Proxy vs VPN is a big debate for businesses and individual users alike.
Although both serve similar purposes to provide unrestricted access to sites while ensuring privacy, there are certain underlying aspects at which they differ from each other.
Proxies and VPNs offer plenty of interesting features, opening the entire world of the internet for you. But each of them has its own set of benefits and limitations.
Sometimes using proxies seem like a better deal, while sometimes it’s VPN. It may also hold true based on a user’s preferences, needs, and budget.
There are a lot of factors that determine which one of them will be suitable for whom.
This has created a sort of debate as to which one is better. And if you are also trying to figure out which one is better for you, read on.
In this article, I’ll compare proxy vs VPN on various grounds.
So, let the battle begin!
Proxy vs VPN: What Are They?
What Is a Proxy Server?
A proxy or proxy server acts as a bridge or a gateway between you and the internet. While you browse the internet for certain websites, proxies communicate on your behalf to the website to enable access.
A proxy server accepts incoming requests from clients and forwards them to the destination server. It is able to do so by separating the web server and client system from the network. It provides various levels of security, privacy, and functionality depending on the needs, company policy, or use cases.
Furthermore, a proxy server acts like a web filter and firewall that provides cache data and shared network connections to speed up many requests. It has two primary purposes – keeping you anonymous and speeding up your access to any resource via caching.
Virtual Private Network (VPN) delivers a protected network connection between the users and the internet. It encrypts your web traffic and hides your online identity or IP address and location. This way, it becomes difficult for sites and third parties to recognize you, track your online activities, or steal your data.
Since no one likes to be tracked, even if there’s nothing to hide; VPNs are a step forward to the privacy game. Using a VPN, you can create your private network while using a public internet connection and still maintain anonymity and online privacy.
A VPN builds a tunnel between the local network and the exit node in different locations that might be thousands of miles away. Due to this, you can access any website irrespective of your location.
For example, if you are in a country that restricts some of the websites, you can access those websites from another location sitting in your hometown by using a VPN.
Whether you use public Wi-Fi, want to access any content, want to stay safe and anonymous, or are a regular gamer, VPN is for you. It enables a safe and stable connection with a VPN tunnel with easy accessibility. It not only hides you from your Internet Service Provider (ISP) but also secures the whole internet connection and helps protect you from cyberattacks.
Forward Proxy: A forward proxy works best in internet networks that allow only a single entry point. You will get the IP address security inside the network and access to the administrative control. When it receives a request, it evaluates whether it is legitimate or not using its perfect decision-making capability.
Reverse Proxy: It is installed at the side of the webserver to validate and process the request so that no client needs to communicate directly. When a client sends a request to the internet, it goes through a firewall and reaches the proxy server. The proxy changes the path of the requests and gives access to clients.
Transparent Proxy: It identifies you as a client to the webserver, and the webserver has your IP address. Schools, public libraries, and businesses use transparent proxy for better content filtering.
Anonymous Proxy: It acts one step ahead of a transparent proxy. It tells the website that a proxy server is accessing the website but never shares your IP address. This way, it protects your identity and keeps your browsing style private. It also prevents a website from targeting you for its marketing content.
For example, if a news channel knows that you are accessing their website, they start showing you the new stories they feel are relevant to you.
Distorting Proxy: It tells the website that it is accessing data but shares a false IP address for you. Anonymous proxies and distorting proxies are the same, but the only difference is it shares a false IP address. It means you appear to be in a different location.
High Anonymity Proxy:
It acts as a top proxy server as it works smartly by changing the IP address periodically, making it confusing for the web servers to track the traffic location. It is the most secure and private proxy to access sites.
Residential Proxy: A residential proxy provides an IP address corresponding to a specific physical device, allowing you to make requests easily. It is suitable for users who want to regularly track the ads on their competitors’ websites without getting caught. It can be costly but highly secure.
Datacenter Proxy: It offers private IPs from a third-party not affiliated with any ISP. They are easy to get and can be detected easily by sites.
Public Proxy: It is a simple proxy that gives everyone access to the sites and applications for free. If cost is a major concern than speed and security, it is for you.
Other proxies are shared proxy, SSL proxy, rotating proxy, reverse proxy, caching proxy, SOCKS proxy, forced proxy, hostile proxy, HTTP proxy, etc.
Types of VPNs
Remote Access VPN: It lets business and home users connect to a private network to access web resources remotely. The connection between the private network and the user is encrypted to offer privacy and security.
For example, an employee can use the Remote Access VPN to connect with the company’s private network to access resources remotely from anywhere.
Site to Site VPN: Also known as Router to Router VPN, it is popular among large companies or organizations with branch offices in various locations. They use it to connect the network of one office to another office location.
Proxy vs VPNs: How Do They Work?
