Should you use a VPN or Tor?

Download Astro
Download Astro
May 25, 2022
If you’ve been researching VPNs, you’ve probably heard about the Tor network as well.  On the surface, they may seem similar, but there are some key differences that you need to be aware of.  When deciding which one to use, you’ll need to consider your preferences and needs.
So which one is right for you? We’ve outlined the pros and cons of each to help you make an informed decision.
Why Should You Use a VPN or Tor?
Before we review the advantages and disadvantages of both technologies, you may be wondering why you need to use either of them.
The internet is an amazing tool for finding information and connecting with the rest of the world.  But it also opens the door for governments, hackers and other third parties to spy on you and steal your personal information.
VPNs and Tor are a way to protect your online privacy and to prevent your data from being stolen or used against you.  If you don’t like the idea of your name, location, browsing history and other information being readily available to virtually anyone, then you’ll likely want to use one of these technologies.
What Are VPNs?
VPN stands for virtual private network.  When you use a VPN, your internet traffic is routed through one of your provider’s secure servers that are located around the world, rather than your ISP. 
By doing this, all of your personal information is encrypted and can’t be intercepted by third parties.  By logging on to a server in another country, your IP address and location are also hidden.  Not only does this improve your privacy, but it can also help you get around censorship laws and access content that’s only available in other countries.
There are many different VPNs available.  They generally charge a monthly fee to users, although there are some free services available.  Once you’ve subscribed to a service, you can download the app or client to your iOS or Android device and can then log on to one of the many available servers to hide your identity.
What is the Tor Network?
The Tor network is made of servers located around the world.  When you use Tor, your internet traffic is routed through these servers in order to encrypt your data and keep you completely anonymous.
On the surface, this may sound a lot like a VPN.  However, there is one key difference between Tor and a VPN.  There is no organization controlling Tor, which means that absolutely no one has access to your data.  While a VPN can keep third parties from intercepting your information, the company that operates the VPN can gain access to your data if they want to.  So, using a VPN does require you to trust the company you purchase it from.
Unlike VPNs, Tor is a free service.  To use the Tor network, you simply need to download the Tor browser.  By using this browser, all of your internet traffic is routed through their encrypted network. 
Why You Might Want to Use a VPN
After reading the above information, the Tor network may seem like the obvious choice.  It has better security and it’s a free service as well.  But when you delve deeper, you’ll realize that VPNs actually hold a number of advantages over Tor.
Here are a few reasons why you might want to use a VPN:
• Speed – In order to keep you anonymous, Tor routes your traffic across a number of different servers around the world.  This, along with its encryption, drastically slows down your connection.  While VPNs work more or less in the same way, your traffic is only ever passing through one server at a time.  While VPNs will slow down your connection slightly, you’ll likely be unable to notice a difference.
• Better Maintenance and Reliability – Although having to pay for a service may seem like a drawback, it does have its benefits.  Your membership fees help fund maintenance of the servers and other hardware to keep them running at their best.  Essentially, you get what you pay for.  VPNs generally perform better and are more reliable than the Tor network, which is run by a group of volunteers.
• Compatible with Most Devices – Most VPN providers offer a variety of software that works with virtually all devices.  VPNs work with desktops, laptops, smartphones, tablets, gaming systems and a variety of other devices.  No matter what device or operating system you use, chances are there’s a quality VPN that works with it.  Tor can be used on most devices, but it’s still not compatible with iOS.
• Every Message is Encrypted – Using a VPN ensures that all messages and communications between your device and their servers are encrypted.  This means that your ISP, or any other third party can’t get a hold of them.
Why You Might Want to Use the Tor Network
While VPNs are generally the encryption method of choice for most internet users, the Tor network does have some advantages.
Here are a few reasons as to why you might want to use Tor:
• Completely Anonymous – As mentioned before, while VPNs can prevent outside parties from intercepting your data, your VPN provider still has access to all of your information.  This means that you’re never completely anonymous.  The Tor network on the other hand, does not collect any of your data which provides more security than even the best VPN.
• Virtually Impossible to Shut Down – If a government wanted to shut down a VPN, it would do so fairly easily.  Virtually, all VPNs have central headquarters and are easy to find but the Tor network is run by volunteers around the world.  If someone wanted to shut down Tor, they would have to go after every individual volunteer, making it virtually impossible to come after.
• It’s Free – As we mentioned above, paying for a premium service does have its benefits.  However, not everyone can afford to pay for a VPN and while there are free VPNs available, they’re often rife with security and performance issues.  Meanwhile, the Tor network is completely free and secure.  If you’re looking for a free solution, the Tor network is likely your best option.
Should You Use a VPN or Tor?
For the majority of internet users, a VPN is the most practical solution to help you protect your online privacy.  VPNs won’t affect your speed or network performance and offer most of the benefits that the Tor network does.
However, if you’re sending highly sensitive information, you may want to consider using the Tor network for its increased security.  In addition, if you need a free encryption solution and are not worried about speed, then Tor is a good option.
Ultimately, the decision is up to you.  Consider your needs and use the service that you feel is right for you.