Currently, there are dozens of cybersecurity solutions available. Among the most famous are proxies and VPNs. Since they have overlapping functions, choosing between them is rather difficult, especially for average computer users.
Below is a simple comparative table showing the differences between the two:
|Masks Your IP Address||✔||✔|
|Functions Over Operating Systems||✔||✘|
|Works Around Network Restrictions||✔||✔|
|Provides Access To Torrent Sites||✔||✔|
|Safeguards You When Torrenting||✔||✘|
|Eliminates Bandwidth Throttling||✔||✘|
|Provides A Reliable Connection||✔||✘|
As you can see, VPNs are far more capable than proxies. Still, that doesn’t mean you should refrain from using a proxy altogether.
What Are Proxies?
Proxy servers act as relay points between the website you’re browsing and your device. They act as middlemen that mask your IP address and replace it with the IP address of the proxy server you’re currently paired to. Hence, the sites you visit won’t get to know who you are.
Keep in mind that proxies don’t encrypt your traffic. Also, they only work on the application level, meaning that only the traffic coming from the app you’re using gets rerouted. Because of that, they’re not the best option for individuals that are looking for comprehensive protection.
Here’s a brief overview of the three most widely-used types of proxy servers:
HTTP proxies exclusively cater to webpages. After configuring your browser to use an HTTP proxy, all your traffic shall get routed through it. Thus, this type of proxy is most useful for general web browsing, working around geo-restrictions, and visiting banned sites.
While SOCKS proxies aren’t limited to web traffic, they still only function on the app level. You can set them up over video games, P2P platforms, and video streaming applications, among many other things. Even if SOCKS proxy servers can handle web traffic, they are often slower than HTTP proxies, making them not a good alternative for their counterpart.
Transparent proxies are unique because they’re meant to remain secret. In most cases, their users are unaware of their existence. Oftentimes, they’re established by business owners or parents that wish to monitor user activity and prevent access to certain websites. Aside from that, hotels and restaurants often use them to authenticate the users of their WIFI.
What Are Virtual Private Networks?
VPNs facilitate a secure connection between your smartphone, desktop, or router and another network utilizing the internet. They achieve this by trafficking all of a connected gadget’s data along a virtual private network. While this process seems complicated, it’s actually very simple.
All decent VPN services mask your IP address, making them ideal for anyone who’s trying to stay under the radar. In addition, they encrypt every morsel of information that’s relayed through a given connection, ensuring that you remain safeguarded at all times.
Besides what’s mentioned, here’s a couple of other things VPNs can do:
- Eliminate Bandwidth Throttling
- Bypass Geo-Restrictions
- Work Around Censorship Systems
- Provide A Reliable Connection
And if you’re wondering, most VPNs services aren’t free. However, they don’t cost much and often have free trial periods and solid 30-day money-back refund guarantees. Apart from that, they’re also easy to download, install, configure, and use. For that reason, they’re suitable for anyone who uses the internet. It doesn’t matter whether the person is tech-savvy or not.
VPN Vs Proxy: The Differences
At first glance, proxies and VPNs seem very similar. Both of them are designed to keep you safe from hackers and other third-parties. The two hide your IP address, bypass network restrictions, and work around the geoblocks of streaming platforms as well as many other websites.
There are many key differences between VPNs and proxies that you should be aware of. Let’s go into detail and have an in-depth discussion regarding each one of them below.
For starters, VPNs encrypt your data while proxy servers don’t. With the right VPN running, all the data relayed from your device shall be encrypted. This is great since hackers, government monitors, ISPs, and any other third-party won’t get to determine your online activities.
Individuals that are looking to have total privacy should opt for a VPN that has a zero-logging policy along with a RAM-based network. A service that doesn’t log information and has RAM servers is certain to refrain from tracking, collecting, and storing all your private data.
VPNs and proxies both negatively affect internet connection speeds. However, a handful of VPN providers actually improve them. How so? By getting rid of any bandwidth throttling that’s imposed by your ISP to prevent its network from becoming overloaded.
Proxies only work on the application level. Meanwhile, save for browser extensions, all VPNs function over your operating system. As such, they’re better suited for those wanting to have comprehensive digital protection on their desktops, smartphones, and other devices.
5. Ease of Use
Oftentimes, people are unaware that they’re connected to proxy servers. That’s because their device’s web browsers automatically connect to them. Sad to say, the same cannot be said when it comes to VPNs, which need to manually be activated to work.
Fortunately, the developers of VPNs often create user-friendly apps that are highly-configurable. As a result, choosing the right protocol and selecting a server is super easy. Even people who aren’t tech-savvy are guaranteed to learn their way around, which is awesome.
Proxies are generally very reliable. Nevertheless, since they do not provide complete protection from malicious third-parties, they’re not ideal for those who aim to stay completely safeguarded at all times. In this regard, a VPN is a better choice because, while it may occasionally suffer from periods of downtime, it’ll keep you safe 99% of the time.
Almost all proxies are free to use. In comparison, the best VPN services charge you a premium to utilize them. Due to that, anyone that doesn’t wish to spend on digital security is better off with a proxy. Needless to say, by choosing a proxy, you’ll not remain as safe.
Which One Should You Use?
In most situations, you’d want to use a VPN. How come? Because it offers practically the same benefits as proxies and also provides you with better levels of security. If anything, the only drawback that comes with VPNs is the learning curve required to utilize them.
Don’t get me wrong, though. Proxy servers still have their uses. For example, they come in handy if you need a quick solution for a simple task like browsing a blocked site or working around a specific geo-restriction. With that said, they’re not a permanent solution for those looking to keep their entire devices protected and freely surf the web at all times.
Putting It All Together
At present, there are countless VPN providers to choose from. Some of which are free while others aren’t. However, all current reputable services charge a fee for you to use them. Also, only these services maintain solid no-logging policies, robust encryption, and handy features.
In the end, the choice between VPN vs proxy ultimately lies with your goal. While most proxies are free and easy to use, they don't provide the same level of protection. But, if you’re willing to settle with that, then they’re a solid option that you should certainly opt for.