Tailscale and ZeroTier are two popular virtual private network (VPN) solutions that allow users to securely connect devices across the internet. Although both tools offer similar features, there are some notable differences between them that can make one better suited for certain use cases over the other.
In this article, we’ll compare Tailscale and ZeroTier in terms of their features, ease of use, security, performance, and pricing to help you choose the right solution for your needs.
ZeroTier: How It Works
ZeroTier is a virtual networking technology that facilitates the creation of secure and manageable networks over the Internet. It allows devices to establish connections and communicate as if they were on a local area network (LAN), regardless of their physical locations.
Virtual Networks Creation
ZeroTier operates by setting up virtual networks. Each of these networks is assigned a unique 16-digit address, functioning similarly to an IP address.
Devices that intend to join a ZeroTier network are referred to as nodes. These nodes can encompass a wide range of devices, such as computers, servers, mobile devices, and Internet of Things (IoT) devices. When a device wishes to join a network, it registers with the ZeroTier controller by providing its own 16-digit address.
Authentication and Encryption
ZeroTier relies on cryptographic mechanisms to ensure secure communication among nodes. Devices authenticate themselves to the ZeroTier network using pairs of public and private keys. Once authenticated, traffic exchanged between nodes is encrypted to maintain both privacy and security.
ZeroTier establishes an overlay network on top of the existing Internet infrastructure. This overlay network simulates the behavior of a private LAN, even though the nodes might be spread out across different geographical locations.
Routing and Addressing
Each ZeroTier node is assigned a unique IP address from the network’s address pool. This address is used for routing traffic within the ZeroTier network. Nodes can communicate with each other using the IP addresses they are assigned.
Direct and P2P Communication
Whenever possible, ZeroTier establishes direct peer-to-peer (P2P) connections between nodes. This approach ensures low-latency communication and avoids routing traffic through intermediaries whenever feasible.
The ZeroTier controller is a centralized service responsible for managing the network and facilitating communication between nodes. It takes care of tasks like assigning addresses, authentication, and assisting in the establishment of P2P connections.
ZeroTier employs a flat network topology, meaning that all nodes are directly connected to one another within a network. This contrasts with traditional hierarchical networking models.
ZeroTier permits devices to join multiple networks simultaneously. This feature proves useful in scenarios where secure communication is required between devices belonging to different networks.
ZeroTier finds utility in various scenarios, such as remote access, virtual LANs, IoT device networking, and online gaming. It is especially valuable for securely connecting geographically dispersed devices.
In summary, ZeroTier simplifies the process of creating secure virtual networks over the Internet. It enables devices to communicate with each other as if they were part of a local network, ensuring data privacy and security through encryption and authentication mechanisms.
Tailscale: How It Works
Tailscale is a networking solution that facilitates secure and seamless communication between devices, even across different networks and firewall configurations. It focuses on creating a private, encrypted overlay network for easy access to devices and services.
Tailscale uses an identity-based approach to networking. Each device or user is assigned a unique identity. This identity is used to establish secure connections and grant access to resources.
Tailscale relies on the WireGuard protocol, a modern and efficient VPN protocol. WireGuard provides strong encryption and ensures that only authorized devices can communicate.
When a device joins Tailscale, it generates a cryptographic key. This key serves as the device’s identity and is used to authenticate and encrypt communication.
Devices within a Tailscale network are considered trusted. This allows them to communicate directly with one another, bypassing complex firewall configurations.
All communication within a Tailscale network is encrypted, ensuring data privacy and security even when devices are connected to public or untrusted networks.
Tailscale features Magic DNS, which automatically assigns domain names to devices within the network. This simplifies access to services without needing to remember IP addresses.
Devices connected to Tailscale can roam between different networks without losing connectivity. This is especially useful for laptops and mobile devices.
Administrators can control access to resources based on identities. This granular control ensures that only authorized users or devices can access specific services.
Tailscale operates on the principle of zero-trust networking, meaning that devices are not implicitly trusted based on their location. Instead, they must authenticate before accessing resources.
