19 Differences Between Firewall and VPN

Protecting your computer system and network is paramount and for that you will need to use reliable and effective security mechanisms.

A Firewall and Virtual Private Network or VPN are two such mechanisms that you can choose, but the question is which one of them would be more suitable for you to install.

Well, for that you will need to know the differences between them in the first place. Then after, you will need to know which among the two is more important and useful in today’s scenario.


  • A Firewall builds a layer of restrictions and prevents unknown site penetration but a Virtual Private Network will encrypt accesses and allow entering restricted sites through a secure connection.
  • A Firewall will build a wall to prevent cyber attacks and to block sites but a VPN will build a proxy network to offer a more secure private connection.
  • Security rules or criteria can be set up according to the user of a Firewall but Virtual Private Network service does not offer such an option.
  • A Firewall deals with the incoming traffic and blocks the ports from the intruders but a Virtual Private Network service protects outbound traffic allowing changing the public IP address.

The 19 Differences Between Firewall and VPN

Firewall and VPN

1. Purposes

When you use a Firewall, it will allow you to access the internet more effectively but it will block unknown site penetration and build a layer of restrictions regarding what you can access.

On the other hand, when you use a Virtual Private Network service, all remote accesses and networks will be encrypted.

It will allow you to access even restricted sites with a more secure connection.

2. Creations

A Firewall will create a strong protective wall in order to prevent cyber attacks and protect your confidential data.

On the other hand, a Virtual Private Network service will create a proxy network that will allow you to have a more secure connection.

3. Focus

A Firewall will focus mainly on blocking the websites. It typically uses your choice to disallow access to specific types of sites.

On the other hand, a Virtual Private Network service will mainly focus on a private connection.

It will allow you to access any site for a long period of time.

4. Services Offered

A Firewall will prevent malicious attacks by letting you decide what you want to enter your system.

On the other hand, a Virtual Private Network service will secure your location from others trying to know it and at the same time will keep your private data such as passwords and financial information safe from those who are trying to acquire it.

5. Setting Up Security Rules

A Firewall will allow you to set up security rules or criteria according to your preferences on it.

On the other hand, when you use a Virtual Private Network service you will not be able to create your own set of security rules on it because it will not give you the authority to set up any network or packet restrictions by using your own computer.

6. Computer Protection

A Firewall will protect your computer from malicious attacks and hacks by preventing the harmful sites from entering it.

It will create restrictions on the access on your computer that you may have to.

On the other hand, a Virtual Private Network service will not be able to protect your computer or the internal network against malware completely.

It can only protect the data in a VPN channel or from where the network connection was made by bypassing the geo restrictions.

7. Used by

A Firewall is usually used by both individual as well as corporate clients with the intention to protect their computer systems and network from malicious software and outside attacks.

On the other hand, a Virtual Private Network service is usually used by the companies that want their employees to access their remote servers securely from any location.

8. Public Facing Servers Protection

A public facing server can be protected by a public facing Firewall.

On the other hand, a Virtual Private Network service will not be able to protect the public facing servers.

9. Working Process

The working process of a Firewall typically includes analyzing any data packet passing through the network and checking their content as well as their destination against the predefined set of security rules.

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If it does not match, it will be stopped immediately and directly which will result in a network error for the user.

On the other hand, the working process of a Virtual Private Network service includes two network points that are communicating with each other via an encrypted tunnel.

Every point in it is configured in the same way which allows access from any other that has the same security rules such as IP address, security keys and encryption method.

10. Goals

The goal of the Firewall is to avoid access to any kind of network content that is not allowed.

This way it also protects a local network from remote attacks and at the same time it filters right of entry to the internet or inside a network as well.

On the other hand, the goal of a Virtual Private Network service is not to block or filter anything.

On the contrary, it is aimed at providing a much safer method to communicate between two given networks which can be with the internet from your home computer, or between two given sites, or even to a local network from outside.

The primary goal of the service is to steer clear of the MITM or Man-in-the-Middle attacks.

11. Setup

A Firewall is typically a set up between two networks. Installing it typically creates a connection point.

On the other hand, a Virtual Private Network service actually refers to the software set up on the two points that are required to be connected.

It is more of a link or a tunnel through which the data passes and not a particular point on the network.

