If you want to boost your online privacy, and you really should if you want to avoid becoming a target for hackers, you’ll have to ensure that you choose a proxy or VPN.
Are these the same thing? While a proxy and VPN both increase your online security and privacy, they work in very different ways.
This is why it’s so important to know what sets them apart from each other. So, let’s explore proxies and VPNs to find out which one you should choose.
What Is A Proxy?
A proxy is basically the same thing as a gateway, or middleman, between the website you want to visit and your device.
How using a proxy works is that your traffic will move through a remote machine that connects you to the host server.
The proxy server works well for hiding your IP address, so it’s useful for tasks such as browsing the internet anonymously or bypassing content restrictions.
For example, if you are located in Chicago but you want to access a website that’s restricted to people in the United Kingdom, you could bypass this restriction by connecting to a proxy server located inside the U.K. and then connecting to the website.
Your web browser traffic would give the impression of coming from the remote computer, instead of your own.
Since your IP address will be hidden, the website will view the IP of the proxy, so you can’t be tracked.
There are three common types of proxies:
- HTTP proxies. These enable your browser traffic to be rerouted through them, and they’re great for browsing the internet or accessing websites that are geographically restricted.
- SOCKS proxies. These can handle all types of traffic, but they tend to be a bit slower than HTTP proxies as they’re more popular and this results in them having a higher load. SOCKS is useful when you need to bypass regional filters but it doesn’t guarantee your privacy as you won’t be safe when using public Wi-Fi
- Transparent proxies. These proxies are set up by employers, parents, or other people who want to track users’ activities online and perhaps even block their access to certain websites.
What Is A VPN?
A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is similar in some ways to a proxy. This is because it redirects your web traffic via a remote server and it also hides your IP address.
That said, it works on the operating system level. This means it reroutes all your traffic, even if it’s coming from a background app. How a VPN works is that it creates a secure tunnel with the VPN server.
It essentially encrypts your network traffic and is therefore valuable when you need to, amongst other things, use the Wi-Fi in a public spot, as you will achieve greater privacy.
What Are Their Benefits?
- Proxies work as a buffer. They add more security between outside traffic and your server. This can make it more difficult for hackers to access the proxy.
- As we touched on earlier, proxies are ideal for unblocking geo-restricted site content. Some website content is restricted to certain regions, but proxy servers can help you to gain access to it regardless of your location.
- Since they have a caching system, proxy servers can help you to increase the speed associated with browsing and accessing data. This is because they download and store local copies of web pages that you visit frequently.
- A VPN encrypts the traffic between your device and the internet. This means that so your internet service provider will be able to see that you’re connected to a VPN server but it won’t have access to your online activities. This also protects you from being tracked online.
- A VPN is said to be more reliable than a proxy. This is because it doesn’t lose its connection as regularly.
- A VPN works on the operating system level and, as mentioned earlier, it redirects all your web traffic. By comparison, a proxy only works on the application level. This means that it can only redirect the traffic of a specific browser or app.
What Are Their Potential Drawbacks?
Both proxies and VPNs have some potential drawbacks of which you should know.
- You can use a proxy to hide your internet activity, but it can also hinder your performance. Other traffic that’s on the proxy server can cause delays when web pages load. This is why private proxies, in which users pay for a limit on the number of users on the server, are popular because they make your tasks go faster.
- You can put your privacy at risk with proxies. They can be vulnerable to attacks because they only reroute traffic – they don’t encrypt the traffic, therefore putting you at risk of your sensitive information being accessed by unwanted people.
- Some proxies will be able to monitor and store your browsing information and habits, which drastically reduces how anonymous you can be online.
- Similar to proxies, using VPNs can result in performance problems. Since they make use of a local client to produce a connection to the VPN server, this means that local CPU and memory issues can cause the connection to slow down.
- VPNs are generally more expensive than proxy servers and can be a bit more complicated to maintain and manage.
- VPNs can be slower than proxies. This is because all your data needs to be encrypted. That said, it’s important to choose a high-quality VPN as this will prevent lagging.
- VPNs can sometimes cause problems with financial institutions that mistake them for suspicious activity and flag your accounts.
Proxy Vs VPN: Which One Should You Choose?
