If you want better online privacy, you may be considering either a proxy server or a VPN for your streaming, gaming, or business needs. But, which one is better: a proxy server or a VPN? Both a proxy server and a VPN obscure your IP address for more anonymity online, but a VPN provides more security and speed than a proxy server.
Let’s look at the differences between a proxy server and a VPN to learn more about how each works to provide you with internet security.
A Proxy Server: What is it?
A proxy server is an intermediary between you and websites. When you connect to a webpage on the internet using a proxy server, your computer connects to the server. Then, the proxy server connects to the website you are trying to access.
Since proxy servers have their own IP addresses, downloading the information from the target website passes on the information to you without letting the website track your location. You can browse the internet anonymously, keeping your online activity more secret.
A proxy works to bypass content restrictions, as well. So, if you are traveling abroad and can’t access streaming services you subscribe to, such as Netflix, a proxy connection from the country whose content you are trying to access can mask your IP address and trick the application.
Although this process gives you a layer of separation between yourself and questionable websites, proxy servers only work on the application level. In other words, the proxy reroutes traffic coming from a single app. They also do not encrypt your sensitive data.
Also, the owner of the proxy server can see your internet traffic, which can be problematic in the wrong hands. Your data can be sold to third parties or used against your will. However, many people use proxy servers to provide them with anonymity while they are using the internet for entertainment like watching videos, playing online games, or streaming content.
There are three major types of proxy servers you can use. Each one provides a different experience. There are also several free proxy servers available to users. Here are the major types:
If you are a business owner or a parent who wants to monitor users’ online activity or set up certain restrictions, you can use a transparent proxy. Oftentimes, schools, libraries, and hotels use this type of proxy server in their establishments.
Users who access the internet in an organization using a transparent proxy are usually unaware. So, there are some questions about how ethical this type of proxy is. When you access a transparent proxy, the organization that set up the server will be able to block certain websites and apps. They can also view your internet history to keep tabs on you.
For those of you who want to use a proxy server for online gaming or streaming services, SOCKS5 proxies are most commonly used for accessing these applications. SOCKS5 proxies can handle high traffic, but they are typically slower than other proxy servers.
Many users who access SOCKS5 proxies have multiple proxies running applications simultaneously. Many SOCKS5 are free proxies, yet these often have fewer configuration options and less support than other proxy types.
As the name suggests, an HTTP proxy is typically used for accessing web pages. To use an HTTP proxy, a user plugs the proxy server into their web browser configuration file to route all their web traffic through the remote proxy.
If your browser doesn’t support proxies, you can also use a browser extension to achieve this. With an HTTP proxy server, you can access geographically restricted content or do online banking and shopping with a layer of anonymity.
For added security, you should use an SSL-enabled browser since your data will still not be encrypted. Accessing up-to-date SSL-certified websites is another way to protect your data while using an HTTP proxy. There are several other proxy server types that people can use, as well.
- Forward proxy: This type is used within an internal network. When someone tries to access a website or application, the request is sent. Then, the proxy server examines and decides whether to make the connection. This gives the administrator control and provides IP address security.
- High Anonymity proxy: This type of proxy erases your information before the proxy connects to the target site. High anonymity proxies are best for employees who don’t want their activity traced back to their organization. However, many of the free ones you find are ploys to steal your data.
- Distorting proxy: If you want to hide your location while accessing the internet, this is your type of proxy. The proxy works by changing its IP address to an incorrect one after it connects to a website. The downside to this type of proxy is that many websites automatically block distorting proxies.
- Data Center proxy: These proxies are not provided through internet service providers (ISPs). Instead, they exist in a physical data center. These proxies are good for people who need a cheap option with quick response times. These are not, however, the most secure type.
- Residential proxy: For a more trustworthy proxy, a residential proxy is a good choice. This proxy gives the IP address of a specific, physical device. This allows users to verify the ads that go on their website. Unwanted or suspicious ads are blocked.
- Public proxy: This is a completely free proxy accessible by anyone in the public. These proxies give users access to their IP address, but they do not provide excellent speeds or security.
- Shared proxy: Shared proxies give you access to an IP address shared by more than one user. These proxies are cheaper, but your internet traffic is shared with others. So, if a shared user makes poor decisions, you can reap the consequences.
What is a VPN?
