VPN vs Proxy. An unusual Transylvanian war

VPN vs Proxy. An unusual Transylvanian war

VPN vs Proxy – let the better technology win!

I am sure we all like placing bets whenever there’s a competition we’re interested in. We always pray the odds are on our favorite competitor’s side.

Still, gambling with your online privacy and security is not an option. That’s why, when it comes to the battle between proxy and VPN, we need to be aware of a few key information that differentiates these two technologies, before picking the winner of our choice.

Therefore, what does an anonymous VPN do to your internet connection when you go online, and why are proxies a better option when you need to surf fast?

Let’s get this battle started and find out!

VPN vs Proxy – the Transylvanian war.

The front porch of my castle is absolutely magnificent. As the sunbeams spoil it in the morning, it is my favorite place to drink my coffee and enjoy a few candied fruits and seeds.

Usually, bats like to join me during this ritual, not because I am a pleasant company, but because they have a target – the candied fruits. Their favorite? The figs, of course.

Dracula’s bats make an appearance too… Even if they are pretty maleficent, just like their master, I find them really funny and clumsy, so they have their own share of figs.

What happens when I go in? The war begins. TomBat and his gang, followed by Dracula’s bats, have one single purpose. To steal as many figs as they can, before I come back. And oh… how they fight over food. Actually, they fight so bad and loud that I can hear them from the other side of the castle.

And don’t get me wrong… It’s not like I don’t think that sharing is caring, but I am really preoccupied with their health and their sugar intake, so I won’t let them over-eat.

Even so, they don’t understand my good intentions. So, the two gangs came up with a solution to avoid fighting but still accomplish their one single purpose.

Therefore, each team improvised a tool to help them do the job.

Dracula’s bats attached a piece of rope and a hook to a dried tree branch, while my bats took my fishing rod, and the teams were ready to battle.

The clumsy team of Dracula’s bats thought that nothing can stop them now… until, well, I stopped them.

VPN vs Proxy - Tom is fishing

As they were sitting on the roof, I was able to see through the window, the rope that was hanging down. I had a good laugh before rushing outside to stop this unconventional war. Still, I wasn’t able to see TomBat’s team stealing my figs. Why? Because the bats were smart enough to go for a more advanced tool, a fishing rod with a special fishing wire, which is somehow invisible.

When this memory came to my mind, it suddenly made me realize its connection with the VPN and a proxy.

You see, the proxy technology is like the fishing rod improvised by Dracula’s bats. They were able to pick the figs from the bowl, but I was able to detect their malicious activity. While the professional fishing rode used by my bats is perfect to describe the VPN. A complete solution, helping them not only to reach the bowl and steal the figs but because of its transparent fishing wire, I can’t detect their activity.

The bottom line – the VPN and proxy are meant to accomplish the same goals but by completely different means, having completely different outcomes.

Understanding the principles of VPN and proxies.

Considering the fact that you’re preoccupied with who wins the fight between the proxy and the VPN, you’re clearly interested in picking the best technology for your needs.

Therefore, before going any further, just take a few moments and think about your online goals. Do you require a high level of security for your connection, do you need fast connection speed, or do you need just a tool that hides your IP address with just a click?

And, now, that you answered my question, let’s dig into the subject. 

What is a VPN?

A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is a tool specially developed for enabling secure, private, and anonymous internet connections. VPN technology uses a series of complex components to work. So, by combining a VPN server with a VPN protocol and an encryption standard, a VPN can accomplish a series of high-stake online goals, like encrypting your online activities, hiding your IP address, bypassing internet censorship, and accessing your favorite online content wherever you are in the world.

To create an overview, we can say that the VPN is a technology that allows internet users to easily create a private network over a public network. This private network enables a private means of communication, of which only its initiator is aware.

I won’t deny, there is an impressive list of things you can accomplish when using a VPN. The question is how is the VPN able to help you stay anonymous online, secure your connection while using public WiFi hotspots, and keep your personal data secured, all at once?

How does a VPN work?

Anytime you enable a VPN connection (no matter if you do it manually, or by using VPN apps), all its components are perfectly combined, so your internet access and your sensitive data are secured.

