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VPN vs Proxy: Brief comparison

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  • 6 min read

While browsing the internet, you leave behind a trail of data called your digital footprint, enabling websites, advertisers, your internet service provider (ISP), cybercriminals and, at times, government surveillance to track your activities.

Individuals and organisations use tools like Virtual Private Networks (VPN) and proxy servers to reroute network traffic to ensure safe and private browsing. So, which one should you use based on your internet browsing and security needs? Let’s look at a VPN vs. Proxy comparison in this article.

What is a VPN?

A VPN (short for Virtual Private Network) creates a tunnel that encrypts and redirects internet traffic from your device to a designated remote server and connects to the internet from there, hiding your original IP address, location and the contents of your network traffic.

The security implications are that your browsing activity, IP address and location cannot be easily traced. Even if a cybercriminal intercepts your connection, they won’t easily decrypt the data sent from your device to the internet.

The advantages of using a trusted VPN are that you can browse the internet with an added layer of anonymity, ensuring your privacy and security, and you can bypass excessive tracking by advertisers showing you targeted ads based on your browsing history, visited sites and other online activities.

If you’re looking for a reliable VPN service, we recommend using either NordVPN or AtlasVPN.

Also read: NordVPN coupons and discount codes

What is a Proxy Server?

A proxy server acts as an intermediary to relay network traffic between a device, server or protocol and the internet. There are several types of proxy servers, each performing a varying function. Not all are primarily privacy or security-based. Some proxies organisations use to offload and manage user traffic to their servers, restrict user access to certain websites or protect from hackers. Some commonly used proxies include:

  • Transparent proxies – Largely used by organisations for content filtering and caching, they don’t hide a user’s IP address and inform web servers that it’s a proxy.
  • Distorting Proxies – These types of proxies, while they hide a user’s IP, they announce themselves as proxies.
  • Anonymous Proxies – These proxies hide your IP address completely but are still identified as proxies by web servers.
  • High anonymity proxies – They periodically change the proxy IP address and do not reveal themselves as proxies. However, most proxies don’t encrypt your web traffic, which means cybercriminals or other entities can intercept and retrieve your data over the internet.

If you want to use a proxy service, IPRoyal would be our choice.

Also read: Xlookup vs Vlookup: Brief Comparison

VPN vs Proxy Comparison

This table compares the functions of both a VPN and a proxy server on key parameters ranging from security to accessibility. You can then choose which tool suits your individual and organisation’s needs.

ParametersVPNPrivacy Server
MethodVPNs are configured on an operating system (OS) level and reroute the entire traffic coming from an OS.Proxies are configured on an application and reroute application-based or service-based traffic.
SecurityAll VPNs create a tunnel between an endpoint and the internet and encrypt the network traffic that flows through the tunnel.They are a gateway between your device and the internet, but most proxies don’t encrypt the network traffic that is redirected through them, leaving them relatively less secure.
PrivacyVPNs mask the IP address of the user’s device and internal geolocation and provide an added layer of privacy by encrypting the data that is sent through the VPN.Not all types of proxy servers mask IP addresses, and some are recognized as proxies by receiving servers. Most proxies don’t encrypt the data that is redirected through them.
Ease of useVPNs are easier to use because they can be set up on a device by installing a trusted VPN application.Proxies are set up by entering the chosen proxy’s IP address and port number into the concerned application’s network settings
SpeedThe internet’s overall speed is decreased due to the added points of contact to reroute traffic and encrypt and decrypt network traffic.Proxies can cache data and help load-balance server traffic, improving the speed and delivery of requests, especially at an organisational level.
AccessibilityVPNs can provide anonymity to a user and allow them to securely access web-based applications, websites and servers in their organisation’s environment remotely.While proxies can also help bypass IP address and geolocation, organisations can use them to monitor, restrict and distribute network traffic.
PriceMost quality VPN services cost around $5-$10/month.Most proxies are publicly available and free to use. However, much like free VPNs, free proxies are a privacy and security risk.

VPNs provide an added layer of security and can help users safely and discretely browse the internet. For organisations, proxy servers may be more suited to monitor user requests and network traffic.

Despite the security and privacy functions provided by VPNs and proxies, there is a possibility that free versions of software and lesser-known apps can have malware or can track and sell your data to third parties.

You should research the chosen technology thoroughly and opt for premium versions downloaded from official app stores for maximum security. You should read through the agreements before installing or configuring the technology to ensure you don’t unknowingly sign up for misleading and malicious policies, permissions and ad-ons.

Also Read: Incremental vs Differential Backup: Brief Comparison

Vanashree Chowdhury

Vanashree Chowdhury

Being a tech enthusiast, Vanashree enjoys writing about technology and cybersecurity. She is a designer and marketer by profession and is deeply passionate about working on campaigns for social issues. You can contact her here: