P2P VPN and how it is different from residential VPN

4 min
p2p connection concept

Have you heard about the residential VPN and wondered whether it is the same as a P2P system? What are the similarities here, if any, and what’s a P2P VPN? We’ll get to it in this article, explaining any intricacies in simple terms.

A few words about P2P (peer-to-peer) connections

The name implies that both ends of such a link are essentially equal, for the sake of this connection. It’s not a client-server or a user-admin sort of relation. The name contains the basic assumption: the sides both supply and consume certain resources at the same time. That’s contrary to a far more prevalent configuration when the user requests a resource (like a website) and the server grants access to it if the appropriate conditions are met (like if a password is valid).

There is a problem with P2P networks, which arises if everyone wishes to be connected directly to everyone. The number of connections grows with the square of the number of devices! With 2 computers, you’d need just one link. With 5, the requirement is 10. 50 machines would need 1225, which is absurdly many. The oldest computer networks faced this problem back in the 1970s and promptly switched to centralized architectures, which principally hasn’t changed since.

Modern P2P networks and their uses

Today, P2P connections use specialized protocols that employ logical links, not physical ones. They establish connections over the existing, center-oriented infrastructure and serve specific purposes. You’re likely familiar with the most known one: torrents. For augmented file sharing, they offer direct connections with anyone on the network who has requested a file. It used to be especially helpful for gigabyte-sized resources, back when a typical Internet transfer was measured in kilobytes per second. Downloading multiple parts from several places at once was a great optimization. This becomes obsolete with superior modern speeds, but there are more consequences of using P2P networks.

Bad fame of P2P and torrents

The lack of a single administrative center in a network means it’s hard to enforce any restrictions. P2P purposefully aims to limit excessive supervision, as it would deny the very point of the peer-to-peer idea. That’s why torrenting via P2P became extremely popular with online pirates – it wasn’t easy to get caught. As a result, P2P became (rather unfairly) associated with illicit activities.

At some point, many ISPs (Internet Service Providers) started to regulate or block P2P usage, striving to mitigate piracy. Sadly, this is more like banning an innocent tool rather than prosecuting actual culprits. So, depending on the local law and your ISP’s policy, your attempts to use P2P connections might be stopped. But you can turn to a different solution, shielding yourself with a P2P-compatible VPN tunnel.

What is a P2P VPN?

Commercially available VPN services manage the infrastructure necessary for this technology to function smoothly. That is, primarily, the globally spread cluster of VPN servers and an app for the end users. The usual configuration is a typical client-server system, the opposite of P2P. The server supervises and administrates connection to each user, so theoretically it could restrict it. But the practice is the other way around: VPNs are used to gain more online freedom. ‘P2P VPN’ meaning is simply a VPN that allows P2P connections freely. How does it work?

Quite simply, actually. The VPN tunnel wraps everything within the specialized VPN protocol while also applying solid ciphering. This cloaks your activities from many prying eyes. Not only the details of what you browse are hidden. So are the technologies applied, for example, protocols used for P2P connections. This is valid throughout the VPN link, which spans from your device (with the VPN app enabled) to the VPN server. It serves as a gateway to the rest of the Internet, and regulates your traffic – not your local network administrator or ISP.

Is a P2P VPN the same as a residential VPN?

Let’s get to the residential VPNs now. A quick reminder: they employ alternative architecture distinct from a classic approach. Every user agrees to share his/her IP address in the common pool for someone else to use. This makes every VPN app work as a small ‘server’. The tunnels span from user to user, which function as Internet gateways to one another. You could imagine the resulting network as a conglomerate of point-to-point connections. The centralized server is likely present, too. It doesn’t participate in traffic redirection, but stores and broadcasts the information about the user pool. This helps users find each other and initiate connections easily.

P2P and residential VPN – similarities and differences

The above description of residential VPNs does look a little similar to P2P links, but they are definitely different. How exactly?

  • The end users are equal in the sense of the roles attained – both of the client and the server. But there’s also the auxiliary role of the central server. This looks more like a hybrid of P2P and client-server (one of many such combinations in existence).
  • The idea of such a ‘peer-to-peer VPN’ is resource sharing, namely IP addresses. But it’s actually a metaphor. P2P systems are about sharing resources like data and computing power.
  • Most importantly, the protocols applied in P2P and VPN have different assumptions. The former shares files between two fundamentally equal parties. The latter wraps/unwraps the device’s online transfer within VPN protocol data packets (encryption included) and directs it to the destination (client or server).

All in all, creating a residential VPN did lead to similarities with a P2P network. But those weren’t intentional and are far from enough to claim that either is equal to the other.

Residential VPN is an alternative to the traditional VPN architecture. It gives fewer possibilities to monitor user activities and also less predictability – there is no central server with well-known capabilities and responsible administration. A peer-to-peer VPN simply allows P2P connections to flow through the virtual tunnels freely. That’s the briefest summary of the topic, now you know the difference!

Discaimer: Tuxlervpn does not support or encourage any illicit activities. We encourage you to use p2p connections in a legal and ethical way. If you decide to practice any unlawful activity, do it at your own risk.

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