Here’s how the things work: when the VPN is activated, you automatically connect to the VPN server, which, helped by the VPN protocol and the encryption standard, will encrypt your internet traffic and it will securely transport it to its destination. The process works back and forth, so you’re able to stay away from government surveillance, ISP surveillance, and online dangers.

A picture showing how does a VPN work in a complex explanation of the VPN vs proxy

VPN – advantages and disadvantages.

There are a handful of good reasons why using a VPN is a good option and why it’s worth every penny. Still, this technology comes with a series of disadvantages you need to be aware of. But first, let’s start with its positive aspects:

Advantages of using a VPN.

  • Encrypting the internet connection. With all the hackers looking for a victim (more than Dracula does), you need to find a way to secure your sensitive data, like credit card details or passwords, anytime you go online. A VPN’s encryption can help you rest assured that you will be able to keep your online activities away from any curious third party entity.
  • Changing your IP address. Anytime you enable a VPN connection, you are automatically assigned the VPN server’s IP. Your original IP will be replaced, and your internet activity will appear to be generated from the country where the server is located. 
  • Anonymizing and securing your connection. As your network traffic is encrypted and your IP is changed, you will enjoy an anonymous and secure connection.
  • Helping you bypass internet censorship and firewalls. The Net neutrality principle militates for an open internet. Still, this principle won’t guarantee you that you will enjoy an open internet wherever you are in the world. In this case, a VPN will do the job, and it will help you bypass DPI and firewalls with just a click. Also, there are VPNs that use obfuscation to mask your VPN traffic and make it look like regular HTTPS traffic, a feature that grants you access to an open internet without restrictions.
  • Helping its users secure their torrenting activities. The VPN is legal, and so is downloading torrents. Still, there’s a fine line between legal and illegal torrenting activities. Therefore, as long as you make sure you won’t download copyrighted content, P2P file sharing is completely legal, but it still requires the VPN’s security. 
  • Enabling the possibility to bypass geo-restrictions to access blocked websites, streaming services, Youtube, and games. We are all into streaming our favorite media content and chill. However, we need to be aware that some of the media streaming services or social media websites are geo-blocked, meaning that we cannot access these services in any corner of the world. So, before going on an exotic holiday where we can’t stay away from our Netflix account, we need to be sure that we have an active VPN subscription. As it can change your IP based on the server locations you choose for your connection, the VPN can trick websites into seeing your location as an eligible one. In this way, you will be able to access geo-blocked websites wherever you are in the world.
  • Securing Tor connections. Accessing onion websites isn’t illegal, but it is clearly not secure. Like the VPN, Tor enables a private communication method, which is not as secure as the one provided by the VPN. So, using a VPN while accessing onion websites can help you rest assured you are surfing the web in complete anonymity. 

Disadvantages of using a VPN

  • The VPN affects your speed.  All the perks of a VPN come with something that can represent a major disadvantage – the loss in connection speeds. The VPN speed can be influenced by many factors, still, the major one remains its encryption. Therefore, the high-security level that the VPN brings can influence the overall experience you have while surfing the web. Another factor can be the VPN protocol. A powerful protocol like OpenVPN can cause a loss in speed, while PPTP (a protocol meant to favor the speed) can help you enjoy a fast but less secure connection.
  • The VPN can leak data. If it is not well configured, your VPN can leak your IP or DNS information. Just like any software, the VPN has its own flaws, so performing a leak test and checking the general performance of your VPN before going online is recommended.
  • VPNs can get confusing. VPN providers are doing a great job at developing easy to use VPN software. Even so, VPNs can get tricky from time to time and require some work from your side. If you’re a VPN newbie, this may cause you a few headaches, just like the one I had this morning. The good thing is that there are plenty of online tutorials that may provide you the answers and guidance that you need.
  • Great VPNs have spicy prices. You might be reading this article and thinking that supporting a VPN business requires a one-time investment in the server infrastructure and apps development. Allow me to disagree. In fact, there are a lot of resources involved in running a VPN business, especially if the VPN is highly performant. There are the costs with the servers, the development and the maintenance of the apps, salary costs, research, and marketing costs. That’s the reason why some prices may seem fallen from the sky when, in reality, they are well-justified. The good part is that the providers are customer-oriented and occasionally launch sale campaigns. Without a doubt, Black Friday or Cyber Monday are the best times to look for VPN deals and coupons. Oh, and by the way don’t choose to go for lifetime VPN subscriptions and NEVER USE A FREE VPN! NEVER EVER!
  • Using a VPN in some countries may cause you trouble. There are a handful of countries where VPN usage can cause you serious troubles. Therefore, if you plan to visit Iraq, North Korea, Belarus, or Turkmenistan, make sure to “forget your VPN at home”.

