Why You Shouldn’t Confuse a VPN and a Proxy

If you need a way to get online, stay anonymous, and work securely, either a VPN or a good proxy server can do the job handily. Both of these services pass your internet traffic through intermediate servers, allowing you to maintain your privacy. What’s more, you can mask your IP address and hence your location, easily getting around geo-restrictions. But while they have similar capabilities, VPN and proxy services have some important differences, as we’ll discuss in this article.

Encryption

Arguably the biggest difference between proxy servers (SSL excluded) and VPNs is their methods of encryption. A VPN will automatically encrypt your traffic; proxy servers will not. Once connected to the VPN, your data is encrypted before it reaches your ISP and then moves on to the VPN server. With users of proxy services, the lack of encryption is a concern – especially with free proxies, where the service provider could monitor and log the user’s activities.

So, with a VPN, you can have a generally safer and more secure means of communicating online.

Connection speed

As mentioned, VPNs encrypt all the traffic to and from your device. But this high level of security can also mean slower connection and transmission speeds than those of proxy servers.

IP Sharing

Most VPNs share the same IP for all customers. This helps reduce the costs but can negatively impact your usage. If you require a dedicated IP address that no one else is using, then a private proxy server is your best option. Private proxy servers guarantee that while you are paying for it, no one else is using the same IP address, so other people’s online behavior doesn’t impact you.

Multiple IPs

With a VPN, you can use only one connection and one IP address at a time. Switching from one VPN IP to another takes manual effort to reconfigure your VPN settings. But with many proxy servers, you get access to multiple IPs at the same time. Rotating proxies make this easy and automatic. You can also setup your proxy configuration to switch between different proxy servers for each request, greatly expanding the number of IPs you can use at a time.

Overall security

The primary reason for a VPN’s higher overall security is that it isn’t limited to a particular application, but instead functions at operating-system level. It caters for all traffic to and from your computer by covering the entire network connection. Proxies, in contrast, operate at app level, being typically set up for browser applications, so that any other applications must be set up individually to work with a proxy.

Cost

The generally lower cost of proxy services, compared with VPN services, makes them attractive to many users. Even more attractive are the many free proxies available on the Internet. Still, the most reliable proxy server is a paid proxy server. As with a VPN, so with proxies, if you want quality service you need to stay away from the free products. There’s a saying that if something is free, then there is a good chance that you are the product!

Other differences

Proxies and VPNs also use different protocols. VPNs use PTTP, TLS, L2TP, IPsec, and others, while among proxy server protocols you’ll find FTP, TELNET, HTTP, and SMTP.

What to make of it all

All told, both of these services offer good safety and security for working online. Which one you choose will likely depend on your specific requirements and your budget. But one thing is certain: Good quality service can only be guaranteed by a service provider who is paid for their VPN or proxy server. Read the fine print and make sure you understand what you are signing up for. And if no privacy policy is available, then be very wary. Otherwise you may end up with a product that places you at greater risk than before.

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