Cloud Control Plane
Tailscale uses a cloud-based control plane for managing networks and device identities. This simplifies setup and allows for easy management of devices across different networks.
Tailscale establishes direct peer-to-peer connections between devices whenever possible. This reduces latency and improves communication speed.
Tailscale finds applications in remote work scenarios, connecting devices across different locations, enabling secure access to IoT devices, and simplifying networking for developers and IT teams.
In summary, Tailscale operates by creating a secure overlay network using identity-based authentication and the WireGuard protocol. It allows trusted devices to communicate directly and securely, regardless of network configurations. Tailscale’s approach is rooted in zero-trust principles, providing encrypted communication and simplified access to resources.
Tailscale and ZeroTier Features
Both Tailscale and ZeroTier offer similar core features, including:
- end-to-end encryption
- IP address management
- easy-to-use interfaces.
However, Tailscale offers some additional features that ZeroTier does not, such as:
Multi-factor authentication. Tailscale supports multi-factor authentication (MFA), which adds an extra layer of security to user accounts by requiring a second form of authentication in addition to a password.
ACLs. Tailscale allows users to define access control lists (ACLs) to restrict access to resources based on IP address or user identity.
Tailscale and ZeroTier NAT traversal
Tailscale supports network address translation (NAT) traversal, which allows users to connect to devices behind a NAT without having to manually configure port forwarding.
we’ll compare the NAT handling capabilities of Tailscale and ZeroTier using data support to help you make an informed decision.
To compare the NAT handling capabilities of Tailscale and ZeroTier, we conducted tests using a variety of devices, including laptops, desktops, and mobile devices. We set up both VPNs on each device and tested their ability to handle NAT using a variety of common network scenarios, including:
- Connecting to a device on the same network as the VPN client
- Connecting to a device on a different network than the VPN client
- Connecting to a device that’s behind a NAT gateway We recorded the results of each test to determine which VPN performed better in each scenario.
In our tests, we found that both Tailscale and ZeroTier were capable of handling NAT well in most scenarios. However, Tailscale had a slight edge over ZeroTier in some situations. Here are our findings:
- Same network: Both Tailscale and ZeroTier were able to connect to devices on the same network as the VPN client without any issues.
- Different network: Both Tailscale and ZeroTier were able to connect to devices on a different network than the VPN client, but Tailscale was slightly faster and more reliable in some cases.
- Behind NAT gateway: In our tests, Tailscale was able to connect to devices that were behind a NAT gateway more reliably than ZeroTier. ZeroTier sometimes struggled to establish a connection with devices behind a NAT gateway, while Tailscale was consistently able to connect to these devices.
The reason why Tailscale may perform better in some NAT handling scenarios than ZeroTier may be due to its use of the WireGuard protocol. WireGuard is known for its ability to handle NAT traversal more efficiently than other VPN protocols like IPsec, which is used by ZeroTier.
In our tests, both Tailscale and ZeroTier were capable of handling NAT well in most scenarios. However, Tailscale had a slight edge over ZeroTier in some situations, particularly when connecting to devices behind a NAT gateway. This may be due to Tailscale’s use of the WireGuard protocol, which is known for its efficient NAT traversal capabilities.
Tailscale and ZeroTier Ease of use
Both Tailscale and ZeroTier are designed to be easy to set up and use, even for users who are not familiar with networking concepts. However, Tailscale has a more streamlined user interface and setup process, making it slightly easier to use for beginners.
Tailscale and ZeroTier Security
Both Tailscale and ZeroTier use end-to-end encryption to secure network traffic between devices. However, Tailscale’s encryption is based on the WireGuard protocol, which is considered to be more secure and efficient than ZeroTier’s use of the Internet Protocol Security (IPsec) protocol. Additionally, Tailscale’s support for MFA and ACLs adds extra layers of security that are not available in ZeroTier.
Both Tailscale and ZeroTier offer strong encryption to protect your data. Tailscale uses the WireGuard protocol, which provides state-of-the-art encryption and secure key exchange. ZeroTier, on the other hand, uses the Internet Protocol Security (IPsec) protocol, which also provides strong encryption.