What is proxy technology?

Its name sounds intriguing, right? It’s so fancy and techie and everything. Still, this topic shouldn’t scare you, as the proxy server is like the VPN’s low-cost version. Just like I previously explained in the Transylvanian explanation – the proxy is like an improvised fishing rod – it does the job, but you don’t have advanced features like a fishing reel.

Without further due, allow me to properly explain the whole idea behind the proxy technology.

The proxy is represented by a server virtually positioned between your device and the internet. This server is called a proxy server, and it is the component that manages all the traffic you generate before it reaches its destination on the web.

So, the main idea around proxy technology is that the proxy server is meant to allow the possibility for an internet user to establish an indirect network connection to other locations, via a device. Compared to the VPN, the proxy offers no encryption at all, so we cannot speak about a high level of security.

Based on their application, there are different kinds of proxy. The most popular ones are HTTP and SOCKS.

The HTTP proxy is, for sure, the most popular proxy around, because most browsers around use it to cache websites you use, so you can easily access them at a further visit, without having to download all its content all over again.

Because this proxy is specially meant to help HTTPS easily send data over the web, it is a protocol exclusively developed for data traffic only.

Compared to HTTP proxies, SOCKS proxies are considered to be applications. Plus, as it is capable of managing different kinds of traffic, SOCKS is suitable for complex activities like torrenting. That’s why  I wouldn’t be that surprised if you’ve heard about Socks5 proxy- the best SOCKS extension ever developed and the core technology for Shadowsocks, capable of differentiating traffic types, and especially meant for P2P file sharing.

How does proxy work?

As I said before, the whole thing about proxy is not that advanced or impossible to understand and use.

In order to work, the proxy uses just a server that stands between your device and the Internet. The VPN indeed does the same thing, but in VPN’s case, we talk about a specially configured server, which uses encryption and protocols to transmit data over the web.

The proxy server works like a middle man that manages your traffic back and forth, without encrypting it or protecting it in any possible way. Trough a proxy connection, the only thing that remains anonymous is your IP address, as it is replaced with the one associated with the proxy. The only data that is anonymized is your web traffic, and any other online activity remains exposed (such as application traffic).

Therefore, in order to work, the proxy uses a server (or another PC), which works like a bridge for your data, and its purpose is to change your IP address, so you are able to surf anonymously or to bypass geo-restrictions.

A picture showing how does a VPN work in a complex explanation of the VPN vs proxy

Usually, proxy services come as browser add-ons that you can easily install from your browser’s store. Just like the VPN, the proxy connection can be manually configured directly in the browser.

Proxy – advantages and disadvantages.

Let’s see what the proxy technology brings in the equation and which are its pros and cons.

Advantages of using a proxy:

  • Killer speed. As already mentioned, using a proxy implies no shadow of encryption and this is the reason why your speed won’t get affected. Therefore, by going for a proxy, you will be able to enjoy extra-fast connections.
  • It’s a great solution for accessing blocked content. The main idea when you need to access blocked content is to trick websites into seeing your location as an eligible one. With a proxy, you can do it pretty easy, as this technology changes your IP and, moreover, it does not affect your speed. So, the only thing that is missing is a huge pile of popcorn and a cold beer.
  • It’s a great anonymizer. If you look for a solution to keep your online activities anonymous, the proxy may be an acceptable option. As it is able to change your IP address, your online activities will appear to be generated from a different IP. Still, as there’s no encryption, the connection is not private, so the activities can be seen in plain text.