How Do Proxy Servers Work?
Proxy servers help you access any site or web page via the internet to fetch information and forward it to your web browser. Working as a mediator between you and the website you want to visit, a proxy requests the targeted server for data while protecting your identity or IP address.
Thus, any request you make first goes through a proxy and then to the server instead of going directly. And the target server will recognize not you but your proxy and supply the request information to it.
This way, you can access any site you want from anywhere in the world, even from geo-restricted sites, without revealing your IP address or location.
How Does a VPN Work?
Similar to proxies, VPNs also help you access any site you want while being anonymous. It also conceals your IP address by masking it with another IP address so you can access the application or site beyond restrictions with security.
So, when you don’t use a VPN, your request passes through your Internet service provider (ISP) and reaches directly to the site you want to access.
But when you use a VPN or VPN client, your request goes through the VPN and then to the ISP provider. From there, it goes to the VPN server and then reaches the targeted site you are trying to access.
While it communicates with the VPN server, a VPN encrypts data sent/received to or from the internet. The VPN server has remote access to the targeted site or data. There are two intermediaries in the overall process, one at each side of the ISP provider.
The VPN client sits between the user device and the ISP, whereas a VPN server sits between the ISP and the Internet. The VPN client can hide the request from the router and ISP, and the VPN server masks your identity or IP address from the site you are trying to reach.
So, two layers offer privacy and data security. It’s beneficial while using public Wi-Fi for banking, sending crucial documents over emails, shopping online, etc.
Data encryption helps secure your connection and prevent hackers from infiltrating your system while safeguarding sensitive data such as passwords, credit card information, phone numbers, emails, etc. In addition, VPN helps prevents ISPs from spying on your network traffic and tracking online footprints.
Similarities Between Proxy and VPN
Both VPNs and proxies hide your IP address with another to help you stay anonymous while you browse sites and applications.
The two of them will help you bypass geo-restrictions so you can access any website or data from across the world.
Proxy and VPN both act as an intermediary between your device and the rest of the web.
They are compatible with gaming consoles and streaming services. For proxies, you need SOCKS5.
Both can reduce your internet speed a bit as your request travels through intermediaries.
Differences between Proxies and VPNs
Let’s compare proxy vs VPN in various parameters.
#1. Proxy vs VPNs: Safety and Security
The internet has become a dangerous place despite all the goodness it can offer. But many people depend on the internet for their income. So, if you want to play it safe, you must take certain precautions, especially while using public internet connections.
Most proxy servers, specifically free ones, don’t encrypt your web traffic. They hide your actual identity from the site you are trying to visit but don’t secure the connection with any encryption. Using a public, free, or low-quality proxy server may result in an unsafe or less secure internet connection as it connects the target server directly via your browser.
Many proxy servers are not secure and lack HTTPS traffic. They may also be harmful with malicious code. As a result, it’s risky to use these proxy servers if you deal with sensitive data.
However, paid proxy servers, including password protection and HTTP connections, are generally safe but still have certain limitations compared to what you get from professional-grade VPNs.
Comparatively, a large of commercial VPNs are safer to use. They load the requested information on the server and then encrypt it before transferring it to your device. Once the data is sent, only then it decrypts it for other applications or programs.
This way, VPNs help protect your identity from the site you visit and your ISP and network, leaving no clue as to what data you access. As a result, it safeguards your identity and protects data from attackers roaming in an open network, employers tracking your activity, or the government.
So, if you still want to buy a proxy server, ensure you get it from a reliable and reputed provider using high-grade technologies and security practices.
#2. Proxy vs VPNs: Privacy
Data privacy concerns are escalating. Many ISPs and governments are also snooping on your data, and fraudsters are selling customer information for financial gains.
Hence, you must find ways to protect your data privacy. And this is why authorities like GDPR and HIPAA strive to require companies to be a complaint. They also demand that companies should always ask for customer permission to track their activity with cookies.
Proxies only work as mediators between you and the rest of the web. It can only hide your device’s IP address from the site you want to visit but has no encryption. Hence, data breaches and privacy concerns increase if you use proxies, especially the free ones. Regarding cookies, proxy servers can trick a site into storing cookies with an IP address other than your actual IP to protect privacy at some level.
On the other hand, VPNs can help protect your data from your router, employer, government, or ISP through end-to-end encryption. It also conceals your IP address along with its location; hence, the site you visit can’t identify you easily. Similar to proxies, if you use a VPN, the sites will mistake the VPN’s IP for your device IP and store cookies there instead of on your device. This increases your privacy.
But whenever you use a VPN or proxy, make sure to clear the cookies saved on your device. Otherwise, they can compromise your privacy and can contribute to the device’s fingerprinting to show you ads by tracking your location and IP address.
