Difference Between Microsoft DirectAccess and VPN

Microsoft DirectAccess and VPN are two technologies that are very popular among IT professionals. Each of them is used to access intranet connectivity through the internet.


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They are often mistakenly confused to be the same technology solution. However, this is not the case.

Despite the similarities that they possess, there are numerous differences between them.

Key Takeaways

  1. DirectAccess is a Microsoft technology that automatically connects remote devices to a corporate network, while a VPN requires manual connection and authentication.
  2. DirectAccess uses IPv6 and IPsec protocols for secure communication, while VPNs use encryption protocols like SSL, TLS, or L2TP.
  3. DirectAccess is integrated into Windows operating systems, while VPNs can be used on multiple platforms and devices.

Microsoft DirectAccess vs VPN

Microsoft DirectAccess is a remote access solution that enables secure, seamless, and always-on access to an organization’s internal resources without the need for a traditional VPN connection. A VPN requires users to manually initiate a connection whenever they want to access network resources.

Microsoft DirectAccess vs VPN

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Microsoft DirectAccess has a very similar architecture to VPN. It also serves a similar purpose.

People use it to access the intranet whenever they are connected to the internet. However, DirectAccess is a much newer technology in the market.

It facilitates secure and authenticated connections that too automatically on connecting to the internet.

Meanwhile, VPN is a much older technology as compared to the former. It serves a similar purpose but needs to be turned on and off whenever someone needs to use it.

Due to this, it is more time-consuming and complex. Despite this, VPN is way more expensive than DirectAccess.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonMicrosoft DirectAccessVPN
VersionIt is a newer version.It is an older version.
FunctionalityIt functions automatically on being connected to the internet.It needs to be turned on and off every time by the user.
SecurityIt has better security features.It does not have as many security features.
UsesIt is generally used to facilitate secure remote access for IT managed devices.It is generally used to facilitate secure remote access for non-IT managed devices.
PriceIt is budget-friendly.It is more expensive.

What is Microsoft DirectAccess?

Microsoft DirectAccess also commonly goes by the name ‘Unified Remote Access’. Essentially, it is a very similar technology to VPN.

It is used to connect devices to the intranet when they log on to the internet. However, DirectAccess is a much newer version and has many features that traditional VPNs do not have.

One of the most stand-out features of Microsoft DirectAccess is that it starts functioning automatically as soon as the user connects to the internet. Due to this, a lot of time and manual labour is saved.

This, in turn, leads to higher efficiency and productivity.

The first version of Microsoft DirectAccess was made for Windows Server 2008 R2. This was targeted towards clients in large corporate environments who used Windows 7 and Windows 8.

There were many upgrades made to this technology, through which its deployment became much simpler. Moreover, it became one of the most secure technologies in the market.

One of the most beneficial features of Microsoft DirectAccess is that it can be used for multiple sites at the same time. Moreover, this can be done at a very cost-effective and budget-friendly price.

However, one drawback of this technology is that it can only be used for IT-managed devices. This means that it is not as flexible.

What is VPN?

VPN is an acronym for ‘Virtual Private Network.’ It allows users to have a private network while using a public one.

This means the user can now send and receive information while acting as if the device is connected to a private network. By doing this, the security and management of the network can be done much more easily.

However, unlike Microsoft DirectAccess, the functionality of VPN is not automatic. It needs to be turned on and off by the user every time it is used.

This must be done while the device of the user is connected to the internet.

VPN does have many other drawbacks when compared to Microsoft DirectAccess. One of the major ones is that even though it is more expensive, it is not as efficient.

Moreover, it involves relatively more manual labour, making it more complex and time-consuming. This can be forgiven, considering that VPN is only an older version of Microsoft DirectAccess.

Another criticism that VPNs faces is that it is not as secure. However, this is only in comparison to newer networks.

VPN can easily make online connections anonymous without any error. It can be used to save private information from getting into the wrong hands.

Main Differences Between Microsoft DirectAccess and VPN

  1. Microsoft DirectAccess is a newer version, whereas VPN is an older version.
  2. Microsoft DirectAccess functions automatically on being connected to the internet, whereas VPN needs to be turned on and off every time by the user.
  3. Microsoft DirectAccess has better security features, whereas VPN does not have as many security features.
  4. Microsoft DirectAccess is generally used to facilitate secure remote access for IT-managed devices, whereas VPN is generally used to facilitate secure remote access for non-IT-managed devices.
  5. Microsoft DirectAccess is budget-friendly, whereas VPN is more expensive.
  1. https://www.theseus.fi/handle/10024/45540
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