Not many people know the difference between proxy servers and VPN. Although both tools offer a safe result, there is a slight difference that you need to take into account when deciding which one to pick.
The main purpose of proxies and VPNs
The primary purpose of each one of these tools is to offer online protection through anonymity and geo-location spoofing.
Both tools protect you by acting as the middleman between your device and the rest of the Internet. By letting your traffic passing through proxy or VPN servers, you will appear as being in a different location.
What are proxy servers
Although the Internet is full of public proxies, we are not going to talk about them. Usually, the so-called public proxies are not at all stable and their usage can be limited to a few minutes.
The only real (anonymous) proxies are the private ones. Comparing them with public proxy, the private ones are reliable and offer real anonymity. Private proxies achieve their purpose because their servers are specially created for them.
The most important characteristic of private proxies is that they are implemented at an app level. For example, if you live in Canada, you can integrate a UK proxy in your browser.
While all web surfing passes through the proxy server, every website you visit will think that you are living and surfing from the UK.
At the same time, any other app not connected through the proxy server, such as your email client, will act the same and connect through your real IP address – the email provider will see your Canadian IP address.
The two types of proxy services
1. HTTP – designed for web-surfing. They can interpret and filter only http:// and https:// traffic. With these proxies, you can only surf the web. You will not be able to download torrents or send anonymous emails. Any traffic outside websites will not pass through the proxy.
2. SOCKS – these proxies are more flexible than HTTPS ones because they filter any internet traffic coming to and from your device. Through these proxies, you can download torrents or send emails without disclosing your location.
No encryption – your traffic will not be encrypted, thus your government of ISP can sniff your traffic.
App-based – you might forget to divert your email through the proxy, thus disclosing your location and your identity.
Cheap – some providers’ promotions start from less than 1 USD/proxy
Flexible – dedicated proxies for special use – social media proxies.
What are VPNs – Virtual Private Networks
The main difference between a proxy server and a VPN is that the VPN is system-based, meaning that ALL your Internet traffic will pass through the VPN connection.
At the same time, it creates an encrypted tunnel between your device and the VPN server, making it impossible for anybody to sniff your traffic.
Nobody can see what your traffic is – not even your government or ISP. They will know that you connected to the VPN, but [they] will not be able to see if you are downloading thousands of torrents or just checking your Gmail account. This is true anonymity.
Expensive – they are 2 or 3 times more costly than private proxy servers.
Slow traffic – through encryption, all your traffic passes through a filter and it needs to be encrypted and decrypted, thus slowing down your system.
All traffic anonymity – it can be achieved if your VPN provider does not keep any traffic logs.
Nobody can spy on you – not even your ISP or government.
Note: there is no tool to offer COMPLETE anonymity. While you can cover your Internet trucks, you will not be able to become 100% anonymous.
Why choose a proxy server or a VPN
While the primary purpose of both these tools is anonymity, the end goal for your use should matter when deciding what service to choose.
For almost complete anonymity you should choose a VPN provider.
However, if you are looking for anonymity in special cases, such as social media automation or SEO, you have to choose a proxy provider. The flexibility offered by them and the traffic speed they offer (as they do not encrypt your traffic as a VPN does) is best suited for special purposes.