Both proxy servers and VPNs safeguard user identities and are ideal for accessing content securely. As both can be used to get the job done, people tend to confuse them. While one protects your privacy, the other one does not. Proxy vs. VPN – how do they differ? This post covers everything from key features and differences between proxies and VPNs to their use cases to help you choose the right option for your business:
What is a Proxy?
A proxy server is a machine that serves as a gateway between the internet and users in such a way that the server remains uninformed about the user’s online identity.
Key Features of a Proxy
Some of the key features of proxy servers are:
- Anonymous Browsing – This feature lets users browse the web anonymously by hiding their IP addresses.
- Enhanced Security – HTTPS proxies are used to provide secure connections through encryption. Reverse proxies help prevent Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks and man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks by blocking suspicious, repeated requests.
- Web Filtering – Companies use transparent proxies to restrict users’ access to certain websites and monitor activities.
- Location-specific Content Access – You can designate a proxy server with an address linked to another geographic location. It lets you access all the content devices in that country can interact with. For instance, a US-based Netflix subscriber can connect to a UK proxy to access UK Netflix content.
- Web Acceleration – A proxy server speeds up data transfer and conserves bandwidth by caching famous sites. They are often used for load balancing, which distributes user requests across multiple servers to achieve better speed.
What is a VPN?
A Virtual Private Network, or VPN, is a service that creates an encrypted tunnel that hides your IP address, safeguards your online identity, and protects you from online snooping, censorship, and interference.
Key Features of a VPN
Here are some key features of a VPN:
- VPN Kill Switch – This feature kills your Internet connection if your connection to a VPN server drops, which ensures a secure VPN always protects your information.
- DNS Leak Protection – DNS leaks inform eavesdroppers who you are and what websites you visit. A VPN offering DNS leak protection helps you avoid this potential lapse in privacy.
- No-Logs Policy – VPNs are famous for their no-log policies, which means that no information is stored related to your activities while using the VPN.
- Split Tunneling – Split tunneling enables users to use a VPN for some websites and a regular connection for others. In addition, it is a way of getting the fastest loading speeds on trusted sites.
- IP Address Options – VPNs can assign a dedicated IP address only to you to avoid triggering captchas and other online blocks.
Difference between Proxy and VPN
Here are the five key differences between proxies and VPNs:
- Encryption – VPNs hide your private IP address, as well as all your web activity, using encryption. Proxy servers, on the other hand, only change your IP address and do not encrypt your online activities.
- Coverage – A VPN works on the operating system level and reroutes all web traffic through a VPN server, whereas a proxy works on the application level and exclusively reroutes the traffic of a specific browser or app. While VPNs encrypt all web activity, irrespective of a site or app, proxy servers just hide one website or app at a time. Therefore, VPNs offer greater coverage for their users than proxies.
- Paid vs. Free – While many free VPNs are available, the majority of them have limitations on daily data consumption, the number of servers you can switch to, etc. Users tend to opt for paid VPNs for greater data encryption and security. In contrast, many proxy servers are free. In general, this shows that VPNs tend to be more expensive than proxies.
- Speed – Both VPNs and proxy servers can slow down your browsing depending on the number of users accessing these services. However, free proxy connections can be less secure and slower due to limited support and configuration options and slower infrastructure.
- Online Privacy – The VPN providers with a no-log policy do not log your web traffic. In contrast, a free proxy may monitor web traffic and sell data to third parties.
Examples and Use Cases of Proxy and VPN
Following are some examples and use cases of Proxy and VPN:
Individuals use proxies to achieve better security. Some proxy protocols like Shadowsocks – an implementation of the SOCKS protocol – are used to bypass government censorship and protect their user’s anonymity. Caching is another interesting use case – dedicated caching proxies can store content to allow easier and quicker access.
In addition, proxies can be used to collect reliable pricing data in real-time. You can also improve ad performance and identify fraudulent marketing activities. Also, proxies have tools to gather data online for processing measures in allocating ad budgets. Since the proxy server hides your IP address, you can use a UK proxy to gain access to restricted UK content.
Compared to proxy servers, VPNs can be used to handle all traffic channels. They protect all sent and received data through encryption. As it masks your identity, a VPN makes it difficult for sites to track your browsing habits. Another interesting use case is that VPN service providers help block malware with no extra charges. Some examples of client-based VPN applications include Cisco’s AnyConnect, Pulse, and Palo Alto Networks’ GlobalProtect.
A proxy and VPN are similar as they both reroute your traffic through a remote server and protect your IP address. However, a VPN is superior to proxies in many ways. We hope this post helped you understand proxies and VPNs better, so you know which one best fits your business needs.