vpn vs proxy

Remember when VHS won the videotape format war over Betamax? We learned a valuable lesson that day. Sometimes the choice is not only about the manufacturer, but also one of the similar technologies that fulfill a similar need. The situation about proxies vs. VPNs is kind of like that. You’d probably want someone to explain the differences between the two in an easy-to-understand manner. This article will do just that!

What is a VPN? 

A VPN (Virtual Private Network) works by having an app (usually – though it can also be a browser plugin) that encrypts your traffic and routes it to a VPN server. The server decrypts it and sends it to the online destination. This makes it look like you’re connecting from the VPN server’s location and makes the data sent from your device unreadable to spies.

What is a proxy?

A proxy works by routing data through an additional server before sending it to your online destination. This makes it seem like you’re connecting from the proxy server’s location. 

There are a few different kinds of proxies:

  • HTTP proxy: probably the most simple proxy you can find, used to route your browser traffic.
  • SOCKS5 proxy: a more powerful proxy variety that works on a deeper layer of the operating system, allowing it to cover more apps and better penetrate the blocks. 
  • Transparent proxy: if your internet access is restricted at work, it may be the work of a transparent proxy established by your employer. 

The differences between VPNs and proxies

Hides your IP
Hides your IP
Encrypts your data
Doesn’t encrypt your data (unless it’s a HTTPS proxy)
Protects everything
Protects specific apps
Prevents ISP tracking
Doesn’t prevent ISP tracking
Protects you on public Wi-Fi
Doesn’t protect you on public Wi-Fi
Best uses:
  • Bypassing censorship
  • Bypassing network restrictions
  • Improving privacy and security
  • Hiding your browsing data from spies
Best uses:
  • Bypassing censorship

Bonus: VPN vs proxy for downloading files

Both a proxy and a VPN can grant you access to sites blocked by your ISP. Both of them switch out your IP (Internet Protocol) for the one that the server uses. This is where the similarities end.

The crucial difference between VPNs vs. proxies for downloading files is that the VPN also hides the fact that you’re downloading something from the ISP (Internet Service Provider). This means two things:

  1. The ISP can’t collect data on your downloads.
  2. The ISP can’t engage in bandwidth throttling when you’re downloading something.

As such, VPNs are much better than proxies. But those aren’t the only reasons why!

Disclaimer: Surfshark does not encourage using a VPN in any way that would potentially violate the Terms of Service of other service providers.

VPN: like a proxy, but better 

Despite VPNs and proxies working on roughly the same principles, one of the technologies is definitely more complex – and more powerful. So when it comes down to functionally, the proxy vs. VPN fight is easily won by VPNs. How about you try one out?

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