Proxy vs VPN

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Proxy vs VPN: Understanding The Difference

Understanding the difference between Proxy and VPN

The online world has opened up a range of opportunities for mankind. Not only has it birthed an array of possibilities including online learning and working, but it has also birthed new ways of communication which include email and messaging apps. 

The online world since its introduction has grown exponentially and has entwined its way into our daily lives, fitting seamlessly into gaps we didn’t even know we had until we had the technology to fit into them. Due to the popularity and widespread adoption of the internet, many important everyday tasks have found a home online, including banking and shopping. 

However, for some years now, most of us have heard about how unsafe the online platform can be and how easily they can be hacked, making them big targets. For this reason, keeping your online activities safe from the prying eyes of others is just as important as keeping your wallet safe. Tools that can help stay safe are VPNs and Proxy.

Both VPN and Proxy servers are used to protect user identities online. They work as great tools to access geographically restricted content. However, it’s important to understand the difference between them so that you can make a better choice of what it is you would like to use them for.

What is a proxy server?

A proxy server behaves like a relay between the site you are visiting and the device you’re using to visit the site. A remote machine is used to connect to the host server, and so, as your traffic passes through the remote machine it behaves like a middle-man. 

The proxy server has the ability to hide your IP address which means websites only see the IP address of the proxy itself but they only work on the application level which means it only reroutes the traffic which is coming from a single source that the proxy has been set up with, like an app for example, as opposed to any software or application that uses the internet on the device. Proxy also does not encrypt traffic which means it is still susceptible to hackers, unlike VPNs.

What is a VPN?

Much like proxy, a VPN also reroutes internet traffic through a remote server. It also hides the IP address which means the website is unable to see the original IP or location of the user. However, VPNs work on the operating system level. This means it redirects all the traffic from the entire device no matter what software or application you are using.

One of the benefits of a VPN is, unlike proxy, it has the capabilities to encrypt your traffic sitting between the internet and the device being used. This means that the Internet Service Provider (ISP) monitoring any activity done by a particular IP address can not be seen by them as the data is travelling through the VPN which gives a different IP address. The only data ISP can see is that there is a connection to a VPN, that’s all. The encryption offered by VPN also protects users from government surveillance hackers. Website tracking or any other bodies that may try to intercept devices. Overall, a VPN provides you with the ultimate online privacy and security, offering greater peace of mind.

Understanding the difference 

Depending on what your need is for having a safety feature in place it is best to understand what both a proxy and a VPN offer to help you make a better decision on what you need and will work best for you. 

Firstly, compared to the proxy, VPNs encrypt data. A VPNs will protect you online from ISP tracking. Whereas a proxy, on the other hand, can not offer this type of protection and so it would be wise to not handle any sensitive information through a proxy. 

Secondly, both work in slightly different ways to one another. A proxy works on the application of the piece of software that you apply it to and only reroutes data from that specific pathway. However, a VPN works on an operating system level which means that it reroutes all the traffic from the device through the VPN. So, no matter what application is being used, all the data is encrypted and safe

One of the downsides to VPN is due to the processing power it needs which can slow them down in comparison to proxies. VPNs need to encrypt data and so they take a little longer, which makes them slightly slower. However, there are still ways to improve connection and browsing speeds. 

Proxies compared to good VPN are free, and although it is possible to get free VPNs, you should note that they do have limitations and are more likely to mine your data, which kind of defeats the whole purpose of it. However, a VPN connection is more reliable than a proxy server as the connection on a proxy server drops frequently. 

Which is better?

In all trueness, both systems have their advantages and disadvantages. A VPN is better out of the two as it provides privacy and security by routing traffic through secure servers while encrypting traffic. A proxy simply passes your traffic through a server without any other added protection. 

Proxies also only work on the base level and VPN covers all levels of an operating system which makes them safer. However, VPN can be costly to use and implement and offer less flexibility if they are traditional VPNs as opposed to a cloud VPN

Although both are similar as they both reroute traffic through remote servers whilst hiding original IP data, a VPN is superior to a proxy in different ways but the prominent way is how it can protect you online. 

VPNs and proxies can be used together but configuration can be a lengthy and complicated process.