VPNs are a popular method of concealing your online identity. VPNs have been widely accepted for avoiding censorship, geographically limited content, and even staying private when connected to public WiFi networks in airports or coffee shops, in addition to allowing users to safely access a remote corporate network.
However, VPNs aren’t the only way to conceal your online identity. There are other ways to secure yourself and disguise your identity, and proxies are one of the greatest alternatives to VPNs. Although proxies give less privacy than VPNs, some types of proxies are faster, more stable, and significantly less expensive.
What are a VPN and Proxy Similarities?
Before we get into the distinctions between a proxy and a VPN, let’s look at what they have in common. What are the similarities and differences between VPNs and proxies? Both a VPN and a proxy mask your source IP by rerouting your traffic to a central server.
VPNs and proxies have certain similarities:
- Centralization. Both approaches allow scattered networks to be centralised.
- Anonymity. Both systems offer some kind of online anonymity.
To begin with, VPNs and proxies were designed to bring centralization to remote and distributed networks. A proxy server, for example, can provide a central location where remote users can connect to and have an exit node, regardless of where it is situated. In a similar way, a VPN server can give remote and scattered networks access to a central network.
Second, while on a different level, both VPNs and Proxies allow some sort of online anonymity. A VPN does this by encrypting communication from beginning to end, whereas proxies do it by masking the source IP with the proxy’s IP.
What is a Proxy Server?
A proxy is a server that acts as a middleman between two networks, allowing requests from both to be centralised. This means that when a user on a private network wishes to access a public network (Internet) service such as a website (HTTP), FTP server, or Torrent server, the proxy will take the request and conduct some action, such as re-routing, blocking, or hiding IP. The latter, “hide IP,” is the most common reason for using a proxy.
A forwarding proxy is demonstrated in the diagram below. A private networked school PC tries to access Facebook on the public network, but the school’s firewall is blocking requests (in red) to Facebook. The school firewall does not have any rules restricting access to the proxy server when the school PC connects to Facebook via the Proxy-server (in blue), hence the session is allowed.
What can you use a Proxy for?
Proxy Server Pros and Cons?
The most common application of a proxy server is anonymous web browsing. Of course, proxies can be used for a variety of purposes, such as bypassing LAN limits (as shown in the diagram above), but they can also be used to evade regional restrictions, censorship, site scraping, large-scale SEO efforts, anonymous P2P, and more.
- You can conceal your IP address.
- Bypass any geographical limitations.
- Avoid being censored.
- Pools of proxies that are both cheap and huge.
- For large-scale operations requiring anonymity, this method is quite effective.
- Free proxies are insecure and slow.
- Users can load free proxies with shared users.
- It’s possible that proxy providers store logs.
- Data is not encrypted by proxies.
What is a VPN?
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a virtual network that is connected to a physical network. It creates an encrypted virtual tunnel (over TCP or UDP) that masks all traffic data across these physical networks using the client/server communication mechanism.
VPNs were created to provide remote and secure access to distant network endpoints, such as branch offices or workers who work from home. VPNs connect both a client and a server over the Internet (although they can also use other access technologies like leased lines) and build a tunnel between them using encryption methods.
What can you do with a VPN?
Nobody could see the contents of the communication, including a network admin, your neighbour with your WiFi code, a hacker, local ISP, or any middleman, because VPNs encrypt traffic end-to-end. Even if they were able to intercept it, they would only be able to see nonsense. As a result, the most fundamental use case for a VPN is to secure outgoing and incoming communication over public networks.
VPN Pros and Cons?
- VPNs offer complete end-to-end encryption.
- Insecure WiFi networks are protected.
- Downloading over P2P and BitTorrent is safe.
- Bypass geo-restricted content like Netflix, Hulu, HBO, and other similar services.
- VPNs make tracking you by your ISPs or any other third-party organisation extremely difficult.
- IPv6, WebRTC, and some DNS data leaks are all vulnerabilities that VPNs have.
- VPN traffic can be spied on. The traffic could be decrypted if the encryption is weak.
- The retention of traffic logs is required by law for some VPN services.
- Using a VPN does not make you Malware-free.
- Due to geographical and encryption overhead, there is higher latency.
What are VPN and Proxy Main Differences?
VPNs and proxies arose from various requirements. They are two distinct organisms with distinct functions. Despite this, many people compare them solely on the basis of online privacy.
Yes, both aid in the resolution of distributed network issues and give anonymity. But they go about it in a very different way.
- VPNs and proxies operate in different ways. Your entire Internet traffic is encrypted with a VPN. It encapsulates your local-host-generated TCP/IP packet into a VPN protocol packet (like IPSec or OpenVPN). All of this is made possible via a secret key. A proxy, on the other hand, would only reroute traffic from the application level, such as browsers, FTP, DNS, BitTorrent, and so on.
- The encryption of a VPN slows down your connection. The overhead of a VPN, due to encryption, reduces the speed and stability of the connection. To encrypt and decrypt each packet, computers require more resources. However, because proxies have a low overhead, their speed and stability are significantly improved, making them more ideal for torrenting and streaming.
- Paid VPNs typically cost more than paid proxy servers. VPNs are often more expensive to set up and use than proxy servers.
Final Verdict: Which One to Use? What is the difference between a VPN and a proxy?
First and foremost, avoid utilising free proxies and VPNs at all costs. They’re dangerous and slow. Free services may bombard you with advertisements, may install bloatware, and possibly even Malware on your PC. A free service could also consume your resources without your knowledge (bandwidth for IP proxies or CPU for cryptomining).
Because VPNs and proxies operate in different ways, each is better suited to a specific application.
Because of their encryption, VPNs are fantastic privacy solutions. Because they are experts at masking your traffic, you may utilise a VPN to protect important data while travelling or connecting to public, untrustworthy networks. Proxies are less expensive and speedier, and they can be purchased by the dozen. For example, you may utilise IPv6 rotating proxies for high-resource operations like site scraping and large-scale SEO efforts that demand secrecy but need to be quick.