In today’s day and age of the Internet, there are always attempts to hack your system, injecting your device with some virus or ransomware and the list just goes on.
VPNs and proxies, both are a great way to protect your user identity online while also letting you surf and access content on the Internet safely. Both these services seem interchangeable on the surface since both of them carry out similar operations but are in fact very different.
In this Proxy vs VPN article, we will discuss the differences between these two services, how they work, the advantages and disadvantages of each one, and more.
What Is A Proxy Server?
A proxy server is a router or a system that acts as a relay between the internet and your device. Therefore, it can be understood as that the proxy server is the middleman and all your traffic goes through this layer to ensure secure connection between end users and websites you visit online.
You must be aware of the fact that whenever a device is connected to the Internet it uses an IP address. However, in the case of proxies, your original IP address is hidden from the website. The IP address of the web proxy server is shown instead.
Therefore, proxies shield your devices and private network from any potential cyber attackers but do not encrypt your traffic. It is to be kept in mind that a proxy server works on application level where the traffic coming from the app you set up your proxy with will be rerouted only.
How Does A Web Proxy Server Work?
The remote proxy server has its very own IP address and only your device is aware of this address. Your computer sends the request on the internet which is then routed to the proxy. The response from the web server is delivered to the specified proxy server. The information from the requested page is then forwarded to your device’s web browser.
What Is A VPN Server?
VPN expands to Virtual Private Network and just like a proxy server it also reroutes your traffic with the help of a remote server. Not only does it hide your IP address so the websites you visit can’t see your original location or IP for that matter.
In addition, VPNs also encrypt your traffic to and from your device and the internet. What this means is that your Internet Service Provider, often referred as ISP, can no longer monitor and track your internet activity or collect data.
Unlike proxies, VPN servers work on the operating system level, and therefore redirects all of your internet traffic, from web browsers as well as background applications.
How Does A VPN Server Work?
The VPNs redirect your network through a remote server which is especially configured and run by a VPN host in order to disguise or hide your original IP address. Therefore, for whatever you search online your VPN server acts as the source of your data. This ensures that none of the third parties including ISP could monitor your activity online as VPN theoretically converts the data packets into unreadable format or gibberish.
The Main Differences Between A Proxy Server And A VPN Server
To paint a clear picture of differences between both these two services here are some major causes.
1. VPN provides encryption, integrity and authentication protection whereas proxies do not provide any sort of security. What it basically means is, a VPN server can be used to protect your online identity as well as internet traffic from ISP monitoring, cyber attackers, government tracking and surveillance. However a proxy server does not encrypt your data and therefore cannot be used to protect sensitive information.
2. A VPN server creates a secure tunnel between the end users by simulating a private network over a public network whereas a proxy server does not.
3. VPNs work on firewalls and reroute the traffic through a VPN server as they run on an operating system level. Proxies, on the other hand, operate on a specific browser or application level.
4. As far as the speedy connection and retrieval of data to and from the Internet is concerned, VPNs can be comparatively slower than proxies as VPNs encrypt all of your sensitive data before sending it on the network.
5. VPNs and proxies abide by different protocols. Two important protocols used by VPNs are L2TP (Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol) and PTTP (Point to Point Tunneling Protocol). Proxies on other hand follow FTP (File Transfer Protocol), HTTP (HyperText Transfer Protocol), SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) and more.
6. You might have noticed that VPNs are more or less to be paid for, whereas proxies are available free of cost. You should however be cautious of free VPNs cause they tend to monitor your data and have limitations to be dealt with.
What Are The Benefits Of Using A VPN Server?
There are endless benefits of using a VPN server and some of the important ones are as follows.
Secured Data Encryption
There are numerous websites and applications that monitor your online activities, extract and store your information most oftenly without your knowledge. In order to stop third parties from collecting your data, you can use VPN as a way to encrypt your traffic. To access the encrypted data you need an encryption key and to decipher it without using one would take years.
Hide Your Location
VPNs disguise your actual whereabouts as the geographical location comes from a server located in some other country. VPNs mostly do not track your behavior or store your activities but if in some cases they do, this information is not sent to third parties.
Access Geo Restricted Services & Content
Regional content is generally not available or accessible to users within another demographic location. You can use VPN services as a way to browse the internet, stream content, and more which would otherwise be not permitted to you with the help of another IP address. Through VPN location spoofing, you can easily switch to a server of the desired country, change your location and access the data you want.
What Are The Drawbacks Of Using A VPN Server?
Slower Internet Speed
One of the major concerns regarding the use of VPN is related to the performance issue and lower internet speed processing. Since VPN encrypts all of your internet traffic data to keep the information secure, it consumes time which ultimately leads to slower online experience.
The initial installation and configuration of VPN might be difficult to understand and process and could take up more time than thought. You can ease up your task by reading about networking terminology or choosing a VPN provider with speedy and supportive customer services. It is important to configure your VPN accurately otherwise you leave your communications and data shared online vulnerable to malware, cyber attackers and more.
What Are The Benefits Of Using A Proxy Server?
Proxy servers have their own set of capabilities and some of the most important benefits of using a proxy server are given below.
The greatest benefit of using a proxy server is identity anonymity when you browse online on the Internet. It is mainly used as a way of masking your original IP address in order to get rid of hackers trying to access your device. If cyber attackers do in fact try to use or access your computer they will instead be logged into a proxy device. Proxies also disables third party software, applications or websites to track you down.
Bypass Blocked Content
Proxy servers allow you to access blocked as well as geo-restricted content. You can achieve it by designating a country specific IP address to your proxy server and can make it appear as if you are in fact present in that country.
Speedy Page Loading
Although not true for every proxy server, some of them however decrease the loading time due to effectively caching data. After you have visited a website once already, the server will return your request faster the next time you browse it.
What Are The Drawbacks Of Using A Proxy Server?
Traffic Is Not Encrypted
Irrespective of proxy being an effective way to achieve online anonymity, they do not offer any layer of advanced protection. Your data through a proxy server is rerouted but not encrypted, which means hackers can still track your movements, behavior and information.
As proxies use cache data in order to offer speedy page loading, the proxy providers therefore have access to your online activity, personal information and more which they can choose to misuse.
Which Is Better – VPN vs Proxy?
If you need a one word answer to which service is better, Proxy vs VPN, the most frequent reply would be, VPN.
By far, a VPN server provides better privacy and security in comparison to a proxy server. The answer to this is simple, VPNs not only route your entire internet traffic through a specially configured VPN server but encrypts your online activities.
Proxies act as a go between your device and the internet where it just passes your traffic without necessarily offering any sort of protection. So as far as proxy vs VPN debate goes, the latter provides better overall online privacy and security to you and your data.
Can You Use Proxy And VPN Together?
Although you can use a proxy server and a VPN together simultaneously, there are some backdraws related to them. For starters both these services take up time and effort to be configured. Proxy server on top of VPN would simply consume more time as addition of another layer slows down your internet connection and affects performance. Therefore it is advised you switch between these two services as you go or when deemed appropriate according to the circumstances.
What Should You Choose – VPN vs Proxy
You should go with VPN and use it if you or your company needs to access the internet constantly, send and receive data that must be encrypted as well as the sensitive information that must be hidden.
If however, you merely need it to surf the internet anonymously or access websites that are blocked by your country, you should go with a proxy server instead.
You can use both VPN and proxy services together, in case you want to reroute as well as encrypt your traffic along with limiting the websites that users within your network can access.