Site-To-Site VPNs vs. Direct Connect: Which One To Choose?

Site-To-Site VPN Vs Direct Connect

Driven by the need for secure data transfer pathways, virtual private networks (VPN) have rapidly grown to become a leading cybersecurity technology. VPNs allow businesses to establish a secure pathway for accessing network resources and exchange data. Their success is reflected in the total market value of VPNs, which exceeded $45 billion USD in 2023.

Yet, as business requirements became more complex, companies began looking for ways to enhance VPN offerings. AWS Direct Connect offers the same secure connection as site-to-site but with:

  • Zero downtime
  • Low latency
  • High transfer speeds

As businesses expand and search for new cybersecurity solutions, the question of site-to-site VPNs vs. AWS Direct Connect frequently crops up. In this article, we’ll dive into this comparison, outline the pros and cons of each service, and elaborate on the factors to consider when choosing between them.

Quick Takeaways

  • Site-to-Site: Site-to-site VPNs are cost-effective and easily scalable. Yet, they only reach lower transfer speeds, can experience performance issues, and may present security concerns as they form connections over public internet infrastructure.
  • AWS Direct Connect: Direct Connect is reliable, highly secure, and offers enhanced, consistent network performance. However, these benefits come with a higher monthly cost and more complexity when setting up the connection.
  • How To Choose: When comparing site-to-site VPNs vs. Direct Connect, businesses should consider their scalability needs, total budget, and performance requirements.

Site-To-Site VPN

A site-to-site VPN establishes a secure connection between two separate networks, allowing them to exchange data via an encrypted pathway. Site-to-site VPNs typically use public internet infrastructure to create an encrypted tunnel between the networks — allowing them to safely exchange data. 

Site-to-site VPNs use Internet Protocol security (IPsec) to establish the connection between networks and encrypt data packets in transit to keep them safe.

Employees are able to connect to the site-to-site VPN via a mobile app or on the web, accessing the network, virtual interface, and the resources it may hold from a remote location.

The Pros of Site-To-Site VPN. 

Here are a few of the pros of using a site-to-site VPN:

  • Cost Effective: Site-to-site VPNs leverage pre-existing internet infrastructure. A business that uses this resource won’t have to pay additional dedicated connection fees, which occur with AWS Direct Connect.
  • Scalable: Businesses can easily integrate new locations into their site-to-site VPN infrastructure. If they open an office in a new location or have many remote workers, this solution provides a rapid way of providing a secure connection.
  • Rapid Deployment: Establishing a site-to-site VPN connection does not require much technical expertise. They tend to offer pre-configured connection options for business to deploy this solution rapidly and with ease. 

As an almost out-of-the-box solution with high scalability, lower costs, and rapid integration, site-to-site VPNs are an effective choice for many businesses.

The Cons of Site-To-Site VPN

The following disadvantages can lead companies to choose other types of VPNs to serve their businesses: 

  • Performance Issues: The speed of data transfer through a site-to-site VPN depends on the internet connection itself. Equally, encryption and decryption at each end can add overhead to the process, creating delays and reducing overall performance speeds. Businesses may face latency issues when working with large volumes of data.
  • Dependency Issues: Although leveraging public internet infrastructure makes site-to-site VPNs cost-effective, it also creates a dependency. When using this type of VPN, your business must rely on the stability of your internet connection. If your internet goes out, you will be unable to use the VPN, creating a potential failure point in your network.
  • Security Concerns: Businesses must regularly audit their site-to-site VPN security to check for any potential misconfigurations. Implementing new sites may create vulnerabilities that can expose data, meaning constant vigilance is needed. 

Direct Connect

AWS Direct Connect is a dedicated connection between a company’s on-site data center and AWS data centers. This form of connection establishes a physical network connection from your business to AWS, creating a highly secure, low-latency, private connection. 

Direct Connect allows businesses to bypass public internet architecture while accessing a highly efficient method for data transfer. Depending on the port connection that businesses choose, they can access either 1, 10, or 100 Gbps bandwidth. 

There are two potential methods that businesses can choose when partnering with Amazon Web Services Direct Connect — a dedicated connection and a Host Connection.

Dedicated Connection

The first is a dedicated network connection, where AWS manages the process of establishing a direct private link between your company and an Amazon Web Services Direct Connect server location. This method offers the lowest possible latency, which is appropriate for businesses in sectors like online gaming, financial trading, and conferencing.

Host Connection

The second method is called Host Connection, where an AWS Direct Connect Partner provisions your business with server space and a physical Ethernet connection that links to the Direct Connect service.

Your data will travel to your AWS cloud through the partner’s private network.

This second method is more accessible than Direct Connect but is limited to 10 Gbps and is shared with other customers.

