Lot of people do not have a good handle of what the difference is between a VPN and a proxy. A proxy server is any type of computer or service that allows a person to access sites or services remotely.
They act as an intermediary between your network and your end destination. People commonly use them to access specific files, attachments, or downloads.
Proxy servers are extremely popular in countries with heavy censorship of the internet such as China, where people use them to bypass the Great Firewall and access sites like Facebook, Google, and YouTube without restriction.
Because you’re able to change your IP address when you go through a proxy, you’re essentially able to browse the web as if you were in a different location. It is a useful tool for unblocking content, but not so great if a person wants to boost their online security.
A proxy server is a server that acts as a middleman in the flow of your internet traffic, so that your internet activities appear to come from somewhere else. Let’s say for example you are physically located in New York City and you want to log into a website that is geographically restricted to only people located in the United Kingdom.
You could connect to a proxy server located within the United Kingdom, then connect to that website. The traffic from your web browser would appear to originate from the remote computer and not your own.
Proxies are great for low-stakes tasks like watching region-restricted YouTube videos, bypassing simple content filters, or bypassing IP-based restrictions on services. On the other side of things, proxy servers are not so great for high-stakes tasks. Proxy servers only hide your IP address and act as a dumb man-in-the-middle for your Internet traffic.
They don’t encrypt your traffic between your computer and the proxy server, they don’t typically strip away identifying information from your transmissions beyond the simple IP swap, and there are no additional privacy or security considerations built in.
A VPN on the other hand (otherwise known as a Virtual Private Network) adds a layer of privacy and security to your internet experience. When you connect to the internet via a VPN, all of your internet traffic is routed through an encrypted remote server.
Because a VPN functions at the network level, its use extends far beyond your web browser. Any internet-dependent programs and applications you might use on your devices are bolstered by its encryption. You don’t have to configure anything individually; everything is automatically protected as soon as you establish a connection.
With proxies relatively easy and cheap to set up and use compared to a VPN, they might be a tempting choice for users who are new to the issues of online privacy and anonymity. However, proxy servers only offer bare-bones functionality and can introduce as many new security issues as they solve.
Here are a few things that a VPN can do that a proxy cannot;
VPNs have better encryption
Along with hiding your IP address, a VPN also has the ability to secure your internet connection. It automatically creates a secure tunnel between the internet and your computer, allowing you to anonymously surf the web from wherever you want.
Apart from securing the internet connection, it also secures apps and applications running on your smartphone or computer respectively. It encrypts your data and internet connection and guarantees 100% security.
Especially for organizations where privacy or security is a major concern, a VPN connection would be the most ideal solution for any sort of high-stakes network use.
A good VPN can be used from any connection, including public hotspots; the encryption and extra security measures offered by VPNs will protect your browsing data over public connections.
Even if an attacker manages to intercept your data, the encryption will make it unusable. Proxies are often less secure than a regular connection, so using one in public – especially one which will not use HTTPS traffic – is potentially dangerous.
VPNs let you choose geographical location
VPN services usually offer a variety of servers for the user to connect to; this makes them the superior solution for bypassing region locks. When using a proxy, you will have to reconfigure your browser to point to whichever server you want to connect to depending on which region’s content you want to access.
You cannot go seamlessly from viewing US-only content to UK-only content – and finding a trustworthy server even for one region can be difficult enough. With a VPN, your provider will often have an array of different servers available to connect to as required, allowing you to switch your virtual region safely and easily.
VPNs are more likely to increase your speed (bandwidth throttling)
Both VPNs and proxies are likely to slow your connection speed somewhat (except in the case of bandwidth throttling, in which case a VPN is more likely to boost your speed), but a proxy server will usually be much slower, as it is a single unit dealing with a multitude of unique connections, and is limited by not only your own connection speed but also the owner’s.
VPNs provide better anonymity
While a proxy does mask your IP address, it does not provide any deep level of anonymity. Your identity is obscured only to the websites you visit; most proxy servers will still keep logs of which requests you send, making it easy to trace your traffic at a later date even if your IP is hidden at the time you visit a website.
There are many VPNs available which have a no-logging policy, not only keeping your IP address anonymous when you access web-pages, but also meaning that it can’t be traced back to you after the fact.
When you’re considering whether to use a proxy instead of a VPN, a good general rule of thumb is, don’t. This is because not every proxy is reliable; malicious proxies have been known to log browser data, as mentioned, or even record various usernames and passwords, inject viruses, and more.
There are some very specific situations in which a proxy is the better option, but a VPN will offer you every benefit of a proxy server with less risk, more functionality and better protection. When you use a proxy server you’re willingly handing over your information to an unknown party, which means you’re essentially exposing your own network while connecting to someone else’s.
Yes, you’ll be able to access sites and unblock content, but the potential risks involved may not be worth it. VPNs are superior to proxy servers in every aspect. With added security, better privacy, more locations to choose from, and faster loading times, choosing a VPN over a proxy server is a no-brainer.
As long as you can choose a good VPN, the only disadvantages are the learning curve and the additional expense.