#3. Proxy vs VPNs: Speed
Both proxy and VPN can reduce your connection speed a bit because intermediaries sit between you and the site you are accessing. Although this communication process may seem lengthy, it happens quickly in microseconds. This is why you won’t face much trouble while browsing. You can stream HD movies and play games online without lag or latency.
Let’s find out how proxy vs VPN plays out in terms of speed.
Using a free proxy server can make you struggle with speed. It’s a single server used by several people at a time, which delays speed. But if you have good quality proxies, you can see increased performance due to web caching.
On the other hand, many VPNs offer higher speeds like 50 Mbps or more. Its encryption may add some latency but is not large enough to compromise your experience. Many VPN providers have global data centers; hence, they can deliver faster connection speeds across the world.
#4. Proxy vs VPNs: Coverage
How much coverage you can expect from a VPN or proxy is another criterion that differentiates these two technologies.
Most proxy servers reroute web traffic of one particular window. Hence, it offers less coverage, and all the other apps you use in the background won’t be covered in this.
However, installing VPNs on your system will reroute all the traffic to and from your system. It will also include your background applications that might have sensitive data stored in them. Hence, VPNs offer better coverage to protect your systems than proxies by covering all of them.
#5. Proxy vs VPNs: Cost-Effectiveness
Cost-effectiveness is another major criterion that you must look for. Let’s compare proxy vs VPN based on how cost-effective they are.
Most proxy servers are free and publically available. Hence, it’s great for individual users and small businesses that don’t need much use of proxies or VPNs. But if you want to add a security and privacy layer to it, you may look for a paid proxy server that can cost starting from $5 a month to higher.
On the other hand, VPNs are costlier than proxies in general. They can typically cost around $5 or $10 a month. But this will offer you greater security and privacy, especially if you are a business dealing with lots of sensitive information. Although you can also find free VPNs, they can be slower and have limits.
So, proxies, in general, are more cost-effective than VPNs.
#6. Proxy vs VPNs: Benefits of Each
Benefits of Proxies
Easy to set up: Most proxy servers need little configuration. You just need to enter the site’s URL you are trying to visit, and the proxy will land you there within the same window of the browser, without any software to install.
Privacy: Proxies hide your IP address so the site you visit wouldn’t recognize your actual IP. Hence, you can stay anonymous and visit any site you want.
Bypassing geo-restrictions: You can access geo-restricted websites and content using proxies no matter where you are.
Cost-effective: Many proxies are free, and you can find paid ones for around $5 a month; hence, it’s cost-effective.
Control: You can configure your proxy server to deny access to certain sites to control your employees’ web usage.
Benefits of VPNs
Greater security: By offering end-to-end encryption, VPNs make your connection secure. This helps you remain safe from attacks, malware, etc.
Privacy: VPNs offer a higher level of privacy by hiding your IP, keeping you anonymous. Hence, the sites wouldn’t recognize your actual IP address. Even your government, router, and ISP can’t know what site you are visiting.
More coverage: Since it’s deployed on your device, VPN offers greater coverage, even for applications running on your device in the background.
Speed: You can achieve great speeds with VPNs that are paid and come from reputed providers using advanced technologies.
Bypass geo-restrictions: You can visit any site from across the world, bypassing geo-restrictions. Hence, even if a site is banned in your country, you can still use it through VPNs.
Support: Since VPNs are mostly offered by large companies, They can offer dedicated support should you run into an issue.
Proxy vs VPN: When to Use Them
Use a Proxy Server:
If you just want to stream content restricted in your country or region
Play online video games while being anonymous
You don’t have much budget at hand to invest
While using a legacy operating system
Use a VPN:
If you are greatly concerned about the data security and privacy while browsing online
You use public Wi-Fi to carry out your online activities.
You want to bypass geo-restrictions and access sites, stream videos, and play games without revealing your real IP address.
You have enough budget at hand to spend on buying a VPN
Proxy vs VPN: Which Is Better? 🤔
Although poxy and VPN provide similar capabilities, they are different in many ways. You may use proxies to access any sites or geo-restricted content anywhere while being anonymous; there are hidden risks. They are mostly unreliable as they don’t encrypt your data, lack advanced features, and pose privacy threats by leaking personal information, especially with a free proxy server.
Hence, VPNs are a better option if you want to visit any site, play any game, or watch any show online with safety, security, and privacy. They provide end-to-end encryption to secure your network connection and data while safeguarding against cyberattacks. Although they require you to pay some bucks, it’s worth every penny.
Amrita is a freelance copywriter and content writer. She helps brands enhance their online presence by creating awesome content that connects and converts. She has completed her Bachelor of Technology (B.Tech) in Aeronautical Engineering…. read more