To the untrained eye, proxies and VPNs might seem no different from each other. Both have a lot of identical functions but no matter how comparable both are, they aren’t the same.
It causes a lot of confusion so, hopefully, we can clear it up for you. In this article, we’ll discuss the similarities, differences, and lastly, which one is better of the two.
What Are Proxies?
Basically, proxies are the individual IP addresses that you would use when connecting to a proxy server. You would be using a completely different IP address to what your computer’s IP address is and it could be located anywhere in the world.
All of your web requests will be routed towards the proxy and it would be the one forwarding that request to whatever application or browser you’re using.
It would also be the one to receive all the responses and then send it to your computer. So, websites will only be able to see the IP address of the proxy server and your own IP address will be hidden. To learn more about proxies in general, read our Proxy guide.
What Are VPNs?
VPNs, or Virtual Private Networks, establish a secure connection when you use a public network or even your home network. It would encrypt all of your incoming and outgoing data and help you protect your online identity.
A VPN creates a secure tunnel that would hide all of your online activities, so anyone looking to gain access to that information would not be able to get it.
What Are The Similarities Of Proxies And VPNs?
There are a lot of similarities between a proxy and a VPN. Some essential ones are:
Enhancing your privacy. Both proxies and VPNs will improve your privacy when browsing the internet or when utilizing any web application.
All of your online activities will be hidden from prying eyes and your personal information will be safeguarded.
Bypassing network restrictions. Through proxies and VPNs, you can circumvent any restriction that’s set in the network that you’re using.
If a particular website is blocked on your school or work network, then you can access that website through using a proxy or a vpn.
Accessing geo-restricted content. Some website content is restricted based on location. For example, Netflix or Hulu have several shows that you want to watch but are only available in certain countries and it’s not available in your own country.
Proxies or VPNs allow you to change your location to a specific country where that show is available and now you’re able to watch it.
What Are The Differences?
There are also a lot of differences between proxies and VPNs. Some relevant ones are:
Proxies work on an operating system level or on an application level while VPNs work only on an operating system level. An operating system level means that all of your connections will be affected when you use either a proxy or a vpn.
Here’s how to install a proxy server on Windows and Mac. Proxies can also work only on an application level where only that specific application, where you set up a proxy server, will the traffic be affected.
Multiple connections. Through a proxy, you will be given access to a pool of millions of IP addresses that you can utilize to do web scraping and other advanced tasks while VPNs only allow you one connection at a time.
An authentic identity. When using a proxy, especially residential proxies, you would look like a genuine user instead of just someone using a proxy.
On the other hand, VPNs don’t try to particularly hide that you’re using one. It might not matter normally, but a VPN may be more prone to being banned on websites that actively try to block VPNs or proxies.
Scale and Suitability. Although also usable for personal use, proxies are more suited for commercial activities like scraping the internet or researching the market, tasks which require you to constantly rotate through millions of IP addresses.
VPNs, on the other hand, are best suited for personal use where you can protect your personal information and change your location.
What Has The Best Security?
A VPN undoubtedly provides more security to a user compared to a proxy. An excellent VPN would utilize multiple encryption protocols and would generally have more security features.
Although proxies still do provide you with great security, some types of proxies like HTTP proxies aren’t that secure. If you want to use proxies for your security, make sure that you’re using SOCKS5 or HTTPS proxies.
This has a more complicated answer because some types of proxies are faster than a VPN while other types of proxies are slower than it.
For example, a datacenter proxy will probably be faster than a VPN but a residential proxy will undoubtedly be slower than a VPN.
Conclusion: What’s better?
Ultimately, what’s better between proxies and VPNs would depend on what you want to use it for. If you want to fully protect your privacy, improve your security, or unblock geo-restricted content then a VPN would be the best for you.
If you want to do advanced tasks like web scraping or any other automation task, then proxies are the perfect ones for you. In the end, it’s best to make an informed decision based on what you need.