How does Smart DNS work?

Ruth C. | May 29, 2020

A Smart DNS service is a practical solution when you need to access content under specific geo-restrictions. If you live in a heavily-censored country, restrictions will limit the number of online services available to you. In other cases, you might only get partial access, with fewer offers, discounts, or content. Naturally, netizens want to get the full experience instead. Smart DNS helps users circumvent the restrictions or limitations of access to digital services. However, this service does not follow the security-first approach. Instead, it focuses on the unblocking aspect, not its secure implementation.

First things first: what is DNS?

Before discussing Smart DNS, we should briefly explain the meaning of DNS. Back in the day, when the internet was not such a global phenomenon, it worked quite differently. To visit a specific site, you needed an IP address associated with it. Of course, this was neither practical nor convenient.

It became necessary to introduce a solution that would allow people to access websites by typing in a specific domain name, not a number sequence. Hence, DNS became the so-called phone book of the internet. It is responsible for translating the domain name you enter into a computer-readable IP. Also, this domain name conversion takes only a couple of milliseconds, making it completely unnoticeable.

What is Smart DNS purpose then?

A Smart DNS service has a clear-cut purpose: to expand users’ access by unblocking the geo-restricted content. It makes sure that information related to your geo-location does not reach the website you intend to visit. Instead, it reroutes this data through a server provided by a Smart DNS service. Hence, websites will believe that a user, physically residing in Switzerland, is accessing Netflix from the UK. Of course, the newly assigned address might pinpoint your whereabouts anywhere in the world. In most cases, it depends on the Smart DNS service provider. Such services tend to offer a variety of proxy servers.

Many global sites choose to go exclusive by adjusting their content according to users’ locations. So, it is only natural for the online community to attempt and dodge such restrictions. However, while Smart DNS is enough to give you the key to more content on Netflix, it won’t do much to protect you online. As you might know, internet privacy is a boiling pot, full of conflicting ideas, concerns, and controversial practices. As it turns out, a Smart DNS can’t stand guard against personal data collection and constant surveillance. And you will soon learn why.

Are Smart DNS and VPN services the same?

While Smart DNS and VPN services confront the same issue of geo-restricted content, their solution is somewhat different. A Smart DNS conceals your location from the websites you visit but does not mask it fully. Hence, your ISP can still keep records of your browsing history and personal data. Furthermore, a Smart DNS does not reroute your entire web traffic, only the details related to your whereabouts. Lastly, it does not offer encryption, meaning that all your data transmissions remain in plaintext.

While unblocking geo-restricted content is a priority for VPNs, it is more of a bonus than a primary feature. The focus of all VPNs is to encapsulate your traffic in a secure tunnel and encrypt it. This practice safeguards all your online affairs, financial transactions, and search queries from surveillance and misuse.

It should be clearer that Smart DNS and VPN services have distinct purposes, suitable for specific situations. A Smart DNS is a flexible solution for unblocking geo-restricted content. However, do not assume that this technology applies encryption protocols or tunneling. Domain fronting is a related concept.

Smart DNS vs. VPN: main differences

  • Speed. A Smart DNS has a smaller impact on your internet speed. Hence, you won’t lose any bandwidth. It offers a high-speed performance because there is no encryption to influence the connection. Even though a VPN is less lightweight, it is because a VPN performs additional actions. It encrypts and encapsulates all web traffic, which might make your internet connection drop. However, usually, the speed differences are minimal, depending on the VPN service used. The majority of VPN providers prioritize speed. So, the less high-speed performance might simply be unnoticed.
  • Encryption. A Smart DNS does not encrypt your data. Therefore, it does not protect you from surveillance and data logging. A VPN takes huge steps to defend its users from entities that might use intrusive techniques. So, if you would like to become invisible online, opt for a VPN. It will preserve your privacy and prevent your data from ending up in the wrong hands.
  • Price. Depending on the products you choose, a Smart DNS might be cheaper than a VPN. However, let’s not forget that a VPN is a multipurpose technology. Hence, it is natural for it to be more expensive at times. Also, many free and reliable VPNs have emerged on the market. As a result, you might not need to pay a dime to get quality protection.
  • Protection in heavily-restricted environments. Only a VPN is capable of fully masking your IP address and reassuring full-on anonymity online. While a Smart DNS is more likely to work on online streaming services, VPN is more far-reaching. For instance, it can bypass firewalls, which is something Smart DNS does not offer.

The bottom line is that you should opt for the service that suits your needs. If your main priority is unblocking geo-restricted content, a Smart DNS is enough. However, you might be fed up with claims that companies need personal data to offer personalized services. With advanced encryption procedures and tunneling, a VPN will guarantee that no one can look over your shoulder as you browse. Luckily, Atlas VPN provides anonymity and flexibility at no cost. Hence, if you perceive most of the online tracking practices as a gross invasion of privacy, consider trying Atlas VPN.

Ruth C.

Ruth C.

Cybersecurity Researcher and Publisher at Atlas VPN. Interested in cybercrime, online security, and privacy-related topics.



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