VPN vs. VLAN: what is the difference between them?

Anton P. | October 17, 2023

VPN vs. VLAN presents two options to securely connect devices and limit access to resources in some way.

For instance, VLAN is a group of devices connecting to the same network despite their physical location. A VPN aims to create a secure internet connection, letting remote users access systems. 

While VPNs and VLANs have things in common, their application and purpose differ. Thus, let’s discuss how these technologies differ and how they can work together. 

Learn about VPN vs. VLAN differences in securing access.

What is VLAN (Virtual Local Area Network)? 

Virtual Local Area Network (VLAN) is a group of devices or network nodes that operate as if they belong to a single LAN. 

Local Area Networks (LANs) refer to devices connected via Ethernet or Wi-Fi within a limited area. VLAN enables multiple LANs and their devices to communicate with each other. 

So, VLAN allows organizations to separate devices into particular groups. The result is that VLAN can unite devices in multiple physical locations, like different offices. Thus, gadgets work in a logical network and one broadcast domain. 

Also, it helps to divide access privileges to different groups, like granting unique access to marketing and legal teams.

Main purposes of VLANs 

VLANs improve different areas of network operation: 

  • Companies can divide big networks into smaller groups to organize devices better. 
  • VLANs minimize congestion since each smaller network operates individually. 
  • Separate networks improve security as employees can only access resources intended for them. 
  • VLANs can also reduce the risks of unauthorized access. If malicious people compromise one network, others remain unharmed. 
  • Network administrators can make network changes and adjust to different groups’ needs. 

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What is a Virtual Private Network (VPN)? 

A VPN or Virtual Private Network is a tool for changing your IP address, secure remote access, and online privacy. 

Remote access VPNs focus on providing users safe access to network resources in any physical location. 

Consumer VPNs are more flexible, providing encrypted connections over home or less secure networks. So, its purpose is to provide a user with a way to connect to the internet more securely.

Main purposes of VPNs 

In this context, we focus on remote access VPNs as their purposes relate to VLANs more: 

  • Remote access VPNs protect employees working remotely, like from home or in different countries. 
  • VPNs grant access to remote workers as if they were in the corporate office. 
  • They also facilitate safer data exchanges between employees. 
  • Remote VPNs also offer more protection for the networks employees use for remote work.

Why compare VPN vs. VLAN? Is a VLAN like a VPN?

Secure data transmission is a goal for consumers and companies alike. Thus, deciding which solutions can help achieve this goal requires knowing the most available options. 

However, VPN vs. VLAN compares two technologies that serve different purposes. VLANs create a virtual subnet of endpoints in separate LANs and gadgets not overseen by the same network switch. 

So, they connect devices in different physical locations. It allows administrators to bring more security and provide some control over their networks. 

Instead, a remote VPN connection is more after improving remote access. It lets employees access resources as if they were in the office.

Thus, it is not necessarily a VPN vs. VLAN but how these technologies can work together. Combining both solutions is one of the ways to foster secure and convenient connections. 

Main differences between VPN vs. VLAN

We try to eliminate all inaccuracies you might have about VPNs and VLANs. The following table highlights the biggest differences between these technologies:

VLAN (Virtual Local Area Network)VPN (Virtual Private Network)
A VLAN optimizes network management and unites devices in different physical locations. A remote access VPN unites devices in different locations, letting them access data and apps within corporate centers.
VLANs offer more security because users can only access resources necessary for their jobs. Remote VPNs usually allow access to all resources, but more divided access options are available.
VLANs create separate digital spaces within physical networks. Devices in the same VLAN can communicate with each other if the network administrators have specified it. Users of remote VPNs can access resources as if they work from the office building/network. 
VLANs also do not offer additional encryption for traffic passing through the networks. It focuses on simplifying traffic management and security control.Remote VPNs encrypt all traffic the users send and receive, boosting security further.

Last notes on VPN vs. VLAN

The VPN vs. VLAN discussion introduces two different ways to improve network security. A VPN focuses on secure remote access and traffic encryption. The purpose of VLANs is to separate a large network into smaller, isolated networks. 

Thus, they have different use cases but can work together to create safer work environments. For instance, VLANs will typically apply while you work in the office. However, a VPN can take charge when you work outside the office.

Anton P.

Anton P.

Former chef and the head of Atlas VPN blog team. He's an experienced cybersecurity expert with a background of technical content writing.

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vpnsecuritylannetworkremote access

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