What's the difference between a proxy and a VPN

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And what should you use?

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By: ProxyScrape Jul. 09, 2019

While technology and the internet opened up numerous opportunities, they also have their challenges. Today, cybersecurity is one of the concerns that both individuals and businesses have to deal with. There are prying eyes and hackers who are continually looking for ways to gain unauthorized access to our personal information and data. The good news is that there are multiple solutions available for those who wish to keep themselves safe from cyber-attacks or browse the web anonymously. Although both proxies and VPNs help to keep you anonymous by hiding your IP address, these technologies work in slightly different ways.

What is a proxy?

A proxy is a service that acts as an intermediary between your device and the internet. The proxy server lets you hide your IP address and access geo-blocked or firewall-restricted websites.

When browsing the web, the computer connects to a website directly and start downloading pages so you can read the content. With a proxy server, all web traffic is sent from the computer to the proxy first. The proxy passes this request to the target website, and download the relevant pages before finally passing it to you.

Proxies are mainly used when security is not a top priority. This means that they can come in handy when doing less important tasks and if you do not mind the ads.

What is a VPN?

A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is a service that lets you safely access the web. It helps you bypass geo-blocks and firewalls, encrypts internet traffic and data and hides your IP address.

The VPN acts as an intermediary between your device and your Internet Service Provider. All network traffic is encrypted, meaning that hackers cannot intercept data between your computer and the VPN server, helping to keep sensitive personal information safe.

While a VPN is quite similar to a proxy, the two services work differently. Although both hide your IP address and online identity, a proxy server only redirects web requests where a VPN routes and anonymizes all your network traffic.

A VPN comes into play when you need more security and are looking to protect private information and data.

Online Security

VPNs use powerful encryption to protect online traffic and personal data, ensuring a high level of internet security. Mostly, proxies don't use any encryption, and the SSL-type encryption that some proxy servers might use cannot be considered as reliable security. However, proxies offer some level of security by blocking access to malicious websites by making sure you do not connect to them accidentally.

Although both a proxy server and VPN hide your IP address, data send and received from a proxy server can still be spied on. With a VPN, traffic is encrypted end-to-end, meaning your ISP or anyone else that might be tapping your internet traffic an not see what you are doing. The VPN provider is the only one that can access that data, so make sure you find a trusted provider.

Internet Privacy

It is already clear that unlike with a proxy, internet traffic is completely encrypted when using a VPN. A VPN provides a higher level of online privacy, meaning that the Internet Service Provider, government surveillance agencies, and potential hackers are not able to monitor or track your online activities unless your VPN provider shares this data with the government.

Online Speeds

Fast upload speeds allow online users to share files quickly and take advantage of various communication technologies. Generally, a proxy does not have any significant impact on your internet speed. The service does not use secure encryption, therefore doesn't need to spend time encrypting and decrypting the data. The only way you may end up dealing with slower speeds is when proxy servers are overcrowded.

On the other hand, the encryption associated with a VPN may contribute to a slow-down effect when it comes to online speed. However, since a VPN can help get rid of bandwidth throttling for specific sites by encrypting internet traffic, you may end up enjoying better speeds.

Device Compatibility

Most operating systems and browsers like Chrome, Firefox, and Edge have proxy settings by default. In most cases, a VPN only works for the platforms and operating systems supported by the VPN provider.

Network Freedom

With a VPN, you can access any website that has been blocked anywhere in the world if the provider has servers in that region, a factor that gives you complete online freedom. A VPN does also not expose your original IP address to the end receiver. On the other hand, a proxy might show your original IP to the receiver depending on if the proxy is elite, anonymous, or transparent.

Stability

Another area where these two services differ is stability. VPNs are known to be stable and reliable in most cases. Proxy servers tend to crash down as a result of the traffic on the intermediary servers that facilitate communication back and forth.

Other Features

Mostly, proxy servers do not offer users additional features such as Apps. Killer, Killswitch, and DNS leak protection. With a VPN, you get extra features that contribute to an increased level of security and privacy. Also, these features let you enjoy an enhanced user experience.

Pricing

While each of these services has advantages associated with them, the online security that a VPN offer comes at a price. Proxies, especially public proxies, tend to be free to use. However, you should bear in mind that the service can go offline at any time if you are using free proxies. Also, most of these free proxies expose your data online and could inject malicious scripts into the client you use.

With VPNs, the free services that you can find are not worth it, because they are very slow most of the time and are limited. This makes it much better and safer to go for paid VPN services. Paid VPNs are likely to offer the support, security, and reliability you need for your online activities.



Which one should you choose?

The decision over which service to choose is entirely up to you. However, there are a few things you should consider when making the decision. If you want to ensure that your online data and traffic is secured, want to prevent people from spying on your online activities or want to have a great online experience, you should consider choosing a VPN. However, if you are not concerned about internet privacy and want to hide your IP address and bypass geo-blocks without encryption getting in the way, a proxy server is the way to go.

Last note:

A proxy server has many use cases that aren't mentioned in this article because they aren't close to the same use case as a VPN if you want more information on proxies you should read our blog.