VPN and VDI as they vary considerably. If looking for a cost-effective solution, one should go for a VPN because of its minimal hardware requirements and less maintenance expense. VPN is the lowest-cost system. It utilizes the user’s device and covers multiple devices from a single account.

The VDI is a more expensive solution as it includes managing remote work. It requires an extra software layer for hosting the server hardware, VDI system, and dedicated resources for each workstation.


There is no straightforward answer – which is better? VPN or VDI? It depends on the specific use and factors that play a significant role. For smaller businesses, VPN is more suitable. It is cost-effective, easy to use, and easy to implement. For dealing with a larger workforce where high performance is needed, VDI is a better choice.

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