Proxies and VPNs are essential online tools that help internet users mask their IPs and access restricted websites, among other things. Contrary to popular opinion, not only organizations, spies, or international people of misery use them; any average person can use them.
For instance, you’d like to access Facebook, YouTube, or any other site from abroad but you cannot because the government blocks access. Or, you would like to browse without being monitored by bots. A proxy or VPN can be a helpful tool to use in either circumstance.
Despite these tools playing almost similar roles, they’re not the same. They differ in how they accomplish their functions, their level of security and privacy, etc. Therefore, you should decide what will work for you before choosing either of them.
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This article takes a more in-depth look at these two to help you choose the best. We cover the differences and how each enables you to achieve security, privacy, etc. You should consider reading to the end if you’re still undecided on what best fits your needs. Let’s get to it.
Proxy vs VPN: What’s the difference?
As mentioned earlier, these two tools may look similar at a glance as they help internet users accomplish similar goals. However, various features differentiate how they work. First, let’s understand what they are and when to use them.
What is a Proxy?
A proxy server works as an intermediary between you and the website you’re trying to access. It hides essential credentials such as your IP address and location to maintain anonymity. You can think of it as a barrier that prevents your direct interaction with websites and other applications.
If a website blocks you but provides uncensored access to users from other locations, a proxy server can help you browse it without any problems. For example, a US-based website that blocks access from Europe. You connect your computer in Europe to a proxy server in the US and browse as you wish.
The server relays your requests to the website or applications while hiding your digital footprints. It creates and uses a new IP address to send and receive data from the destination. That makes it difficult for any website to track the source of the traffic and monitor your movements.
However, a proxy server, despite being one of the best solutions only works at a single application level. Meaning, it can help you hide your privacy for a specific browser and not your entire device. Your movements can get tracked if you change your browser even when connecting through a proxy server.
When should you use a proxy?
It is essential also to know when you may need to use a proxy. There’s more to proxy servers than just helping internet users maintain a high level of privacy. Here are a few instances that you may consider using a proxy server.
- It enables access to geo-blocked websites and helps users to bypass a firewall. As mentioned earlier, it masks your IP address and hides your location to give you uncensored access.
- It helps you to reduce browsing bandwidth. It caches frequently visited pages and comes in handy when the server is experiencing peak traffic.
- It is also useful when you’re not transmitting sensitive data. It is ideal in such instances because it doesn’t fully guarantee data security.
Types of Proxy Servers
Here are the three types of proxy servers you should know.
1. HTTP Proxy
This proxy works exclusively for geo-restricted website browsing. You create a remote proxy by plugging the server into your browser. Traffic going to the browser must then go through this remote proxy. It is worth noting that proxy servers do not encrypt your traffic, making an SSL certificate fundamental.
2. SOCKS Proxy
A SOCKs proxy works not only with websites but also applications. That makes it better and popular than an HTTP proxy. The best thing about it is that it is indifferent to the traffic it relays. On the downside, you’ll find it slower compared to an HTTP proxy because of its high traffic load.
3. Transparent Proxy
This proxy doesn’t hide your identity or location. Meaning, anyone can know the traffic is coming from your computer. You’ll find this proxy mostly in homes, schools, or workplaces. It helps employers or parents monitor internet access and block employees or kids from some websites.
What is a VPN?
A VPN majorly works like a proxy in almost every aspect. The difference between these two is the amount of cover they provide. As mentioned, a proxy will keep your connection private only on the configured browser. The rest of your browsing can get monitored and tracked to your computer.
A VPN works better in this aspect as it completely masks your connection. It encrypts traffic from your entire device, thus 100% securing your online movements. Meaning, you can use any application or browser and even browse any website without a problem.
The best thing about VPNs is the enhanced security they provide. You can use a VPN when handling sensitive data, such as transmitting online banking data. The fact that it secures your entire operating system and not a single application protects you from any hacking attempts.
Generally speaking, a VPN comes with a higher level of privacy compared to a proxy server. It is compatible with almost every application or browser you can install on your device. Proxy servers sometimes may fail to work with specific applications, making a VPN better and convenient.
When should you use a VPN?
Like proxies, VPN help with privacy, but that’s not to say they cannot do more. Here are some instances where you may find a VPN useful.
- When browsing using an unsecured public Wi-Fi
- If online movements in your country get tracked, making it challenging to access some information privately.
- I want to access a geo-restricted website or application.
