Proxy vs VPN: Understanding the Differences

proxy vs vpn

Summary of Proxy vs. VPN

  • You will get to know about different types of proxies and VPNs
  • You will know which is a more reliable online security option
  • You will know which option is cheaper on budget, and which one is expensive


Every basic internet user deserves the finest in online security – this is a notion that is uttered by today’s leading tech entrepreneurs in one form or another. For instance, while addressing the topic of cyber security, Bill Gates told the Washington Post in 2013 that:

“The cyber thing — it’s wonderful that more attention is going into that”

This is just one of the statements that have gone on to convince the masses that internet is not as safe as it was once thought to be. So out of the necessity of attaining online protection, many people have gradually gotten themselves involved in the proxy vs. vpn debate.

So who is the winner of any such debate, and which is the more reliable tool? Well, if you want the answer then this is a must-read article for you. It will put forth in front of you the facts as they stand. After going through them, you will most likely come to a definite conclusion regarding the proxy vs vpn issue.

First, let’s understand the essential functionalities of the tools:

Both VPNs and proxies route a user’s online traffic through a 3rd party server. This masks the person’s IP address as well as his original location. Both are utilized to dodge geo-restrictions and firewalls where at the same time offering an additional privacy layer.

The Primary Difference – and Other Facts

Except for the SSL proxy, the primary difference between all sorts of proxies and VPN tools is that of encryption. Most VPNs have encryption that allows them to be more secure and private as compared to proxies, but they also might be a bit slow.

Generally, VPNs route the entire online traffic from all ports. Comparatively, proxies frequently route only a particular sort of traffic, like HTTP.

Netizens arguing about proxy vs VPN should know that both have paid as well as free options. Still, purchasers should show extra cautiousness and go through their preferred services’ privacy policy. This advice should be seriously noted by the free web proxy users since such services are unencrypted, which means the service can log and monitor the users’ activity. Therefore both proxy and VPN users should search for “No Log” policy option whenever privacy is on their minds.

Paid proxy and VPN services commonly offer a wider server location selection offer as compared to the free versions.

Proxy Types

Proxy vs VPN debaters should understand that proxies differ each other depending upon their types. Here are some of the main web proxy types.

  • SOCKS proxies

These work for all sorts of traffic, which includes games and apps. Generally, they are set up in individual apps settings. Besides this, they can be utilized in browsers for particular webpages and websites. Users who prefer a proxy that operates on needs basis will find such tools useful.

Although, its potential users should note down the fact that they don’t have encryption feature.

  • SSL Proxies

These types of proxies are often commonly mentioned by the proxy vs vpn debaters. They are commonly utilized for internet browser traffic, but they have an encryption layer. This translates to the fact that the connection between the proxy and the users’ system is encrypted. Additionally, the connection established between the site and proxy server is encrypted.

The duty of proxy server can be compared to that of an arbitrator, where the users’ traffic is first decrypted then goes through re-encryption process. For a brief moment, a users’ data goes through decryption, this is why the user should be able to trust the host.

Many tech experts and critics are of the view that SSL proxies are great in providing access to blocked websites, which require greater level of security than what other proxy types offer. Still, you should know that they pale in comparison as compared to VPNs, which don’t decrypt a person’s traffic on an “arbitrator” server.

  • HTTP Proxies

Many of the proxy vs vpn debaters don’t know the fact that these are generally the most used free proxies. HTTP proxies are commonly utilized to bypass firewalls that are placed by offices and educational institutes.

It is typically seen that their users use them only with browsers. The paid version of HTTP offer amazing speed and can hide a person’s IP address – still, they aren’t encrypted.

  • DNS Proxies

These types of tools are frequently set up on users’ internet settings. Experts are of the view that DNS proxies are utilized to deceive internet sites that geo-restrict content. This same deception feat can be attained VPNs as well, but several prominent streaming sites such as Hulu have now begun to block VON connections.

Many people who do the proxy vs vpn discussion often get confused regarding Smart DNS and DNS proxies. The fact is that the former is another name of the latter, and it faces less chance to get blocked. Furthermore, as they don’t feature encryption, they are pacier than VPNs.

Proxy Server Types

To better understand how proxies fare with VPNs, one must understand what public and private proxy servers are. Let’s have a look at both of them in some detail:

  • Public Proxy Servers

Proxy servers can accept great number of connections. This is why a lot of public servers hove come into existence, which anyone can easily use. Both Socks as well as HTTP servers are presented for use for the masses. Anyone can find their list with some simple searches – this along with the necessary port # and IP addresses.

But there is a drawback to this. Public proxy servers are known to be very unstable. They can go online or offline at any moment. They also vary each other significantly in terms of the speeds that they offer. Additionally, it is seen that users have to trust such servers’ owners with sensitive data, without any sort of support.

Perhaps the biggest catch is that they are free.

  • Private Proxy Servers

They are not open to the masses, and usually can be freely used. They are reliable as compared to their public counterparts and offer support as well. In many cases, they also offer customized support.

VPNs

A VPN takes the entire traffic that comes to and from a users’ system, performs encryption and goes on to route it through the users’ chosen server. Due to the encryption process, VPNs tend to be a bit slow as compared to proxies. But this fact is overshadowed by the point that they are much more secure than proxies.

Usually, it is seen that VPNs operate as native clients. There are some free options available for the security concerned masses, but they are generally found to be unstable and insecure. Paid VPNs are much greater and also offer an array of features to their users. This is why they are vastly popular as compared to their free counterparts.

When connected, your government or ISP can only notice that you have established a VPN connection. This means your activities are hidden behind 128-bit encryption (minimum). But a VPN server can notice what you are up to.

This is why it is best to opt for a service that promises to keep no logs.

Shared and Private IPs

VPN may utilize either a private IP or a shared public IP. The latter is what it seems: a utility that can be used by hundreds of individuals to connect via same IP address. Such activity allows the addition of an obvious anonymity layer to the VPN, though it also allows websites to easily blacklist those specific internet protocol addresses.

VPNs that provide private internet protocol addresses are less common. Here, every user is provided an IP address that is exclusive to him. Subject to the app and provider, the user has the option of utilizing the same IP address whenever he wants or change it whenever connecting.

Private IP addresses are less anonymous simply because a specific person’s IP is easy to track. Still, websites such as Netflix find it relatively hard to assess if an IP address utilized by an individual is originating from a VPN.

Putting it all together

Here is a simple and easy-to-understand summation of proxy vs. vpn comparison:

Pros and Cons: Proxy vs VPN

proxy vs vpn

VPN -Pros

  • Users’ internet activity cannot be monitored by governments, agencies or internet service providers.
  • They offer amazing encryption levels which can range from 128-bit to 2048 bit. This shows that in terms of providing safety and security, they have a massive advantage over proxies.
  • With many VPN tools, users get to enjoy tons of quality servers.

VPN – Cons

  • They can be expensive.

Proxy – Pros

  • They are cheap and often free.
  • Generally, they allow you to bypass some basic level geo-restrictions only.

Proxy Cons

  • There is no encryption (only available in SSL, which is not very powerful.)
  • Proxy users’ internet activity can be monitored by governments, agencies or internet service providers rather easily.
  • A person’s personal data is less secure when he uses proxies as compared to VPNs.

In conclusion, proxies may offer you basic level benefits like hiding your IP. But when it comes to getting the best in online security and evading tough geo-restrictions, VPNs are the right choice.

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