MPLS vs VPN: Understanding the Difference

MPLS vs VPN: Understanding the Difference
MPLS vs VPN: Understanding the Difference

MPLS, or Multi-Protocol Label Switching and VPN or Virtual Private Network, are widely used security solutions that help secure the network.

Both the technology helps in controlling the network traffic and offer greater privacy. However, the functioning of MPLS and VPN are distinct and offer different business benefits.

That's why it is crucial to understand the difference between MPLS and VPN. This blog will provide in-depth information about the solution and its key benefits.

What Is MPLS?

MPLS, which stands for Multi-Protocol Label Switching, is a protocol for transferring data online. It is a data carrier or forwarding system businesses use to connect to their remote sites using a dedicated connection.

The purpose of MPLS is to assign tags or labels to data packets to control the route data follows. The function of the label is to determine the path the data packet should follow while travelling.

This whole process helps in establishing a secure connection between remote sites and businesses. MPLS generally works on layer 2 and layer 3 OSI ( open systems interconnection) models. OSI is a set framework that provides ideas on how a network works. Layer 2 in MPLS carries data packets over point-to-point WAN or simple LAN. While layer 3 in the MPLS route with IP protocols.

Benefits of MPLS:

There are several benefits offered by MPLS, which are:

  • It is considered a very reliable solution since it doesn't use public internet; instead, it prefers a dedicated connection. Because of the dedicated connection, bandwidth and infrastructure connection are limited to its users, so the chances of jitters are less.
  • Since there is no encryption and decryption in MPLS, it reduces latency and improves performance.
  • MPLS is considered a secure protocol because it can run any encryption code.

Drawbacks of MPLS

Besides their wide usage, there are some disadvantages of MPLS, which are as follows:

  • MPLS uses a dedicated server for connection, which makes it highly expensive.
  • To function correctly, MPLS require particular software and hardware.
  • Further, the installation time of MPLS is relatively high since it requires dedicated hardware and software.

What Is a VPN?

VPN, also known as a virtual private network, is a security solution that overlays physical infrastructure. In VPN, a private digital tunnel is created for transferring data, which makes the data secure over the internet.

VPN tunnelling process is used in VPN, which involves routing the data or information via a virtual tunnel created by VPN. All the data travelled through this tunnel is encrypted, which makes it nearly impossible for unauthorised users to access information. Not just this, it also hides the IP address of the users.

There are different types of VPNs available that use different protocols, such as OpenVPN, L2TP, and more. Various VPN providers offer no log policy, which means no data is stored while using their service, offering complete data security.

Benefits of VPN

Various benefits offered by VPN are listed below:

  • VPN offers security to businesses on existing internet connections, which makes it a relatively cheap technology SInce there is no investment in infrastructure and hardware.
  • VPN can work with almost every device, such as smartphones, laptops, etc and is also compatible with different operating systems, making it very flexible.
  • There is no complication procedure to begin with. The technology is effortless to use.
  • Lastly, a VPN can support a large number of users.

Drawbacks of VPN

Let's look at some of the drawbacks of VPN:

  • One of the significant drawbacks of VPN, it leads to a slow internet connection. The speed of a VPN connection usually depends on the VPN server's location. If the server is away from the device location, it leads to slower speed.
  • Free VPN services generally collect the user information and sell it to third parties.

Similarities Between MPLS and VPN

VPN and MPLS are different technologies with different purposes, but there are some similarities between them, which are highlighted below:

  • MPLS and VPN are both used to create a secure private network.
  • Using VPN and MPLS, users can connect to geographically restricted sites, or the remote workforce can connect to a centralised network.
  • Both technologies allow to prioritise the traffic in the network based on the quality of services(QoS). The aim of this is to ensure that critical services or resources can get the necessary bandwidth.

Comparison Table: MPLS vs VPN

Let's have a look at MPLS vs VPN.





Multi-point and Point to point

Point to Point

Functions Over

Layer 2 and layer 3 of OSI

All OSI layers


MPLS is more reliable to all traffic VPN due to QoS.

VPN is only reliable for delay-sensitive traffic.

Cloud-based services

Offer limited cloud-based services.

Offer a large amount of cloud-based service.



Cost Effective

Key Differences Between VPN and MPLS

Let's discuss in detail about the MPLS vs VPN based on specific features such as:

  • Technology - The technology used by both MPLS and VPN are different. MPLS can use point-to-point technology and Multi-point based on the organisation's requirements. It means organisations can route traffic using different MPLS labels using different paths. VPN heavily relies on point-to-point connectivity. To connect with different locations, the VPN will create a separate tunnel for each.
  • Architecture - The way the traffic is routed in both technologies is another thing which sets them apart. Both have different architecture. In VPN, an encrypted tunnel is created between two points, which can be a remote site and a VPN endpoint on an organisation network. At the same time, the MPLS network is created between ISP(Internet service provider) and other services. The work of ISP is to assign a label to data packets based on their destination.
  • Performance -Another more significant factor between MPLS and VPN is performance. MPLS network helps in improving the performance of business since the traffic is routed using short labels, which transmit data quickly in comparison to public networks. On the other hand, the data in a VPN is routed using traditional routing protocols such as IP address, which affects the performance.
  • Security - Security is another thing which differentiates both technologies. Since the traffic is routed differently from conventional internet traffic, MPLS offers additional security. However, there are no default security inspection techniques in the MPLS. In VPN, the traffic is encrypted between the endpoints, which makes it more secure.
  • Cost - Since MPLS requires a dedicated infrastructure within the ISP network, it is expensive. However, VPN, conversely, doesn't require dedicated infrastructure, making it a budget-friendly option for business.


MPLS and VPN are two technologies that establish secure connections between devices and networks. However, when it comes to offering the security that today's business needs, they both fall short.

In this changing landscape, businesses prefer to have a solution that can offer them complete security. This is where the InstaSafe zero-trust solution comes into play.

With a "never trust, always verify" approach, the Instasafe ZTNA solution improves the overall security posture of the business.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is MPLS more secure than VPN?

When it comes to security, both solutions have security features. However, In VPN, the encryption mechanism is by default. Further, MPLS works on layer 2 and layer 3 of OSL, while VPN works on layer 7 of OSI.

  • Is MPLS faster than VPN?

Since there is no encryption in MPLS, it is considered a time-saving solution compared to VPN.

  • Do I Need a VPN over MPLS?

The answer to this question depends upon the business requirements, such as cost, performance, reliability, and more.

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