Remote Desktop vs VPN

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Updated September 12, 2022

Setting up a remote work environment that is safe and effective is no simple task. To do this, administrators need to understand the benefits of things like the best VPNs to ensure that sensitive company databases remain unhacked. In addition, other applications like remote desktop services exist to help employees remotely access files and applications stored on their work computers. Let’s look at the differences between remote desktops vs VPNs so that you can better understand what you need for the ideal remote workspace.


  • Remote desktops and VPNs are essential tools to create safe and efficient remote office spaces.
  • Remote desktops allow users to access their work desktops and local network database from a remote location.
  • A VPN connection creates secure internet access by encrypting all user data and IP addresses by running them through a private network.

Setting up an offsite work location requires understanding the wide range of internet services, and we have extensive coverage of such tools. For example, you can find our articles comparing things like LANs vs VPNs or Smart DNS vs VPN.

Insider Tip

Specific remote desktop protocols include encryption and other security services. Make sure to check for this feature when browsing for a service.


The main difference between a remote desktop protocol or connection (RDPs) and a virtual private network (VPNs) is the task they accomplish. RDPs help remote workers use their work desktops from afar, providing access to different files and applications stored within their local database. RDPs store data from a network of work computers on a remote server. Once a user has access to this server, they can use their laptop or mobile device just as they would their office computer.

In contrast, a VPN establishes a connection to a private server that encrypts all user data and changes the IP address to secure internet traffic and reduce the chances of getting hacked.

The only similarity these two network resources share is that they are vital for setting up a remote work office. Apart from that, the differences are stark.

If you want to learn more about the different types of VPN protocols, we have a great article comparing PPTP and L2TP.


Always vet any RDP or VPN service, especially free services, thoroughly. They are known to harvest user data and, in some cases, act as a trojan horse to install malware onto remote servers.

Data Security

VPN solutions are the ultimate tool for protecting data on public networks. The server encrypts all remote employee information before entering cyberspace, significantly reducing the likelihood of bad actors stealing data.

The majority of remote desktop software does little in terms of data security. In addition, some data experts say RDPs increase security issues as they often handle transfers of important company info. For this reason, it’s recommended that VPNs are used on top of remote desktop applications.

If you’re interested in alternate approaches to remote security, you can read our resource comparing SDPs vs VPNs.

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Remote Accessibility

VPNs are only helpful from a versatility standpoint because they allow access to servers around the globe, which helps users bypass national censors and restrictions.

RDPs are purposed to allow users complete flexibility and access their work computer anytime and from any location.

Remote Desktops vs VPNs FAQs

Do remote desktops add any layers of additional security?

Most remote connections don't encrypt any data. However, some newer services offer encryption protocols.

Is it smart to use both a remote desktop solution and VPN simultaneously?

Combining an RDP and VPN with your business network helps provide the most secure and accessible remote setup.

Are remote offices more susceptible to a cyberattack?

A cybersecurity company found that remote networks have about a 3.5x greater chance of having a malware presence than non-remote networks.
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