VPN services and proxy servers aim to keep your browsing experience private, but is one better than the other? Each technology has its pros and cons, so if you’re unsure which one to use, this is the article for you. Learn the differences between VPNs and proxy servers.
Proxy Server – What Is It?
To put it in a nutshell, proxy servers are mediators standing between you and the internet. This means that a proxy server receives your data and sends it further – to your favorite websites, services, and other servers.
Normally, when you try to access a website, your computer sends a request and waits for a response. The connection is direct, and the site’s owner sees you (your IP address) as the visitor. But if you access the website through a proxy server, your real IP address is not visible to the website’s owner. Instead, they see the proxy’s address because the request comes from it and not from you.
Why Do People Use Proxy Servers?
The main purpose of proxy servers is to hide your real IP address. Why would you want to hide it, you may ask. Well, your IP address reveals a lot of information about you, including your physical location – country, sometimes even city. It’s also your identification number, enabling advertisers to track your activity and profile you for their profits. This is why some people choose to use proxy servers.
Pros of Proxy Servers:
- They hide your IP address and location.
- They can be used to access some restricted content, e.g., in countries censored by the government.
- Many proxy servers are free.
Cons of Proxy Servers:
- Proxy servers do not provide data encryption, which means they are no more secure than a direct connection to the internet.
- Since most proxy servers are free, it is difficult to say if they are safe. Server owners may have malicious intentions and gather data that passes through their proxies.
What is a VPN?
A VPN (Virtual Private Network) somewhat resembles proxy servers. The main similarity is that it also acts as a mediator between you and the internet. When you access a website via a VPN, your data goes further to the VPN server. So, where is the difference?
The most important distinction between VPNs and proxy servers is that the former encrypts your data. This means that only your computer and the VPN server “know” what is being sent inside the data packets. Nobody else – no advertisers or government agents – has access to your information sent through this encrypted tunnel.
Why Use a VPN?
VPNs are tools designed to increase your online privacy. They are similar to proxy servers in that they intercede in your connection but offer more excellent protection from hackers, spies, and other “outsiders.”
Pros of VPNs:
- VPNs provide data encryption and hide your activity from others.
- Not even your ISP can see what you’re connecting to when you use a VPN.
- They hide your real IP address and physical location.
- VPNs can be used to access restricted data in censored countries (this is also safer than a proxy server because of data encryption).
Cons of VPNs:
- Since all of your data goes through the VPN server, its owner has access to all of it. You must be sure that the VPN you use has a no-log policy. Otherwise, your data may be collected and sold.
- Good VPNs are sometimes expensive. The free ones may come with data limits or lower speeds.
Should you use a proxy or a VPN?
Both proxies and VPNs are designed to enhance your privacy when browsing the web. You should at least think about using one of them, but which one? It all depends on you and your preferences, but here’s a hint: VPNs offer everything that proxies have and more, just like a premium membership.
Using a VPN in Canada, the USA, Japan, or any other country can provide you with access to geo-blocked content. Proxies can also do this, but they don’t offer a secure, encrypted connection. Both tools are pretty similar: they can mask your IP address and location. If you’re still unsure which one to use, we encourage you to learn more about the differences between proxies and VPNs to make the best decision.