Virtual Protocol Network (VPN) and Proxy are two terms that are often confused and misunderstood. And it’s not a surprise. Both function almost the same way and have an identical purpose: safe, secure, and private web browsing.
But they differ in how they work and how they’re used. In this post, we’ll discuss the major differences between a VPN and a proxy server.
What Is a Proxy?
A proxy server or a proxy is a separate server that acts as an intermediary between your device and the website you’re visiting. When you use the internet, your request goes through the proxy server instead of going directly to the website.
It hides your original IP address and sends traffic to the website with a different address. But proxies run on the application level and don’t reroute your entire traffic.
Proxies run on the following protocols:
- Stocks Proxy Server
- HTTP Proxy Server
- FTP Proxy Server
- SSL Proxy Server
Based on application and functionality, proxies are categorized into various types, such as transparent proxies, anonymous proxies, SOCKS4/SOCKS5, and elite proxies.
What is a VPN?
A virtual protocol network (VPN) works similarly to a proxy server. It reroutes the traffic going through your device, hiding your original IP address. A VPN also encrypts your traffic, so your ISP will not be able to track and monitor your activities online. But unlike a proxy server, a VPN works on an operating system level and reroutes all the traffic coming from your device.
VPNs run on various protocols, such as:
- Internet Protocol Security (IPSec)
- Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP)
- SSL and TLS
- Point–to–Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP)
- Secure Shell (SSH)
VPNs are also categorized into different types, such as Remote Access VPN, Intranet-based VPN, Extranet-based VPN, and Site to Site VPN.
Proxy vs. VPN: The Key Differences
The difference between a proxy and a VPN is subtle. Both route your IP address and help you browse the internet with better privacy and security.
However, they differ in the way they work, and also their uses and applications. Let’s delve into some differences between proxy servers and VPNs.
What Does a VPN Do?
A VPN protects your data as it encrypts all the traffic being transmitted from your device. This means your ISP, government, and hackers won’t be able to see what you’re browsing on the internet. VPNs also enable you to prevent targeted advertising from companies like Facebook and Google.
The same goes for other third parties, as well. Since VPN completely anonymizes your activity, no third parties can track your activity. This means even if you visit an illegal website or download a copyrighted file (which you shouldn’t), your information would remain hidden.
One of the biggest benefits of using a VPN is to bypass geo-blocks and censorship restrictions. For example, Netflix is banned in countries like China, North Korea, and Syria. Using a VPN, you can bypass the geographic IP blocking and view blocked sites and content in your country.
A downside to VPNs is speed throttling, which is common in free and shared VPNs. When using a free VPN service, you are likely to experience noticeable reductions in internet speed. However, this is usually not the case with premium, high-quality VPNs.
What Does a Proxy Do?
Proxy servers offer limited functionality when compared with VPNs. They might not be the ideal pick if the anonymity of your data is essential.
Proxies also help you bypass firewalls and geo-blocks, but where they truly shine is data extraction. Proxy servers come with a unique feature of creating proxy pools. These pools enable you to rotate your IP address and distribute your requests across multiple servers.
This capability makes proxy servers a lifesaver in data extraction activities, like web scraping. Web scraping is the process of extracting data from websites. It is an automated process that involves sending many requests to a website in a short period. Most sites have scraping detection programs installed that easily detect such sudden fluctuations.
You can rotate your requests across multiple servers with different proxy types like residential proxies and datacenter proxies. So, instead of receiving a lot of requests from one server in a short time, the website will receive a small number of requests from multiple servers. This reduces the risk of getting detected and allows you to scrape the web smoothly.
A large number of companies, mainly aggregators, data analytics services, and marketing agencies, use proxies for data extraction purposes.
Conclusion: Which One is Better?
What you choose will depend on your requirements. If your sole purpose is to hide your information while browsing the net or to bypass geo-blocks, VPN is the ideal pick. It has end-to-end encryption and better security features.
But proxies are a better choice if your objective is to extract data using crawling or web scraping techniques. They offer IP masking and rotation, and they also work well with scraping software and headless browsers.