Ever since the pandemic forced us to work from home, businesses of all sizes scurried to adopt effective remote-access systems. As a result, a few systems were specifically created for that purpose, while other existing tools were updated to allow for remote support. The end result is what we’ve come to see now: it’s either RDP or VPN- and that can sound pretty confusing for the uninitiated. So how can you choose the right system that fits your business needs? Here’s everything you need to know about both RDP and VPN systems, so you can make an informed decision. 

Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP)

Remote Desktop Protocol, or RDP for short, is a secure network protocol that’s been specifically created by Microsoft for remote communication support. The protocol works to enable remote access to and management of virtual programs, applications, and desktops. This enables the user to log into remote networks while using the network’s own storage units and processing capability, which can be done by mirroring the remote computer’s graphic interface. 

Since you’ll be practically using the remote computer for the actual work, you won’t need to purchase a dedicated server or maintain your storage systems anymore. After all, you’ll be accessing the RDP through the cloud, and that gives you more flexibility. Additionally, you’ll be depending on the remote computer to do all the processing, as only the mouse clicks, keystrokes, and screen images are conveyed through the RDP connection. This saves you a lot of bandwidth during remote work. 

Virtual Private Network (VPN)

VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. Most people are only familiar with VPN as the software they use to access geo-restricted content, mostly when they’re looking to stream movies or read content located on overseas servers. When it comes to office work, we’re familiar with the formidable security that a VPN provides thanks to its encryption function. That’s why it may come as a surprise to many people that VPN can also be used for remote network access – although it’s not very surprising when you think of how a VPN works. 

A VPN uses advanced tunneling techniques to create a secure network connection through which the previously encrypted data can be sent and received. It enables users to transmit data across two points with complete disregard for any unauthorized users. Essentially, a VPN is a security and not a remote support solution, although it can work to enable the user remote access as well. 

RDP vs VPN: the Pros and Cons

You may feel even more confused now after the previous explanation. It’s starting to sound like both systems are created for completely different purposes, isn’t it? The truth is, that is indeed the case. In the longstanding debate between using an RDP or VPN, it always comes down to weighing the pros and cons of using each system in relation to your business needs. It’s only once you realize how you can use each system that you can choose the one that’s right for you. 

The Pros

  • A VPN provides the most secure connection. It encrypts the transmitted data, allows access to geo-location services, and gives you access to restricted content. A VPN enables you to access remote networks from anywhere and use the data and files stored remotely. 
  • Meanwhile, an RDP enables you to access all the resources on the remote computer, not just the network. You’ll be able to use an RDP to run the licensed software installed on the remote computers, process files using the computer’s graphic card, store information on the computer’s storage unit, and even share the screen. 

The Cons

  • Unfortunately, a VPN consumes a lot of bandwidth, since all the files will need to be transferred so you can use or edit them. If you don’t have an internet connection, you won’t be able to use a VPN. A VPN system also needs proper configuration, or else it will cause a lot of errors. 
  • Not only is configuring an RDP system much more complicated, but the system’s security is also much weaker than a VPN’s. This creates a  security gap for malicious attacks to land. 

VPN system

Are you still feeling confused? Alright, it’s time to simplify your options. The truth is that you don’t have to choose one over the other. In fact, many companies work with both RDPs and VPNs. The verdict is that if you don’t work with bandwidth-consuming data nor need access to licensed software, a VPN is a great option. Otherwise, using an RDP can be more practical and efficient. However, for the utmost efficiency, it’s best to combine the RDP’s remote support capacity with the VPN’s superior security features.