Considering the surge in corporate cyberattacks – up 32% year-on-year, it is no surprise that more and more internet users are turning to VPNs and Proxies to protect themselves from the disaster of leaked private information. In every other news, there is a story relating to email leaks, data theft, malware attacks, and cybercrime at large.
Consequently, the best choice for internet security has become a hot topic in the tech community. Some recommend using a VPN (Virtual Private Network), others Proxies, but few provide specifics. And although these two tools are similar, knowing how they differ will help you make an informed decision about which tool best suits your browsing needs.
VPNs and Proxies have one thing in common—both let you browse the internet privately. However, there are vast differences in how they go about doing so, and how much privacy, encryption, and other features they provide.
Hence, if you will spend time and effort enhancing your privacy security, you may want to ensure you are using the appropriate tools.
So back to the original question: VPNs vs. Proxies, which is best for you? Let’s dive right in!
What is VPN and How does it work?
To begin with, let’s look at the fundamentals of VPNs.
What is VPN?
VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. As the name implies, VPN is a service that allows you to access the internet privately. It does this by creating a private tunnel for your data exchange in the network or internet. This connection is encrypted and thus, secure.
Think of the internet as being in a crowded place. A VPN service is like a safe house in this crowded place. Whenever you visit a website, you navigate the crowd and everyone can see you. The websites can determine who you are and track your movements amidst this crowd. Your privacy is breached too.
When you use VPN, your movement can’t be tracked and the website doesn’t know who you are.
To break the metaphor, a VPN is a smaller and private network within a larger network which is the internet. It secures your connection by encrypting your data and concealing your IP address.
Virtual Private Networks or VPNs are gaining popularity with internet users because of how encrypted VPNs can be. You can access any location without actually being there. Internet users use VPNs to access geo-restricted content and bypass bans and blocks.
Types of VPN
VPN was originally used in professional settings. Big companies use it to ensure that their company data remain private to them. However, the use cases for the service expanded and there are now different types of VPNs available today.
The main types of VPNs include:
- Personal VPNs
- Remote Access VPNs
- Open VPNs
- Site-to-Site VPNs
Personal VPNs are used by individuals for private and secure connections to the open internet. They may be used as a data privacy tool or bypass for internet limitations like geo-restriction of content. VPNs for Streaming services like Netflix are great examples of this kind of VPN.
A Remote Access VPN is operated by a company to allow its staff access to the company’s private network for their official duties. This kind of VPN is common with companies whose employees work away from the office.
An Open VPN is a kind of VPN that allows more than one encryption method for its data management.
A site-to-site VPN is used by businesses with offices in many locations. They use it to connect employees in these various places and enable the safe, secure, and fast exchange of data.
How does VPN work?
The operation of a VPN can be explained in the following sequential steps.
- Data is sent from your computer to another one on the VPN network. The data is encrypted before it is sent across the internet.
- The data is decrypted at the other location of the VPN network and then sent to the relevant internet resource or server, such as a web server, email server, or the intranet of your business.
- The internet resource delivers requested data back to another computer located inside your VPN network.
- The data is encrypted again and sent back to your computer where it is decrypted and available for your use.
How to Setup a VPN
Every VPN provider gives instructions on how to set up access to their service. Regardless, here is a general step-by-step procedure to follow for most VPNs:
- Subscribe to a reputable VPN provider
- Download and install the VPN Software Package.
- Log in to your User account via the application.
- Choose a server to connect to for VPN access.
Once you’ve completed all these steps successfully, you can go ahead and browse the internet privately, and from different servers across the globe.
What is Proxy Server and How does it work?
What is a Proxy Server?
A proxy server functions as a middleman on the internet. Proxies serve as an intermediary or a go-between that facilitates interaction between your site and the internet. You can think of a proxy server as your Internet broker that manages your data exchange.
Proxies also improve your data security and enable valuable information to be kept safe from prying eyes. Encryption is not a proxy function, unlike VPNs, a proxy only acts as an intermediary between your device and the web.
Proxies safeguard your internet connection and also serve as a filter for the content you wouldn’t want anyone to access.
There are different types of proxies and also different ways of classifying them. In prior articles—Forward vs Reverse proxy and Residential Vs Datacenter Proxies, we explained the different types of proxy servers, how they are classified and how they work. However, we are going to talk briefly about how proxy servers operate.
How does a Proxy Server work?
In four sequential steps, here’s how a proxy server works:
- Data is sent from your computer to the proxy server each time you visit a website.
- The proxy sends the data to the web server hosting that website.
- The web server returns data to the proxy which then transmits it back to your computer. That’s when you have access to the website.
When you use internet proxies, your device only connects with the proxy, not the web server. All the server responses to your data request come through the proxy. Thus, websites cannot track you because your IP address (that’s your internet ID) is concealed.
