What is the Difference between VPN and Proxy?

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Proxies and VPNs confuse people because both of these services help them bypass internet censorship and access blocked websites. However, there are quite a few differences between these two services that signify their true nature. We discuss these today.

Proxy Servers

The good:

  • Unblock geo-restricted content
  • Mostly free to use
  • Don’t always require external software

The bad:

  • Unreliable
  • Prone to adware
  • No security
  • Clustering

Proxies are basically remote computers that sit between your system and the internet. They relay all requests you make from your system and pass the responses from the internet back. This helps you bypass internet blocks because the IP address visible is that of the remote computer which could be located anywhere. But it should be noted that apart from being a mediator, proxies do next to nothing. They don’t secure your connection at all.

Below is a breakdown of the different types of proxies:

1. HTTP proxies

HTTP proxies are the simplest proxies that only help you connect to http or https addresses. You cannot use an HTTP proxy to access other addresses. This is a limitation, but it also helps one enjoy better connection speeds with HTTP proxies as there is no particular overhead in resolving addresses.

2. SOCKS proxies

These are similar to HTTP proxies in that you need to configure your browser to use them and are free. However, SOCKS proxies aren’t limited to http or https addresses. You can access all addresses using them, but the speed is a little slower than HTTP proxies.

3. Web Proxies

A web proxy connects you to a public HTTP server, which enables you to browse the internet while being anonymous. They do not require any configuration or software installation, and are completely free to use. But these have their own problems as well when they face JavaScript or Flash based content. Moreover, they throw ad after ad to you because they generate revenue from ads. Many web proxies get blocked and so are unreliable.

4. Private Proxies

As the name suggests, private proxies cannot be used by just anyone. Only those that have subscribed to the service can use it. Both HTTP and SOCKS proxies are offered to clients. Sometimes a small fee is charged as well, but these proxies are quite reliable.

5. Public Proxies

Public proxies are the most heavily used proxies. They offer both SOCKS and HTTP proxies and are thus free to use. However, since they are open to everyone for free, connection drops are quite frequent due to overloading. The speeds aren’t consistent at all, and there is absolutely no way to prevent a malicious user infecting others using this service.

VPNs

The Good:

  • Encrypt your connection to provide privacy and anonymity
  • Provide unrestricted access to the internet
  • Fully reliable and offer customer support
  • Protect against internet threats like DNS and IP leak, DDoS attacks, etc.

The Bad:

  • Slow connection speed
  • Charge subscription fee
  • Some VPNs record activity logs and share it with third parties

VPNs are only similar to proxies in that they help a user fake his or her IP address to unblock websites. However, VPNs also encrypt your connection, which means that nobody can see what you are doing. The encryption also provides for a secure communication channel to share sensitive data. They offer protection from threats like DDoS attacks, are completely reliable, and offer customer support service as well. VPNs are slower than proxies due to encryption overhead, but they are much more secure.

Conclusion

We discussed in this article how VPNs and proxies differ. The two are commonly confused as being the same but, as this article highlights, there are a few differences between them that set them apart.

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