Are VPNs the Same as Proxies?

By Staff Reporter , Updated Apr 23, 2020 03:16 PM EDT
Are VPNs the Same as Proxies?
(Photo: Are VPNs the Same as Proxies?)

The VPN vs. proxy dilemma is common among most business owners who wish to browse anonymously and protect their brand from cybercriminals.

At a glance, VPNs and proxies seem to be the same because they provide similar functionalities. This is true to some extent, but there are some major differences between the two, as we will see in this article.

You can only differentiate between the two tools if you first understand how they function. Let's begin by defining them

VPN (Virtual Private Network)

A VPN is a tool that makes it possible to connect securely with another network on the internet. It keeps your internet activities private and secure from hackers. 

Whenever you browse the internet, the VPN will link your device to a private server instead of your internet service provider. It will forward your web requests to this server, enabling you to use its internet connection to browse the web. And this means there will be no direct connection between your device and the internet. 

With a VPN, you can access geo-blocked websites. You only need to choose a server that is based in the country you would prefer.  

A VPN enables you to:

  1. Access location-specific content, such as Netflix and some YouTube videos

  2. Use public Wi-Fi without exposing yourself to snoopers

  3. Access the internet anonymously by hiding your true location and IP address

  4. Access your business's network remotely without compromising on security 

A Proxy Server

A proxy server also prevents direct contact between the browser on your device and the address you are visiting. It acts as an intermediary or gateway.  

When you make a web request with a proxy, it will go to the proxy first, which will then forward it to the web address you requested. And the data received from the web server will follow the same route by going to the proxy first, which redirects it to your site and finally to your device.  

The proxy server comes with an IP address that masks your real IP, enabling anonymous browsing. In addition, you can use rotating IP addresses when you need to download large data from websites without being detected. The proxy can be attached to a location of your choice. Go here for more information on rotating proxies. 

A proxy enables you to:

  1. Carry out web scraping without being detected and blocked

  2. Access geo-blocked websites

  3. Browse anonymously, without revealing your IP or location

  4. Improve your browsing speed and increase bandwidth saving

VPNs and proxies have similar features in that they both make it possible to access blocked websites and browse the internet anonymously, but there are some differences worth noting.

VPN vs Proxy: What Are The Differences?

1) Mode of Operation

A glaring difference between the two tools is in their method of enabling anonymous browsing. A proxy server achieves this by acting as a go-between between your device and the web. It operates from the browser level. 

A VPN, on the other hand, operates on the operating system level. It redirects all traffic as long as the internet is involved, and this includes apps.

2) Encryption

A VPN encrypts your traffic, enabling you to use the internet without exposing sensitive data to cybercriminals. It makes your data surveillance-proof so that ISP monitoring and government surveillance are unsuccessful. 

Proxies, on the other hand, do not encrypt data. They are best for accessing blocked sites, carrying out web research, and completing web scraping projects without being blocked by website owners. 

3) Speed

Due to the process of encrypting the data, VPNs tend to be slow. You will need to take measures such as reducing the distance between your device and the VPN server, and using a premium VPN.

Proxies provide a high-speed connection, especially when you use data center proxies. It enables you to complete your projects fast. Going for private proxies instead of shared versions also guarantees high speed. 

Key Takeaway

Ensuring that your business networks are adequately secured from the prying eyes of hackers should not be an issue that you take lightly.

Exposing sensitive information such as customers' data and future business projects leads to

  • Loss of brand trust

  • Financial losses in the form of compensation for the data breach

  • Loss of competitive power

You can use a proxy or a VPN to browse the internet anonymously without exposing your IP address and location. But in our VPN vs. proxy assessment, it's clear that a VPN is the best option when the data involved is sensitive.

Web scraping for market research is also vital if you want your business to remain competitive. In this case, a proxy server will be the best option because it provides a fast connection and enables you to rotate your IP address for a smoother process.

Free VPNs and proxies cannot provide the reliability you need when carrying out your business operations. Ensure that you are buying your tools from a dependable vendor.   

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