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Proxy servers and VPNs are excellent tools for accessing content securely and protecting one’s identity. These services get the job done but cannot be used interchangeably. There are some major differences between the two tools. Learn more.
VPN V/s Proxy: Definition
Proxies and VPNs offer privacy by allowing users to hide their IP addresses in different ways. But how they achieve this and the extent to which they offer privacy varies.
VPNs are virtual private networks that encrypt users’ online activity and device IP addresses. They come in the form of a browser extension or an app. The most important types of VPNs are:
- Remote access VPN: This helps the user connect to a virtual private network and access all the resources and services while being remote. A secure connection tunnel is created between the user and the VPN via the Internet.
- Site-to-site VPN: Used by large organizations and companies to connect the network of one office location to another.
- OpenVPN: Open-source VPN that allows a wide range of encryption algorithms.
On the other hand, a proxy server is a computer that stands between users and their servers and only hides device IP addresses, not all of their online activities. It works on one application or website, not several. The common types of proxy services are:
- HTTP: A commonly used proxy server for accessing geo-restricted websites. It is good for those living in a country with high levels of Internet censorship.
- SOCKS5: This proxy server is used for things like video streaming, file sharing, and online gaming. But it is much slower than HTTP.
- Transparent: Proxy servers are not always used to unlock websites. They are also used for the opposite purpose. Transparent proxy servers are used to block certain websites from view.
Key Differences Between a Proxy and a VPN
- Free versus paid
There are free VPN options available, but the majority have limits on how many servers you can switch to and how much data you can use per day. Also, free services tend to mine your data; hence, tech experts strongly recommend against the use of free VPN services. Therefore, users opt for paid-for VPN services, and they offer greater data protection and higher security. Most of the paid services offer free trials for thirty days. So, you can opt for a VPN trial and use the service for free before purchasing a subscription.
By contrast, most proxy servers are free.
VPNs work across most operating system levels and reroute traffic through a VPN server. A proxy server, on the other hand, works on the application level and reroutes the traffic of a specific browser or an app.
This means that VPNs encrypt all online activity, regardless of the app or website. But proxies only hide a single app or website at a time.
Hence, VPNs offer more coverage.
- Selling data
Proxy servers are usually free, and they make up for this lack of charge by selling user data to advertisers. On the other hand, most VPNs are paid, and they do not share user traffic data or log users’ web activities.
Encryption is the primary difference between a VPN and a proxy server. The former hides and encrypts IP addresses and web activities, such as the websites visited, the content streamed, etc. The latter only changes the IP address but doesn’t encrypt online activities.
- No-logs policy
Most premium VPN providers have a no-logs policy, and they do not log users’ web traffic. But this isn’t the case with proxy servers.
If you are seeking total privacy, a VPN is a better choice because VPN providers don’t monitor and store your web activity. But free proxy servers monitor web activity and also sell data to third parties.
Here’s a summary of the differences between a proxy server and a VPN.
|IP Address||Completely hidden||Hidden, but the proxy owner can see|
|Data protection||Protects all data going to or from a device||Protects only your web browser or a particular application|
|Connection||Stable connection||Highly unstable|
|Number of uses||Unlimited||One|
|Coverage||All websites and apps||One website or app|
|Sells user data||No||Yes|
What are the similarities between a proxy and a VPN?
- Both proxy servers and VPNs hide device IP addresses.
- Both work with gaming consoles and streaming services, although for proxies, you must use a SOCKS5.
- Both are capable of getting around geo-restrictions and accessing content that has been restricted.
- Both slow down browser speeds at least a little. But yes, proxy servers are slower than VPN connections. Most premium VPN services are working towards not impacting the browsing speeds, and today, you won’t even notice the lag.
Do you Need Both?
No. If you are already using a VPN connection, you don’t need to use a proxy server. VPNs fulfill the functions of a proxy server and offer more features to ensure secure browsing and streaming experiences. VPNs are also capable of bypassing restrictions implemented by a transparent proxy server.
After comparing proxy servers and VPNs, it can be said that a VPN is far superior in almost every possible way. It offers a solution to protect one’s online presence and browse the web anonymously. Also, ISPs are unable to monitor one’s online activity when VPN is used to encrypt a connection. It is able to bypass ISP throttling, overcome gro-restrictions, and more. But VPN is costly compared to a proxy server. So, if there’s any reason you might be tempted to choose a proxy server over a VPN, it’s cost.
It is essential to point out here that the cost of VPN service is justified in the long run because it allows users to run multiple online applications and websites simultaneously. With a proxy server, you can only use one browser or app at a time. And VPN providers offer 30-day free trials with a money-back guarantee.
If you are concerned about your data getting stolen or want to access geo-blocked content, VPN might be a better option. But if your concerns are around what websites your users are hitting, a proxy server is a better tool.
Apply due diligence to make your final choice. Best of luck!