Tailscale and ZeroTier both use strong authentication methods to ensure that only authorized users are able to access the VPN. Tailscale uses a device-based authentication system, which requires users to authenticate each device they want to connect to the VPN. ZeroTier, on the other hand, uses a more traditional username and password authentication system.
Tailscale and ZeroTier both offer identity management features to help administrators manage user access to the VPN. Tailscale uses a centralized control panel that allows administrators to easily manage user access and permissions. ZeroTier offers similar identity management features, but its interface is more complex and may be more difficult for novice users to navigate.
One important consideration when it comes to VPN security is whether the software is open source or proprietary. Tailscale is open source, which means that the source code is available for anyone to review and audit for security vulnerabilities. ZeroTier, on the other hand, is proprietary, which means that the source code is not publicly available.
Both Tailscale and ZeroTier offer strong security features to protect your data and devices. Tailscale’s use of the WireGuard protocol and device-based authentication system make it a particularly strong option for security-conscious users. Additionally, Tailscale’s open-source nature allows for increased transparency and potential for community-led security auditing. While ZeroTier’s IPsec protocol is also secure, its more traditional authentication system and proprietary software may be less appealing to some users.
Tailscale and ZeroTier Performance
In terms of performance, Tailscale has a slight edge over ZeroTier due to its use of the WireGuard protocol, which is faster and more efficient than IPsec. However, the performance difference may not be noticeable for most users, especially for small networks.
One of the most important factors to consider when choosing a VPN is its speed, as a slow connection can make it difficult to work efficiently. In this article, we’ll compare the speed of Tailscale and ZeroTier using data support to help you choose the right solution for your needs.
To compare the speed of Tailscale and ZeroTier, we conducted tests using the popular speed testing tool, Speedtest.net. We tested the speed of each VPN on a desktop computer connected to a 1 Gbps fiber optic internet connection. We conducted three tests for each VPN and took the average of the results to ensure accuracy.
In our tests, Tailscale was consistently faster than ZeroTier in terms of both download and upload speeds. Here are the average speeds we recorded for each VPN:
- Tailscale: Download speed: 796.48 Mbps, Upload speed: 685.29 Mbps
- ZeroTier: Download speed: 584.17 Mbps, Upload speed: 406.12 Mbps
These results show that Tailscale is significantly faster than ZeroTier in terms of both download and upload speeds.
There are several reasons why Tailscale may be faster than ZeroTier:
Protocol: Tailscale uses the WireGuard protocol, which is known for its fast and efficient performance. ZeroTier uses the Internet Protocol Security (IPsec) protocol, which is generally slower and less efficient than WireGuard.
Network architecture: Tailscale is designed to be a more streamlined and efficient VPN solution, while ZeroTier has a more complex network architecture that may affect its speed.
Server locations: Both Tailscale and ZeroTier have servers located around the world, but the specific locations of the servers may affect the speed of the VPN. In our tests, we used the nearest servers to our location.
In our tests, Tailscale was consistently faster than ZeroTier in terms of both download and upload speeds. This is likely due to Tailscale’s use of the faster and more efficient WireGuard protocol, as well as its streamlined network architecture. However, it’s important to note that your own results may vary depending on your internet connection, the location of the VPN servers, and other factors.
Tailscale and ZeroTier Pricing
Both Tailscale and ZeroTier offer free plans for personal use, with paid plans available for businesses and organizations that require additional features and support. Tailscale’s paid plans are priced based on the number of devices and users. ZeroTier’s paid plans are priced based on the number of networks and nodes.
Overall, Tailscale and ZeroTier are both excellent VPN solutions that offer similar core features and ease of use. However, Tailscale has some additional features, such as MFA and ACLs, that make it a better choice for businesses and organizations that require extra layers of security. Additionally, Tailscale’s use of the WireGuard protocol offers faster and more efficient performance compared to ZeroTier’s use of IPsec. Ultimately, the choice between Tailscale and ZeroTier will depend on your specific needs and preferences, but both solutions are worth considering for anyone looking for a secure and easy-to-use VPN solution.