VPN vs Proxy: Which One Is Better to Use?

Since VPN usage is on the surge, the debate about internet security seems to be a never-ending debacle. What to use? What to avoid? What is secure and what is not? Now, it is impossible to answer each and everything at once. So, in this article, I am going to answer the following question:

VPN vs Proxy, which is better?

VPN vs Proxy: A Quick Overview

If you don’t have much time and don’t want to go through the entire blog post, then the following VPN vs Proxy table is perfect for you:

VPN Proxy
Encrypted traffic —–
Unlimited Bandwidth Unlimited Bandwidth
Costs a little Usually Free
Hides location Hides location
Changes IP Changes IP
Slows down your connection a bit ——-
Bypasses censorship Bypasses censorship
Completely secure ——-
Lifts geo-restrictions Lifts geo-restrictions

This was a quick overlook. If I were to draw a conclusion from the above VPN comparison, I would go with a VPN. Here are a few that I recommend:

However, this is not to say that a proxy doesn’t have its uses. It totally does. But for an average person, VPN is the better choice.

VPN: What is it?

What-is-a-VPN

A VPN is an internet security tool that is used to anonymize the user. To explain what it really is and how it works, let’s take an analogous approach.

Consider this:

  • You want to get from point A to point B but you don’t want to take the highway because you are afraid of the Highway Patrol
  • Now you have 2 options: either take the risk or call someone for help
  • Let’s say you decided to call your friend V to help you and let’s say V has a diverse set of skills
  • V tackles the problem by building a tunnel beneath the highway, masking you, and ensuring no one else enters the tunnel
  • Now you can safely go from A to B without worrying about Highway Petrol

Here V is the VPN (obviously), you are YOU, and the highway is the usual internet route with authorities and your Internet Service Provider (ISP) is taking on the role of the Highway Patrol.

So, in short, when you use a VPN software to connect to a remote VPN server, the software quickly constructs a proxy tunnel, encrypts your traffic, and makes sure no one else knows where you are by changing and hiding your IP address.

Advantages of using a VPN

  • A VPN encrypts your network traffic through different VPN protocols so that your data remains safe
  • When you visit a site with your VPN enabled, the site sees the IP address of the server instead of your actual IP address.
  • In countries where the internet is extremely censored, like Russia and China, VPN gives you the ability to surf the internet without the restrictions put by those counties
  • Sites like Netflix and Hulu block access to certain shows based on the user’s location. VPNs help bypass these restrictions.
  • A good VPN provides you unlimited bandwidth

Disadvantages of a VPN

  • The biggest disadvantage of a VPN has to do with the logging policy of the provider. Most free VPNs sell user data to third party advertising agencies. Even some paid VPN services are also known to keep logs
  • Using a VPN also slows down your internet
  • While a VPN anonymizes your traffic, the VPN provider can see what you are up to and can consequently cooperate with the authorities

Proxy: What is it?

what-is-a-proxy

Similar to Tor vs VPN, there is a fundamental difference between proxy and VPN. The question of VPN vs Proxy servers depends on this difference.

Let’s say, in the above example,

  • Instead of calling your friend V, you called your friend P
  • P did everything that V would have done but he skipped one thing: he didn’t hide you
  • Everything else is the same

The point is, you are not masked. By that I mean, a proxy doesn’t encrypt your data. So, anyone who knows how to track you can see what you are up to.

There are several proxy types. The three most important types are:

  1. Public Proxy
  2. Web Proxy
  3. SOCKS Proxy

1. Public Proxy:

Public proxies are the most common type of Proxy. The main characteristics of a public proxy are:

  • It is free for everyone
  • Anyone can connect to it at any time. This makes this proxy liable to slow speeds, stability issues, and frequent outages
  • You don’t know who is the operator of the proxy server. This is a very serious matter since your data is potentially up for grabs by whoever is behind the server

This is all that you need to know about a Public proxy. It can only change your IP address and nothing else.

2. Web Proxy

A web proxy is a type of proxy that lets you connect to a server from within your browser. With a web proxy you can:

Web Proxy, just like Public Proxy, is free to use. Anyone can connect to a Web Proxy. One downside of a Web Proxy is its inability to handle websites that use Javascript.

3. SOCKS Proxy

The most versatile and flexible proxy of them all, the SOCKS Proxy lets you connect to a proxy server and browse all sorts of websites. SOCKS can handle both static and dynamic websites without any issue. It doesn’t interpret internet traffic. It simply routes the traffic making it possible to torrent.

Advantages of using a proxy

  • A proxy hides your actual IP address and uses the IP address of the proxy server
  • It allows you to bypass censorship, firewalls, and geo-restricted content
  • Proxy server anonymizes your online presence
  • A proxy server hides you from your ISP

Disadvantages of using a proxy

  • A proxy doesn’t encrypt your data
  • Most proxies are free so they only have a few servers which can lead to painfully slow connections
  • Free proxies show you ads which, needless to say, are annoying
  • The operator of a proxy server can see everything you do. So, you are potentially at the risk of getting tracked

VPN vs Proxy: Differences between the two

Some of the differences between a VPN and a proxy are:

  • A VPN encrypts your traffic while a proxy doesn’t
  • A VPN will encrypt and anonymize each and every request made by the applications on your computer
  • A VPN slows down your network speed considerably as compared to using a proxy. This is because a Proxy only uses your bandwidth to pass data to and from the website while a VPN needs horsepower to encrypt and decrypt the traffic passing through
  • Reliable VPN providers like ExpressVPN, Surfshark & NordVPN have a vast collection of servers scattered all around the globe so connection problems and server outages are few and far between

These are the major differences between VPN and Proxy that you should keep in mind.

When to use a proxy server?

You use a proxy server when all you really want to do is to access the website and do some light work. Proxies are light and connect without any hindrances for the most part. So, if you want something that just works and lets you bypass geo-blocked content, provides limited privacy, and connects seamlessly, then you don’t need a robust security solution and a proxy server is a right choice for you.

When to use a VPN?

VPNs have a use case pretty similar to proxies. But If your work is highly sensitive and requires a pretty high degree of security, then using a VPN is the right choice. A VPN not only connects you to the internet but it also:

  • Encrypts every network connection your system makes
  • Bypasses geo-restrictions and censorship
  • Hides your location and anonymizes your online presence

VPN vs Proxy: Which one comes out on top?

Finally, let’s settle the VPN server vs Proxy server debate.

If you take all the uses and consider the functionalities of both VPN and Proxy, then VPN service would always come out on top. The combination of security, accessibility, and robustness is what makes VPN a much safer choice.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which is best, VPN or Proxy?

A VPN is the best when you take into account the number of features and the security it offers.

Do I need a Proxy if I have a VPN?

No, you don’t need a proxy if you already have a VPN because a VPN does everything a proxy does and more.

Conclusion

To sum it all up, if you are someone who is stuck in a VPN vs Proxy cycle, just choose a quality VPN such as:

A VPN like Surfshark provides just the right amount of privacy, usability, and feature set to make it worth the small investment.

About Sebastian Riley

Sebastian Riley is a cyberlibertarian activist and an internet freedom fighter who strongly believes in an unsegregated and uncensored internet. With a cybersecurity degree, Sebastian is a professional bug hunter and a freelance opensource penetration tester.