Disadvantages of using a proxy:

  • It uses no encryption. Anonymous connections should work hand in hand with encryption. Encrypting your traffic is really important, as there are a lot of online dangers lurking at the Internet’s corners. 
  • A proxy connection may not be very stable. A flawless connection is mandatory, especially when you use an anonymizing tool for different reasons. As soon as the proxy connection fails, you’re all exposed. 
  • Many proxy services are free. Don’t get into free proxies’ trap. When a service such as the proxy or VPN is free, you can not trust it. Usually, free providers sell their users’ data, so you can forget about principles like anonymity and privacy.
  • Proxies can be detected and blocked. If you use a proxy server to bypass online restrictions, you must know that a proxy server can sometimes be detected and blocked by websites like Netflix or BBC iPlayer.

Tor vs. VPN. Are these technologies the same?

Before drawing the bottom lines of the proxy vs. VPN war, we need to discuss another security tool that you may have heard about – Tor.

Tor stands for The Onion Router and was initially launched as a solution for anonymous browsing for the U.S. Navy. Since then, things have changed a little bit.

The Tor network disguises your online identity by forwarding your web traffic through different Tor servers. As there are involved a huge number of servers and encryption, you browse in complete anonymity.

Still, Tor is free and now it’s known as the dark web. We all know who ends up on the dark web and what activities are performed there. Because it’s not a safe online place to visit, even your ISP can mark you for surveillance if you make a habit out of visiting onion websites too often.

Therefore, compared to the VPN or the proxy, nowadays, Tor should be the last on your list of tools to use in order to protect your data.

Proxy vs VPN – who’s your winner?

I don’t know about you, but I like to be better safe than sorry so, my winner is, without a doubt, the VPN.

Let’s put things in perspective and draw the final conclusions.

VPN Proxy
It changes your IP address It changes your IP address
It encrypts your traffic x
It anonymizes all the traffic generated via browser or apps It anonymizes only the traffic generated via browsers
It unblocks websites It unblocks websites
It offers a private connection x
It affects your speed x
It may be a pretty expensive solution It may be a pretty expensive solution

The best VPN services providing proxy add-ons too.

My top picks when it comes to VPNs that offer complete solutions are ibVPN and NordVPN – two popular VPN providers allowing their users access to advanced VPN features, great apps, proxy add-ons, and even a SmartDNS solution.

ibVPN are our neighbors, as is a Romanian provider from Transylvania. We are not recommending them just because we share the same Dracula stories, but because ibVPN is a highly-performant service with a multitude of features like Kill Switch or fastest server, options and a free VPN trial included.

So, no matter of your operating system, ibVPN allows you to use apps of provides you support to manually configure their service on unicorn OSs or devices like pfSense.

When it comes to proxies, ibVPN allows you to use 3 hype proxy extensions for Chrome (BTW, did you know that Chrome VPN extensions also run on Microsoft Edge?), VPN add-on for Firefox, and Opera, allowing you not only to connect to a proxy server but also to avoid WebRTC leaks.

NordVPN needs no further introduction, as this provider is, for sure, one of the best.

Besides the impressive number of servers and the super easy-to-use VPN apps, just like ibVPN, NordVPN offers proxy add-ons for Chrome and Firefox and comprehensive tutorials on how to set up a proxy connection on Opera, Safari, and many more.

If you trust my experience and expertise, you can clearly start testing these two services and see how they perform. I am sure you will be amazed by both of them, as they’re the same but different on so many levels.

The battle is on!

Are you able to place your bet? Who’s your winner?

Keep in mind that when it comes to this kind of online war, before placing your bet, you need to put your thoughts and your expectations in order.

If you like to go big, you need to choose a VPN as your winner, as is a complete and secure solution. If you’re interested only in unblocking websites and surfing freely, then the proxy should do the job.

To be sure you always make the right decision that targets your online security, privacy, and anonymity, you need to be up to date with the latest online trends. By subscribing to our newsletter, you can accomplish this, and, moreover, you will make a Transylvanian bat happy.

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