Now that you know the pros and cons of both VPNs and proxies, you might not yet know which one is right for you. Here are some things to consider that will help you to choose the best privacy tool.
When you should choose a proxy server
- If you want to achieve tasks such as watching shows that are restricted to certain regions or being able to bypass content filters, you will be able to achieve these with the use of a proxy.
- You need to consider how often you will need the privacy features offered by a proxy or VPN. If you’re looking to strengthen the privacy of a single app or website, you can achieve this easily with a proxy server and it will be cheaper as well as more convenient than downloading a VPN.
Other times when you’ll benefit from using a proxy
- You need a fast solution to bypass a geoblock or firewall.
- You’re not sending any sensitive data or trying to access anything that you wish to hide from hackers.
- You have an outdated system. Proxies will drain old system resources much less and won’t cause your device to perform poorly.
- You want to have a faster browsing experience. Proxies note the websites you use the most and store copies of them so that you can reduce your data costs by viewing cached pages.
Here are times when you’ll need a VPN instead of a proxy
- If you want to encrypt traffic that moves between your device and the server, you will need to ensure that your information remains private. To do that, you’ll have to make use of a VPN. This is even more crucial if you consider that if you use a proxy, anyone who has access to your data, such as your internet service provider, can monitor your traffic and put your sensitive data at risk of being exposed and stolen.
- If you are traveling to a foreign destination and you’re concerned about logging into your banking apps or making use of public Wi-Fi, using a VPN will put your mind at ease.
- You regularly connect to public Wi-Fi. This makes your data and personal information much more accessible to hackers, so a VPN can come to the rescue to encrypt your traffic and prevent your sensitive info from being exposed.
- You live in a region where online monitoring and censorship are both common. Using a VPN will help you to keep your internet activity a secret from the government, while also helping you to bypass websites that are censored.
To further help you make up your mind about whether you need a VPN or proxy, let’s look at how they compare in different situations.
|You want a cost-effective solution to enhance your online privacy||Proxies are usually free||You will have to pay for VPNs, but they don’t have to cost a lot of money. The average cost of a VPN is approximately $10 per month but the costs will be cheaper if you sign up for long-term contracts|
|You want to encrypt your IP address||Proxies do this||VPNs also do this|
|You want to encrypt your online activity||Proxies can’t do this||VPNs do this, therefore giving you much more comprehensive online security|
|You don’t want your user data to be sold||Proxies are known to sell user data||VPNs will not sell your data, but be careful that you don’t use free VPNs as they are known for farming data|
|You want greater coverage||You can only use a proxy for one website or one app||You have unlimited coverage with a VPN, as it covers all apps and websites|
|You want to game or stream content||You can do both with proxies, but you will need SOCKS5 to achieve this. SOCKS5 is a proxy server that’s usually used for online gaming, the sharing of files, and video chatting on an app or website||You can do both with a VPN|
|You want to bypass geographical restrictions, such as to view content that’s not available in your region||You can achieve this with a proxy||You can achieve this with a VPN|
|You want decent speeds||Proxies can slow down your speeds||While VPNs can also slow down your speeds, they are usually faster than proxies.|
|You want something that’s very easy to use and set up||You do require a bit of technical knowledge when setting up a proxy||VPNs are very easy to use, so they’re beginner-friendly. However, they can be a bit more complex to maintain|
Are There Other Reasons To Avoid Free VPNs?
Generally, it’s a bad idea to trust free VPNs. Not only do they mine your data but they are also very limited when it comes to the functions they can offer you.
Should You Use a Proxy If You Have a VPN?
You don’t need a proxy if you have a VPN as a VPN will be able to achieve the same functions of a proxy but also much more than what a proxy can do, as we’ve seen in this article.
If you want to achieve greater online protection and security, you’ll likely wonder if you should choose a proxy or VPN.
In this proxy vs. VPN comparison, we’ve outlined the benefits and drawbacks of both as well as looked at when you should choose one over the other depending on the situations in which you find yourself.
After reading this article, it’s clear to see that buying a VPN is much safer than a proxy if you want a more comprehensive, effective way of boosting your online privacy.
However, if you don’t need all the features that VPNs have to offer, choosing a proxy should help you to maintain a good level of privacy with some perks.