12. Configuration

A Firewall uses a configuration of a specific set of rules for every interface that connects it to the network.

For example, there will usually be only two types of networks only at home such as Local Area Network or LAN and the internet, but a company may have dozens of sub-networks used at the same time.

All these are connected and filtered by an exclusive Firewall.

On the other hand, a Virtual Private Network service will configure it with the same set of encryption methods and security keys and each of them will be aware of the IP address of the other network.

13. Types of Traffics Safeguarded

A Firewall typically protects the incoming traffic by blocking the ports from the outside intruders.

On the other hand, a Virtual Private Network service safeguards the outbound traffic by letting you change the public IP address.

14. Basic Functions

The basic function of a Firewall is to act as a physical barrier between the internal network of the computer and any external network such as the internet.

On the other hand, the basic function of a Virtual Private Network service is to prevent information leakage and stealing of data from a connection when a user uses an open or unencrypted Wi-Fi.

15. Symbolic to

A Firewall is symbolic to a rigid wall that is set on the perimeter of your network that prevents unauthorized data packets from entering the network by passing through the wall.

On the other hand, a Virtual Private Network symbolizes a shield that protects your connection and address on the internet when you surf the web.

16. Control

The Firewall will offer you greater control over the way you want your devices and networks to communicate with each other and the internet and to prevent harmful access by allowing you to set up your own security rules.

On the other hand, the Virtual Private Network will not allow excessive control.

You will only be allowed to find a kill switch feature. This will let you cut off the internet and prevent exposing your IP address.

17. Features

Some of the key features of a Firewall that will allow you to blacklist or whitelist websites include and are not limited to malware and virus protection, Single Sign On or SSO, and sandboxing.

On the other hand, some of the key features of a Virtual Private Network service include broad server locations, integrated kill switch and no-log policy.

18. Benefits

A few of the significant benefits offered by a Firewall are filtered communications, blocked malicious or unauthorized transmissions, reduced hacking events, isolated private network from an untrusted or a public network, better enforcement of technical network security policies, and blocked spoofed traffic.

On the other hand, some of the major benefits offered by a Virtual Private Network service are improved communication, added security through encryption, more secured remote control or remote access, masked origin or client IP address, and blocked attacks from local physical and local logical attackers.

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19. Types Available

There are different types of Firewalls available today but the major ones are packet filtering Firewall, circuit level Firewall, application level Firewall, stateful inspection Firewall, and next generation Firewall.

On the other hand, the different types of Virtual Private Networks are host to host transport mode VPN, host to site tunnel mode VPN and site to site tunnel mode VPN.

Which is Better to Use – Firewall or VPN?

Differences Between Firewall and VPN

Ideally, if you look into things deeply, you will see that both Firewalls and Virtual Private Networks are essential security tools to have installed in your computer systems.

It is really very hard to say that a Firewall is more useful than the VPN or vice versa because both these security tools are designed to work effectively.

However, experts say that you will get more security and privacy when you use both these tools together.

Therefore, in simple words, both Firewall and VPNs are necessary for network security and, when combined, it will be an ideal solution that will take network security and online privacy to another level.

It will be easier for you to understand why it is said so when you consider a Firewall as a rubber glove and a VPN as an invisible cloak.

The rubber glove will prevent bad things from touching your hands and the cloak will prevent the bad guys from knowing your activities and location.

But, sadly, a VPN will not be able to block the viruses, which is why you should pair it with a Firewall.

Both these tools working in unison will keep your system and network secure by implementing different techniques that are characteristics to them such as:

  • The Firewall will block websites and unwanted online traffic to protect your computer and network from attacks and
  • The VPN will encrypt your connection in order to hide your actual IP or Internet Protocol address.

Technically speaking, the Firewall will protect an entry point to the network and, on the other hand, the VPN will secure the flow of data between the two points.

A Firewall typically uses a predefined set of rules in order to filter the traffic but the VPN typically creates an encrypted tunnel between the two given networks.

Today, Firewalls are typically used by both home as well as business networks in order to protect their computer systems and other devices.

On the other hand, VPNs are typically used by the companies in order to allow their employees to access the remote servers more securely even from places outside their office or from their homes.

However, average users use VPNs in order to stay hidden when they surf the internet using public internet connections from their favorite coffee shops or from an airport.