The Pros of Direct Connect

Direct Connect offers numerous benefits for businesses, making it a great choice if a company has a large budget available.

Here are a few of the main benefits of Direct Connect:

  • High Speed: Direct Connect offers a dedicated connection to AWS cloud infrastructure. As the line is strictly for your business data transfer, there is no congestion or delay, offering low latency and rapid transfer speeds. These speeds far surpass what is possible with site-to-site VPNs.
  • Reliable: Direct Connect does not use public internet infrastructure, meaning there is almost zero chance of any interruptions.
  • Enhanced security: Direct Connect uses a private connection, making it impossible to intercept. For businesses that need a high level of security – like healthcare or financial businesses – the security of direct connect is excellent and will align with compliance regulations. 
  • Predictable Performance: Direct Connect mitigates potential fluctuations in latency and transfer speed, making it a highly predictable and reliable option.

Direct Connect is a stable, secure, and powerful choice for businesses that need to guarantee fast transfer times and no downtime. 

The Cons of Direct Connect

While Direct Connect does have a strong set of benefits, it also has several downsides that could deter a company.

Here are the main disadvantages of Direct Connect:

  • High Cost: AWS Direct Connect pricing is more expensive than a site-to-site VPN. Businesses will pay for the capacity of their connection, the port hours they use, data transfer out, and total hours connected. Especially for enterprises that intend to use Direct Connect extensively, this can incur high fees.
  • Complexity: Initially setting up AWS Direct Connect is more complex than using a VPN, as installation requires technical expertise and a dedicated team.
  • Limited Availability: Although AWS is expanding Direct Connect to cover more cities and geographical areas, it is not yet available everywhere. 

What to Consider When Choosing Site-To-Site VPN vs. Direct Connect

When deciding between site-to-site VPN vs. Direct Connect for your business, you should take the following factors into account. Depending on your business objectives, budget, and existing infrastructure, these considerations will point you toward the best solution.

  • Network Requirements: If you need a consistent network experience and transfer a high volume of data across your connection, the higher speeds of Direct Connect may make it the more appropriate choice.
  • Budget Constraints: Direct Connect is more costly than using a site-to-site VPN, making the latter an appropriate choice for businesses with tight budgets.
  • Security Considerations: While both site-to-site VPN and Direct Connect are secure, the latter offers a higher degree of protection. As it does not use public internet infrastructure, it can guarantee a higher level of data privacy and security for businesses where this is a priority. 
  • Scalability Needs: Adding more locations is much simpler when using a site-to-site VPN compared to establishing a new Direct Connect pathway. Businesses can use existing internet connections to add new areas via site-to-site VPN, easily and rapidly deploying.
  • Performance Requirements: If your business needs to guarantee high performance as a part of its offering, then Direct Connect will help you avoid downtime. Direct Connect also offers higher maximum transfer speeds and lower latency, further boosting its performance.
  • Regulatory Compliance: Specific governance frameworks may force your business to take certain security or privacy precautions. Depending on the extent of these obligations, you may have to opt for the more secure Direct Connect option. 

Prioritize Seamless Interconnectivity with Perimeter81

Finding the best method of connecting your sites is a case of weighing up the relative pros and cons of each method for your business. The requirements your business has will inform which choice is most accessible and sustainable for you.

Perimeter81 offers site-to-site interconnectivity with a premium VPN service. If you’re looking for optimal network security, effortless network management, and the highest possible uptime, then Perimeter81 can help.

Request a demo today or reach out to the team to see exactly how we can enhance your network connectivity. 


Why use a VPN over Direct Connect?
AWS Direct Connect is more costly and complex to install. If you need to access a secure encrypted connection as quickly as possible, a VPN may be the better choice.
What’s the difference between a VPN and VPG?
A VPN stands for Virtual Private Network, while VPG stands for Virtual Private Gateway. A VPC is on the VPN’s service side, acting as an endpoint for the encrypted tunnel that connects to your provider. 
What’s the difference between site-to-site VPN and client VPN?
A site-to-site VPN connects two sites by using public network infrastructure. A Client VPN connects individual devices to a VPN, allowing them to engage with network resources from whatever device they like. 
Direct Connect vs. VPN vs. Transit gateway
Direct Connect is a dedicated network service that AWS offers to establish a secure and direct line to their data centers. A VPN is a virtual, encrypted tunnel that works over public networks and connects to a network. Finally, a transit gateway is a central hub that connects your virtual private clouds (VPCs) and on-premises networks.
Where is site-to-site VPN best used?
Site-to-site VPN is best for businesses that are on a budget, value rapid installation and do not need the highest level of performance and security.

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