A virtual private network (VPN) is a way to encrypt your data and hide your IP address as you browse online. VPNs work on the operating system level using an encrypted tunnel to run your internet activity through. So, your web activity is sent to a VPN server in another location. Then, all your traffic is redirected and encrypted.
Your internet service provider (ISP) cannot see your online activity and your device is safe from snooping. VPNs work with browsers and apps. Just like with a proxy server, you can use VPN web servers to protect yourself from website tracking and to access geo-restricted content on streaming services.
Many VPN providers have several locations you can connect to, which provides you with options for unlocking geo-specific content. A VPN can also increase your browsing speed because without an ISP being able to see your activity online, they cannot throttle your internet speeds.
Throttling is when an ISP slows down your internet connection to minimize network traffic or to charge higher prices for increased bandwidth usage. In addition, VPNs protect you with a secure connection from government surveillance and hackers.
VPNs are also a safer option for file sharing than a proxy service because they are more difficult to intercept. Many people use VPN connections to protect their sensitive data while they search the internet on public Wi-Fi.
Of course, this added security can be costly. There are several high-profile VPN providers, such as NordVPN, but there are also free VPN services. If you are industrious, you can also install a VPN on your router at home.
Proxy vs VPN: Pros and Cons
Both VPNs and proxy servers are popular among internet consumers. In 2018, 26 percent of global online users were utilizing either a VPN or proxy server to access the internet. Each type has pros and cons to using it. As you decide which is best for you, weigh the options carefully.
One of the main differences between a proxy server and a VPN is internet speeds. Since many proxy servers have fewer configurations and less infrastructure, they can get bogged down with high traffic. HTTP proxies are better than SOCKS5 proxies for speed, but in comparison to VPN, you’ll experience some lag time on your internet browser.
VPNs provide faster speeds than proxies because they can handle more internet traffic and because they have more infrastructure and support than proxy servers.
There are many free proxy servers available out there, such as Hide.me, HMA, and Hidester. But, if you go for a paid proxy server provider, costs can vary based on the type of proxy service you choose. Most proxy service providers use pay-per-IP or pay-per-GB pricing models. The latter is based on the amount of data you use.
Proxy server subscriptions range from $7 per GB/mo to $90 per GB/mo, based on the service and the other amenities. These prices can differ based on the company, subscription length, and type of proxy you are using. Mobile proxy servers are more expensive than residential ones.
Popular proxy server providers include the following:
- Bright Data
- Packet Stream
In contrast, many reputable VPN providers out there provide affordable prices for their services. You can even find free VPNs, but they usually have limited features. Prices for VPN start at around $4- $13 per month and offer much better speeds, security, and services.
Internet security is a big concern for users. In a survey carried out in 2020, a third of respondents worldwide believed their online accounts would be hacked in the following year. Cyber attacks can be costly for individuals and businesses.
Proxy servers leave you vulnerable to hackers. Since your data is not encrypted, skilled cyber thieves can intercept your information and steal your data. The key difference between a proxy server and a VPN is security.
VPN offers cybersecurity and protection against malware that proxy servers lack. Because VPN encrypts data, it is more difficult for hackers to access your information. Different VPN services provide different levels of encryption. Those with end-to-end encryption provide the best security.
End-to-end encryption makes sure that your data is encrypted as it leaves your computer, in transit, and upon arrival at its destination. This level of encryption protects your information from tracking and spying. You can also get a VPN provider that has a no-log policy. This means that your data is not monitored, recorded, logged, stored, or passed on.
A proxy server just doesn’t stack up to a VPN. Although you get anonymity with a proxy server, the data is not encrypted. A skilled hacker can still access your data. Also, since proxy server providers log your information, they can store and sell your data to third parties, leaving your sensitive information vulnerable.
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Although both proxy servers and VPNs obscure IP addresses and provide anonymity while surfing the internet, only one provides the best internet security. VPNs have better speeds and encrypt your data, making it more difficult for hackers to get your sensitive information.
There are many proxy server and VPN providers on the market, each one offers different features, prices, and security. As you shop for the best online privacy, consider which service offers you the most up-to-date data encryption, the greatest service for the price, and exceptional speeds.
Whether you are a business that needs to amp up online security or a personal user wanting to stream content, choosing the best VPN will help you feel safe while browsing the internet.