- When you’re about to log into an account with sensitive information
Types of VPNs
VPNs, like proxies, come in different types. The type of VPN you use depends on the purpose you want to use it for and other needs. Here are the two major types.
1. Remote Access VPN
This type of VPN is common in homes and workplaces. It enables you to access your private home or work network and do all you want from a remote location. With this VPN, you will not get blocked even if the network has restrictions as this tool gives you full access to files.
The best thing about it is the security and privacy it guarantees you as you browse. The internet connection created through this process remains between you and the home or workplace server. There’s no chance that hackers will find loopholes in the link and steal the data you’re transferring.
2. Site to Site VPN
Big organizations need a site-to-site VPN to connect their offices spread around the world. This type of VPN creates a connection between two or more routers located in offices far apart. Data transfer between the routers happens privately and with no chance of theft or attacks.
The routers used in this case connect through the internet. The user organization only needs to authenticate the routers and have a trusted and strong internet connection. Once all these are in place, communication becomes seamless as the VPN takes care of privacy and security.
Proxy vs VPN: A Comprehensive Breakdown
Before deciding what’s best between a proxy and VPN, you need a thorough assessment of their features. It is best to compare them feature by feature and see how each performs. In this section, we compare these two tools under seven different metrics. Read on.
1. Set Up Comparison
Both proxies and VPNs are relatively easy to set up and use. There’s no need to have any technical knowledge or hire a technician to help you set them up. However, one has to be easier to set up than the other, and that’s what we’re out to discover.
A proxy comes configured, making it easy to authenticate it with the application you want to use. Meaning, you will be ready to go almost immediately after purchasing it. Even though some may not come with these presets, there’s nothing major with proxies that will require technical knowledge.
The process of setting up a VPN majorly depends on the provider. But then, unlike proxies, you will receive an app that will help you navigate the VPN easily on your first attempt. If you want to make things easier for you, buy a VPN router. It comes already set up with the right configurations.
At a glance, a VPN is much easier to set up than a proxy. It comes with an app, and you can buy a pre-configured router making it beginner-friendly. It is worth your attention if you want to mask your entire operating system and access private data.
2. Compatibility Comparison
It is necessary to consider the compatibility of these two tools before deciding what fits your needs. Compatibility, in this case, depends on the type of operating system on your device. While a proxy or VPN may work with an Android device, there’s no guarantee that it will work well with macOS.
You won’t have any significant issues trying to authenticate a proxy server to any device. It comes with various servers that are compatible with different operating systems. Meaning, you’ll have the freedom to choose the server you want to use for the operating system you have on your device.
Similar to proxies, VPNs can link up with any device or operating system. VPN providers have premium applications that make it easy to use their services on your choice device or operating system. Some VPNs can work correctly even with devices such as consoles.
From our background research, we can recommend both for compatibility but in different scenarios. A proxy is an excellent pick for a single device and platform. A VPN will be a better fit for your needs if you use multiple devices and work with more than one service provider.
3. Stability Comparison
Stability is a big issue when using a proxy or VPN. The least you’d want is a slow connection or a disconnection when you’re doing something vital on an application or website. Remember, a slow-down may be costly as it could provide attackers with an opportunity to invade your systems.
Thankfully, proxy connections never experience such issues. Every provider has servers located closer to the users, and you will not miss one near your location. The closer the server is, the stronger the connection. You can configure a proxy to shut down entirely if the link goes down, more so if using one app.
VPNs, on the other hand, are a little slower, as mentioned earlier. You should expect a few slow-downs, but they rarely shut off completely. Again, VPNs like proxies depend on how far the user is from the server. Luckily, you have the freedom to choose a server that’s close to you.
A proxy server may be better than a VPN when considering stability. Remember, VPN connections sometimes require that you select a server located on another continent. If that’s the case, weather, natural disasters, and other happenings may affect the link, something you won’t experience with a proxy.
4. Encryption Comparison
Encrypting your traffic is one of the best ways to secure your connection. It would be best if you considered a tool that encrypts your connection and makes it difficult for anyone to access information. Different internet security tools handle encryption differently; thus, a comparison will help you get the best results.
Proxy servers are relatively secure but not to the VPN level. Proxies use SOCKS, an advanced and diversified security technology, to secure every router-to-router connection. That helps to prevent attackers and malicious software from messing up the data you’re using or transferring.