A Firewall prevents illegal connections from a public network from reaching the device that is protected by it.

It is designed to protect a computer from any type of malicious threats. Ideally, a Firewall is designed to monitor both incoming traffic as well as outgoing traffic.

Typically, a Firewall can only set restrictions on what can have access to your computer but the good thing is that you can set your own configurations to disallow specific types of online services or websites from accessing your computer.

However, much unlike a Virtual Private Network a Firewall will not allow you to bypass geographical restrictions and online censorship.

It will simply allow you to set up restrictions on the web pages that you want to access from your system.

In addition to that, you can also create exceptions for specific types of websites on Firewall that may need accessing your internal network.

A Virtual Private Network service, on the other hand, will help in overcoming geo limitations and online restrictions and also protect the data when it moves through the VPN tunnel or from the point where the network connection was created.

However, as already mentioned, a VPN service will not allow you to create any exceptions of configurations on it from your computer.

A Firewall is a good security tool to use because it comes with a few useful and beneficial features, as said earlier, such as:

  • Malware and Virus Protection – This helps in scanning for viruses, malware, bots, compromised websites, and the users that may be trying to hack your systems. Apart from that, it also helps in scanning encrypted traffic such as SSL or Secure Sockets Layer and TLS or Transport Layer Security to ensure security.
  • Single Sign On – This innovative feature authenticates the identities of the users via a single login to many different websites and applications. Typically, this feature will allow you to connect directly to a single sign-on platform or via Remote Authentication Dial-In User Service or RADIUS server. This particular networking protocol will allow remote authentication, authorization, and account management when you connect to a network service.
  • Sandboxing – This important feature will keep malware and viruses at bay by running whatever files you download into your computer a separate test environment but not damage the data in the process. If the Firewall considers the file to be safe it will allow it to pass through the wall and to enter the computer of the user.
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A Virtual Private Network, on the other hand, also comes with some exclusive features, as mentioned before, that will offer several benefits such as:

  • Broad Server Locations – This helps in hiding the real location of a user in a better way by rerouting it through several servers. This ensures higher anonymity and privacy even when you sign on to the internet from any location that is different from where you stay, geographically. This is very helpful in bypassing geo restrictions or online censorship when you access or purchase any streaming services.
  • Integrated Kill Switch – Since no security tool is always 100% secure, not even a Virtual Private Network, your real IP address may be leaked when there is a connection failure. In such situations, your access will be blocked from specific types of online services. Malicious parties may even steal your information in such situations. The kill switch integrated in a VPN will resolve this issue by ‘killing’ the internet connection when the VPN connection is compromised.
  • No-Log Policy – Since the logging policies may vary from one Virtual Private Network service provider to the other, all may not be safe and sound to use. A few of them may retain your login details and browsing activities which may be handed over by the service provider to a third party. The no-log policy offered by a VPN will not allow them to store information about your online activities while using their services.

A VPN will ideally conduct your computer address to another location through a remote server by changing your network address.

This will prevent your private data from being leaked, thereby making it more secure.

A firewall, on the other hand, will create a layer of protective walls in order to prevent a site that may look legitimate from obtaining your personal information or any digital data.

Ideally, a VPN will do what a Firewall would not. For example, by changing the IP address the VPN will protect your outgoing traffic but usually a Firewall will only be able to block ports and protect your incoming traffic.

This means that, if you have a VPN, you will be able to access even those websites that could be potentially harmful.

If there are ad blockers in the VPN, it will also protect your system and network from malware attacks as well.

However, if you use any one of them in isolation, it will still leave your computer system and network vulnerable to malicious attacks and intruders.

Therefore, you should use both and set up a Firewall with a VPN in your computer system.

You will be able to transfer data more securely and this will not slow down the connection even if you use a public Wi-Fi.


So, these are the major differences between a Virtual Private Network and Firewall.

Thanks to this article, now you surely have a clear idea about how these two are the most important ways to protect your computer network and client data from network breaches and external attacks.

About Puja Chatterjee

Puja ChatterjeePuja Chatterjee is a technical writer with extensive knowledge about computers. She graduated from BIMS. Her expertise includes technology writing and client relationship management gained through over 12 years of experience. Follow Her at Linkedin.