Although it would be easy to confuse VNC and VPN since they seem similar at first sight, the truth is that they are very different. VNC stands for Virtual Network Computing, while VPN refers to Virtual Private Network, which adds to the confusion since these terms look almost the same. Virtual Network Computing is used on computers to see and manage other devices remotely using a network connection. It a practical solution for using a desktop while you are on the go, or when you need to move around the house.
VNCs are also convenient for administrators as it allows them to troubleshoot networked computers remotely. VPNs are designed to connect computers to a secure network through a specific server. All the data that is transmitted between these computers is encrypted, which gives users the possibility to keep their information protected. It is a very convenient solution for companies and individuals who want to step up the security of their data.
How do VNCs work?
The code for VNC is open source under the GNU General Public License and it was developed at AT&T Laboratories. VNC is built on a Remote Framebuffer or RFB and it is a solid protocol that enables a server to update the framebuffer on remote computers. The platform is not restricted to a single operating system. It can be used on all systems and graphic interfaces. VNC works with a client-server model in which a viewer is installed on a local computer and connected to a remote machine. When you press a key, click on the mouse or perform other operations, VNC interprets the commands from the viewer and carries out the relevant action on the server. All VNC machines have to connect with TCP/IP and they have ports open that allow traffic from IP addresses on the devices that have to be connected.
Common uses for VNC
- Remote access
- Many companies give their employees the possibility to work from home or from a different location. They can use their computers remotely and get access to the company’s data from any locution with the help of a VNC connection. Since the information doesn’t leave the premises, it is a secure solution.
Business Continuity Processes (BCP)
If an unforeseen event such as a natural disaster takes place, getting physical access to the workplace can be very difficult or even impossible. Many companies save data in the cloud, which can make the VNC very convenient. If something happens, it may not be possible to get access to a server through normal means. There are providers that will allow you to launch a temporary VNC so that you can access the console remotely.
Remote Technical Support
VNC is a very popular option for remote tech support. It allows technicians to solve problems on your computer from any location, without having to get physical access to the machine. VNCs are used by many IT departments to offer complete technical support. It is an ideal solution because the receiver can see everything that is going on by looking at their screens and they can intervene whenever needed.
Downsides of VNC
- VNCs require a high amount of bandwidth. The best solution for this issue is to use low resolution, greyscale screens to speed up the transfers.
- VNCs also tends to be slower since the most basic form of its code relies on raw encoding, which is very outdated. If the client and server computers don’t share advanced encoding methods, the raw screen is sent from one to the other pixel-by-pixel from left to right. In general, only the changed pixels are sent in order to reduce the negative effects. While this works well for small operations such as mouse cursor changes, it is not an efficient option in the case of changing the entire screen.
- With VNC, you can only use applications installed on the remote computer. If you would like to use a local application remotely, first you will have to install it on the remote computer.
Comparison between a VNC and a VPN
Usually a VNC is used to manage desktops from a different computer using a network connection. With a VNC, you can control a remote computer, usually using a VPN.
A VPN is a widely used solution that gives users the chance to connect their computers to a network. With a VPN, it is possible to use advanced options such as tunneling protocols. This is a feature that enables the creation of a private network over a larger public one such as the Internet.
When you use a VPN, all the applications on your desktop get access to the Internet using a secure and encrypted connection. In addition, your identity will be masked since your IP address is changed. This adds anonymity to your connection and also allows you to access a wide selection of restricted websites.
Which is better, a VPN of a VNC?
While setting up a VPN is more complicated than setting up a VNC connection, they let you use local applications on a remote network in the same way you would if you were at work or at home.
VPNs facilitate VNC connections to desktops using remote network and prevents servers from being exposed to the public internet. Thanks to this, security is improved significantly when a VPN is in use. You can connect a remote network and use a local VNC client to access desktops.
With a VPN, it is possible to transfer files from a remote folder to a local one and you can print documents on a remote server to your local printer. On the other hand, a VNC only lets you access a primary remote computer.
If protecting your privacy is a priority (and it should be, considering the threats that we face on a daily basis including hacking and surveillance), a VPN is an ideal solution. This technology encrypts the entire traffic between your device and the VPN entry point. A VPN is also a convenient solution when you want to avoid online censorship or use an IP address that is not linked to you.
A VNC works well for companies or individual users who want to get access to a remote computer. However, a VPN is better for users who want to encrypt their files and keep their data secure.