Key Similarities Between VPN and Proxies
- Both can bypass geo-restrictions. Both VPN and proxies can help you evade geographical restrictions in specific places on the internet by routing your traffic. This route helps change your IP address to suit a particular geographic location.
- Both reduce your browsing speeds. The process of encrypting and decrypting your data in routing takes a long time and makes your browsing experience a little slow. Though, we will have to concede that VPN connections are often faster than proxy connections.
- Both let you mask your device’s IP address. Your IP address is what identifies your computer on the internet. Whenever you use VPNs or proxies, it stays hidden from the public.
5 Main Differences Between VPNs and Proxies
There are quite obvious differences between both services. However, we will discuss five important distinctions between VPNs and proxies. These are Security, Privacy, Cost, Connection speed, and Coverage.
Proxy servers only conceal your IP address from the web servers you want access to and limit tracking. Your data is still susceptible to leaks and spying.
In addition to concealing your IP address, VPNs provide data encryption. Your data is encrypted from the time it leaves your computer till it reaches its destination. Leaks or Hacks and data spies won’t be able to access or read your data because of this.
Please note that even if you use a VPN or proxy, you are still at risk of being tracked by advertisers with sophisticated techniques like browser and device fingerprinting. However, concealing your IP address makes it difficult to connect the dots.
2. Connection Speed
The connection speed between a proxy and a VPN is another significant distinction. Some VPNs provide speeds of 50 Mbps or more. A public proxy server can’t provide up to that. The computer acting as the proxy server influences the speed of your connection greatly. If it has poor network connectivity, your internet speeds will surely take a hit.
Experts say simple data security measures might have prevented 93% of data breaches. These safety measures include using VPNs or Proxies.
Your identity is hidden when you use a proxy, but proxies do nothing to secure their connection to your computer. This implies that anyone with access to the means can intercept your data en route to the proxy server. The likelihood of this happening increases significantly when you use free proxy services.
Proxies are a good source of protecting data, yet, they don’t offer the same level of encryption as a VPN.
Most proxies are open and free. The paid ones are less expensive compared to a VPN service. According to Top10vpn, a VPN monthly plan costs between $3 – $30, with an average Pay-monthly plan of $11.77 as of November 2022.
You should be wary of free VPN services. They are very limited and may mine your data in exchange for the service provided.
VPNs operate at the operating system level while proxies act at the application level. This means when you use a proxy, only the internet connection of the browser or application you connect to the proxy is affected.
A VPN does otherwise. It affects all the internet traffic that comes and goes through the device it is installed on.
VPNs vs Proxies: Use Cases
In the end, the question to answer is where to use each of them given their strengths and weaknesses. We look into the uses as well as the pros and cons of both VPNs and Proxies
Use Cases for VPNs
Using VPNs is best when you have to do the following:
- browse the internet safely and securely on public networks
- Provides security even when using a public wifi
- bypass geo-blocking for streaming content
- Access to restricted locations and websites
- work with sensitive personal/company data
- VPN can block malware
- prevent your ISP from restricting your bandwidth.
The Pros Of Using A VPN
- Improved data privacy
- Secured network
- Data/Traffic Encryption.
- No-logs policy
- No server overload issues.
The Cons Of Using A VPN
- Expensive subscriptions
- Shared IP addresses
- Slow Speeds
Use Cases for Proxies
The following tasks are appropriate for using proxies:
- accessing restricted websites.
- streaming geo-restricted content.
- For a price comparison,
- transparent proxy servers regulate different web content.
- Proxies are useful in web scraping
- large-scale data collection and analyzing the data collected.
The Pros Of Using A Proxy Server:
- Improved data security
- Fast internet speeds but not as fast as VPNs
- Little or No cost of usage
The Cons Of Using A Proxy Server:
- Data can get easily leaked or hacked using a proxy server.
- Zero encryption- Does not encrypt and decrypt like VPNs
We’ve covered everything you need to know about VPNs and Proxies. Keep in mind that both are data privacy tools and have peculiar use cases. A VPN is the best option if you want the highest level of protection and privacy. However, if all you need to do is access geo-restricted content or get past internet limitations, a proxy should suffice.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is VPN a proxy server?
No. A VPN and a proxy server are not the same things. They both hide your IP address but the vast difference is that proxies do not encrypt data like VPNs.
Can I combine a VPN with a proxy?
Yes. You can combine both but ensure your internet connection is fast. VPN’s encryption and decryption mechanism when combined with a proxy tend to slow down the process but with fast internet, it can get better.
Which is quicker, a proxy or a VPN?
A Proxy and VPN both offer slow speed with an internet connection but a VPN is faster than a proxy in terms of connection.
With a VPN, do you still need a proxy?
No. A VPN pretty much has all the same features a proxy has – if not better. You do not need a proxy when you have a VPN because the benefits of using a VPN far outweigh the sage of a proxy.