VPN vs. Proxy: Understanding the Difference

The key differences between VPN and Proxy, know when to use what.

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VPN vs. Proxy

When it comes to online security, the two most widely used terms are VPN and Proxy. These two mechanisms help provide users with online security, making sure their important data and information stay out of the reach of criminals. 

While both the VPN and Proxy work to provide online security, there are differences between the two mechanisms which we will dive deep into in this article. So read on as we compare VPNs and Proxies, highlighting their differences and best use cases.  

What is a VPN?

A VPN, short for Virtual Private Network, is a mechanism for adding a layer of security and anonymity to users as they connect to online services and sites.

A VPN works by hiding the actual IP address of the user and routing their internet traffic through a “tunnel” before it reaches their device or the remote server.

Encryption and Tunneling Protocols used by VPN

A VPN protocol is a set of rules that decides how data will be transferred to and from a device and a VPN server

For years, various protocols have been introduced for encrypting communication via a VPN, some of which have been particularly successful in gaining the trust of enterprises.

Among these protocols are IKE and its advanced version IKEv2. Others such as the PPTP protocols haven’t gained much limelight due to their security flaws. Many more protocols are being introduced and prepared for deployment in organizations.

What is a Proxy?

While a VPN tunnels the data reaching the user’s device or the remote server, a Proxy server acts as an intermediary between users and the internet.

It provides a gateway between users and the internet protecting private networks from cyberattacks. Proxy servers communicate with the website the user is trying to reach on their behalf. 

Types of Proxies

There are different internet protocols that the proxy servers use. These include HTTP, HTTPS, and SOCKS proxies.

While all of them provide anonymity while browsing and allow users to access geo-restricted content regardless of location, there are some differences between these proxies.

HTTP proxy 

This is the most widely used proxy with the main purpose to organize tasks of browsers and other programs that use the TCP protocol.

HTTPS proxy 

HTTPS is in fact the HTTP proxy supported by SSL connection. This type of proxy is used when a user wants to send some sensitive information.  

SOCKS proxy

SOCKS is the most advanced internet protocol of today which was developed Socks protocol was developed for programs that do not support the direct use of a proxy.

Key Differences Between VPN and Proxy

Here are the primary differences between VPN and Proxy:

VPNProxy
SecurityVPN secures all your internet trafficA proxy works only with a single app or service 
EncryptionVPN encrypts the dataA proxy doesn’t encrypt the data
PrivacyProvides enhanced privacy across the internetProvides moderate privacy 

VPN vs. Proxy: Pros and Cons

Pros of VPNCons of VPN
Keeps your online activity privateMost good VPNs come with a subscription fee
Protects you from identity theft, data breaches, and other cybercrimesVPN might slow down your internet speed
Allows access to websites regardless of your locationIt is illegal to use VPN in some locations
Pros of ProxyCons of Proxy
Is mostly available for freeCan only be used for a single browser or app at a time
Allows you to browse anonymouslyHolds onto cache of the previous browsing activity
Ensures that only authorized individuals have access to private files or the Internet.

When to Use a VPN

You should be using a VPN whenever you are working from home, using public Wi-Fi, making financial transactions, trying to bypass geo-restrictions, avoiding social media blocks, and almost anything else online.

You never know when your online activity is being monitored and exploited, so use a VPN whenever possible.

When to Use a Proxy

While a VPN is superior to a proxy in almost every way, it does have a drawback: it is more expensive. So, if you or your organization is only concerned with maintaining anonymity while browsing the web and basic security, a proxy server may suffice. 

How to Use VPN and Proxy?

You can use these security measures by downloading a reliable option, either a VPN or Proxy, and turn it on whenever you get online. You just need a secure internet connection to connect to them and might have to turn them on each time you re-connect to the internet. 

Conclusion

As our reliance on the internet grows, so does the demand for online security. VPNs and proxy servers are two major mechanisms in the realm of online security, each with its own set of use cases, benefits, and limitations.

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