VPNs, on the other hand, use more secure tunnels to protect your connection. The best thing about VPN tunnels is that they have multiple layers of protection. Therefore, no third party can easily access the data you’re transmitting. The fact that there have been very few attacks even on free VPNs means they’re much more secure.
A VPN is better than a proxy on encryption and therefore worth your consideration. Remember, for proxies to be as safe as VPNs, you have to increase the number of encryptions. The more encryptions, the slower your connection becomes. You will avoid this struggle if you go for a VPN.
5. Security Comparison
Security is one of the most significant factors to consider when choosing between these two services. When thinking about security, consider how safe your data will be if there won’t be problems such as technical failures or human errors. These services should be secure by themselves first before anything else.
A proxy server with multiple layers of SOCKS protection is relatively safe. However, as mentioned earlier, a proxy protects you only on the configured application. That makes it difficult to cover other browsers or applications that aren’t part of the protection from leaking important information that attackers could use.
VPNs are more secure than proxies, by all means. First, service providers invest in quality and secure infrastructure to ensure you do not experience any problems while using it. Additionally, a VPN will protect your operating system entirely, consequently, closing all loopholes that attackers could exploit.
This point doesn’t differ a lot from encryption, and therefore, you should expect almost similar results from this comparison. VPNs are more secure than proxies because of how they execute protection. Protecting your entire system makes it virtually impossible for anyone to access the data you’re transmitting.
6. Support Comparison
Customer support is a critical consideration for anyone choosing between a VPN and a proxy. You should ensure that the service you select has a reliable customer support team. The team should be responsive to any issues, especially on the technical aspects of their service.
VPNs are services offered by big companies with the best infrastructure. Due to their large number of customers and huge profits, VPN providers have invested in various business aspects. One of their most significant investments is a reliable customer support team.
Proxy servers belong to smaller organizations with a smaller number of customers and lower profit margins. For that reason, they haven’t invested heavily in good customer support. That makes it better to invest in a VPN as you can get help anytime you need it.
7. Price Comparison
Companies have to spend a lot to develop and maintain VPNs—the high cost of providing the service impacts their final pricing. Therefore, you should prepare to pay a decent amount to acquire a reliable VPN.
There’re free VPNs also in the market, but they come with their fair share of problems. With a free VPN, expect slow-downs, unreliable connectivity, etc. Proxies, on the other hand, are majorly free and should be easier to acquire.
Consider how much of your home or office work involves browsing. If it is a significant amount, avoid any second thought about acquiring a VPN for security and privacy.
Proxy vs VPN: Who Wins the Battle?
At this point, we should no longer be fence-sitting about these two services. A quick assessment of these two shows that a VPN is much better than a proxy in several aspects. It is then necessary that we run-down some of the reasons why a VPN wins this comparison.
First, from their features, VPNs seem to offer long-term solutions to privacy and security. Every internet user wants to save, and spending on a VPN helps you save a lot of time and money. It also brings about peace of mind as you get assured of better security than when using a proxy that offers temporary protection.
Another reason for picking a VPN over a proxy is its better encryption and security. As mentioned earlier, VPNs come with proper encryption for all your traffic and the entire operating system. Proxies protect one application at a time, leaving lots of loopholes for attackers.
You may also find a VPN better in terms of compatibility and setup. VPNs can connect to a more significant number of devices and can efficiently work with any operating system. Conversely, proxies work best with specific devices and a single network to give the best results.
Those are some of the reasons that make a VPN the perfect security and privacy solution. Whether you want a home, school, or workplace solution, a VPN will give you the protection you desire. However, that’s not to say a proxy cannot provide good service; you only need to consider your needs and budget.
The Choice Is Yours
The ultimate choice between a VPN and proxy lies with the user. Before you purchase either, you need to consider your organization’s size and the sensitivity of the data you want to protect. Besides, you should consider your budget as proxies come free while premium VPNs do not.
Once you understand the purpose of having either, choosing one won’t be difficult. If you’re planning to access a private network and work remotely, a VPN will be the best choice for you.
Although VPNs may come with various challenges such as slow speeds, they’re more secure.
Proxies should be the best picks for office and home environments. For example, they can help an organization monitor and restrict its employees from distractive browsing. Parents also use it to prevent their kids from accessing harmful content posted on some websites.
Those are some of the things you should consider before going for either. Overcoming the fear of spending on a reliable VPN could help you save a lot more.
Attackers target finances and majorly online banking accounts most of the time. Using your account in an unsecured environment can be a considerable risk – worse than purchasing a VPN.