Since both a VPN and a proxy help you maintain online anonymity and access geo-restricted content, they are often looked at as the same service.
From the general perspective, each of these tools changes your IP address by connecting you to a different server than your own, thus making it seem like your computer is in a different location than it actually is.
However, the technologies that lay at the core of a VPN and a proxy, and the degree of protection they provide are drastically different.
Understanding these differences is crucial to choosing the right tool for your needs and staying protected at all times.
So, let’s compare VPN and Proxy and decide which one is better for your Internet privacy and security.
What Is A Proxy Server
A proxy server is an intermediary server between your device and the Internet.
This means that all your Internet traffic goes through proxy servers first and can't be traced back to you.
How A Proxy Works
A proxy server acts as a gateway between you and the world wide web.
For example, you want to use a streaming platform that can only be used in the US.
The problem is, you live in Europe and the content on that platform is not available in your country.
To watch your favorite content, you connect to a proxy server in the US.
As soon as the connection is established, your Internet traffic immediately gets rerouted, and you receive a new US-based IP.
Now, your virtual identity becomes hidden, your device appears to be located where your chosen server is, and you're able to access the content without any issues.
Types Of Proxy Servers
There are various types of proxy servers, the most used ones being: HTTP proxies and SOCKS proxies.
- HTTP proxy is a proxy that is used to route web traffic (HTTP/HTTPS requests) only. It is important to know that you can only be safe transmitting such sensitive data like emails, passwords, or credit card details on the websites that have implemented an SSL protocol (sites that begin with https://). Otherwise, you can get your data easily intercepted and stolen (if you use a http:// website).
- SOCKS proxy is a better option than an HTTP proxy as it can be used for all types of traffic. That means you can use them for browsing, gaming, P2P file sharing, etc. However, they are often way slower as they have a higher load.
Types Of Proxy Servers By Anonymity
Proxy servers can also be divided by the level of anonymity they offer.
Here you can see the 3 main types:
- Transparent proxy is a proxy that doesn’t modify your requests and therefore doesn’t hide your IP.
- Anonymous proxy is a proxy that masks your IP address, but the destination server is still able to see that you’re using the proxy.
- Elite proxy is a proxy that hides your IP and also makes it impossible for the destination server to see that you’re connected to the proxy.
Note: Stay away from free public proxies.
They may seem like a good idea but they are often unsafe, very slow, and may insert additional ads to the websites and apps you visit online.
What Is A VPN
A virtual private network is a service that creates a secure virtual tunnel between your device and the Internet.
Today, a VPN service is a very popular all-purpose tool that allows you to do many wonderful things that you otherwise couldn’t do online.
In the majority of cases, people are using a VPN to access geo-restricted content and protect their delicate data from hackers and prying eyes.
However, a good VPN provider will also grant you the ability to stream video, play games, and much more as almost all advanced VPNs work on the operating system level.
VPN and Proxy: Pros And Cons
There are numerous benefits to using a proxy.
This tool allows you to bypass geo-censorship, privately share files on a P2P connection, and avoid IP restrictions that certain services have.
However, a proxy server has several downsides.
Namely, your online activity is not encrypted.
Anyone who wants can still spy on your computer's online activity, although they won't actually know it's you.
A proxy also doesn't do anything to protect your online safety, which means that you can still be a target of cybercrime and have your sensitive data stolen.
On top of that, you can only configure one app to the proxy server at a time – like your web browser or your P2P client – not your whole computer.
Similarly to a proxy server, a VPN hides your IP address and shifts your traffic to a different server, namely a VPN server.
But unlike a proxy service, a virtual private network encrypts the data coming and going from your device, thus making it impossible for anyone to spy on your connection, whether it's your ISP tracking what you do on the Internet, the government, or cybercriminals.
A VPN has another important difference – it functions on the level of the whole operating system.
This means that it covers your whole Internet connection and encrypts everything you do online, from browsing and file sharing to financial transactions and private communication.
While proxy server owners can easily monitor things that you do online, all reputable VPN providers have a no-log policy that ensures they can't track, record, or share your data with a third-party.
This definitely adds another layer of security to the users.
Due to their powerful technology and versatility, VPN services have numerous advantages that make your life easier on a daily basis.
You can safely use public WI-Fi, work remotely and share files securely, stream your favorite content online, handle your financial accounts and much more.
Even with all its benefits, VPNs have a couple of downsides.
First of all, there are many shady VPN providers out there, and you need to know how to recognize a bad VPN and choose the one that is really worth the investment.
Since it gives you better protection alongside many other perks, a VPN will also cost you more.
And since it uses strong encryption methods, it may slow your connection down a little.
However, VPNs actually prevent ISP bandwidth throttling and in this case increase your bandwidth, which means that your connection stays fast and stable when you're streaming and gaming.
VPN vs Proxy: Which tool to choose?
Although they might seem similar to the untrained eye, there is a world of difference between a VPN and a proxy.
A proxy can be very useful for smaller online tasks when you're not concerned about your safety that much.
For example, it can be great for sneaking onto foreign servers to watch an episode of your favorite show.
But, a VPN offers you a much wider range of possibilities and gives you a much higher level of protection.
With an advanced and reputable VPN, you can rest easy knowing that all your online activities are encrypted and you can enjoy the Internet freely without any fear.