VPN and Proxy Servers
VPN and Proxy servers are mainly used to hide the user’s identity online, or to bypass geo-filtering. For example, you can watch geo-blocked media streaming websites even outside the countries they restrictedly stream in. While there are numerous free proxy services all over the internet, there are a lot of VPN service providers that provide proxy services. Both VPN and Proxy re-route your internet traffic and change your IP, but ‘what is the difference between VPN and Proxy?’, and perhaps even more importantly, which provides more security, or is proxy enough to keep you completely protected every time you go online?
Even though they share the same purpose, to provide online anonymity, both VPN and Proxy function very differently from each other, and hence, give different results.
The debate over VPN and Proxy servers is very confusing to many internet users. Therefore, in this article we will try to explain the pros and cons of both VPN and Proxy protocols.
A proxy (an open proxy) server is a computer that acts as bridge connecting your computer with the internet. It serves to protect your identity online by routing all traffic through one of its IP addresses instead of your computer’s by keeping logs of the websites you visited to perform faster every time you visit those websites again. Unlike VPNs, proxies don’t spend time encrypting all sorts of information passing through them, instead they accept simultaneous connections from a large number of users.
Also, proxies can be used by a certain organization, like: schools and work places, to block users from accessing certain websites that don’t conform with their usage policy. They are mainly used by users to get access to websites that are blocked in their countries, since it can redirect them to blocked web content. Simply put, you connect to a proxy in the country you want to overcome its geo-blocked content.
Proxy servers usually communicate with the internet using one of 2 different protocols; HTTP or SOCKS.
A) HTTP Proxy Servers
The HTTP protocol can only interpret traffic that begin with http:// or shttp://, i.e. web pages*. As a result, it is only useful for surfing the web. However, it is much faster than VPNs and Socks proxies as it only handles HTTP request. HHTP is also cheap, usually free and will be able to conceal your IP from basic checks through which you will be able to access some geo-blocked content.
However, this protocol is not encrypted, therefore, your online activities can be easily monitored by third parties, like: governments.
B) SOCKS Proxy Servers
These servers can handle more traffic since they don’t interpret it, but it makes them slower than HTTP protocol. However, SOCKS can support any kind of traffic, like: POP3 and SMTP for emails, IRC chat, FTP for uploading files to websites, and torrents. The downside of SOCKS is that you need to configure each software individually. In order to download torrents, you can use a SOCKS proxy with an SSL connection.
C) Public Proxy Servers
A lot of public proxy services have emerged and spread throughout the internet due to the fact that proxies can accepts hundreds of thousands of connections. However, public proxies aren’t solid enough to stay online all the time, they might go offline suddenly. Because these services are free, you need to make sure that the proxy you are using is trusted as you will be providing sensitive personal information.
D) Private Proxy Servers
Because they require a paid subscription, private proxy servers are more trusted and more reliable than public proxies.Such services are run by companies with good reputations, and provide comprehensive support. They also often provide customized software.
E) Web Proxies
Web proxies are free services connected to HTTP server and let you browse the internet anonymously through your web browser. You don’t need to to download and install an application to use a web proxy. Unfortunately, web proxies are full of interrupting ads.
VPN (Virtual Private Network)
Virtual Private Networks, or simply VPNs, create an encrypted ‘tunnel’ between your computer and the host. Your internet service provider can ONLY detect that you have connected to a VPN server. None of your personal information or online activities carried out through the VPN server will be visible to your government, ISP or hackers. You will be completely hidden and secure from third parties and online surveillance.
Because VPNs can keep track of what you are up to every time you use them, you have to make sure that you are connected to a VPN service that offers a no logging policy. VPNs with no logging policies will not be able to keep track traffic, i.e, none of your log history will be kept in their memory.
In order to be able to use a VPN service, you are required to download the VPN’s software application and install it on your hand device; smartphone or tablet, or PC. VPNs are no rocket science, they are extremely easy to configure. A lot of VPN providers offer step-by-step tutorials and a 24/7 customer support for their users. Any program you use will be securely routed through a VPN server.
The only thing with VPNs is that they are more pricy than proxies. They are sometimes slow, unless you are connected to a VPN that runs through a global network of servers.
VPN and Proxy services are both useful when it comes to anonymous web browsing. However, VPN is much more advanced and significantly efficient than proxies in every way. VPN and proxy services hide your identity online, but unlike proxies, a VPN will literally shield your location and personal information so securely that it won’t be detected by your ISPs and will give you a better chance in bypassing geo-filtering.
Proxies on the other hand are cheaper than VPNs, which is an important factor for many users.
In any way, there are no bullet-proof applications that will make you 100% immune to every possible threat online. However, you can only make use of the best security service there is out there.