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What’s The Difference Between a Proxy and a VPN?


The internet world is vast and ever-changing. These constant changes and developments have exposed us to online security scares ranging from ransomware to botnets. Whether you use company networks or a personal home network, the fact remains you’re never safe no matter your online activity.

If you’re security conscious, you need to have two leading internet security and privacy features in your networking settings. These are the Virtual Private Network (VPN) and Proxy servers. The two are ideal for use even on the dark web where you cannot access content through a regular browser like Chrome. However, one only protects your privacy, whereas the other doesn’t.

Proxy and VPN Defined

You’ve probably come across options labeled VPN or Proxy in your computer networking settings once in a while. These are two network options designed to help you stay safe and anonymous on the web.

If you understand the proper dark web explanation, you know how using a VPN allows you access to places on the Web you possibly couldn’t. This is just part of what VPNs, together with Proxies, do to protect your identity on the internet. However, there’s more to what they do individually.

What is a Proxy

A Proxy is ideally created for web functions like anonymous browsing and circumventing any form of content restrictions. The servers typically excel at IP masking and misdirection so that the website sees the proxy’s IP. This makes it perfect for digging into geographically capped content.

You can also leverage proxies to observe and impose website content restrictions – so that you can’t log into certain web pages during a specific period.

Types of Proxies

Proxies come in different types depending on the roles they play. To ensure you benefit from the best proxy service, you need to understand all the types of proxies and what they can do for you.

HTTP Proxies

HTTP Proxies are only available for web pages. You need this proxy when browsing and trying to access geo-restricted websites.

SOCKS Proxies 

These are more advanced than HTTPS proxies. They work beyond the web traffic alone and extend to the Application level. SOCKS Proxy is the best if you have a P2P platform or a video streaming app you want to access, devoid of restrictions.

The proxy will efficiently handle any form of traffic, whether streaming a game or playing via an App. However, their efficiency is often under scrutiny, given they are usually slower than HTTP proxies.

Transparent Proxies

If you’ve tried accessing a specific website unsuccessfully while on a company network, chances are you’re using a transparent proxy. Companies, Public places, and restaurants usually leverage these proxies to monitor users’ online activity and block access to specific websites. They are also the best proxies to use if you want to save network bandwidth.

Depending on the level of privacy you want, each proxy will serve you just right. However, don’t expect to enjoy similar benefits as you would when using a VPN. If you want more privacy and online protection, VPNs are a better choice.

What are VPNs?

These are Virtual private networks designed to reroute your internet traffic through a remote server and hide your IP address. This way, websites you visit can’t see your original IP or track your location.

How VPNs and Proxies Differ

Your internet security is vital in the current technological world. That’s why it makes sense to invest in your company data or personal data with the right tools. Proxies and VPNs add a layer of security and privacy you want for your data. However, they also come with stark differences in their effectiveness. We’ve compiled some of their differences below to help you understand which option will serve your security goals better.


Encryption is part of network privacy you need to pursue at all costs. It helps, especially when you’re dealing with massive loads of data. Unlike Proxies that don’t provide encryption at all, VPNs do a better job at encrypting your traffic.

They hide your internet activity from the Internet Service Provider (ISP), making it quite challenging for tracking. This higher level of privacy comes in handy when you want to evade government surveillance or even phishing attacks on the internet.

Level of Operation

VPNs differ from Proxies in the sense that they work on the operating system level. They redirect all your traffic, both from the browser or a background app. Proxies don’t work on operation-level systems. Instead, they operate on Application-level, leaving them only capable of rerouting traffic from a specific app or browser.

Speed and Reliability

Speed is one aspect where proxies excel better than VPNs. So, they are the best option if you want internet safety while still enjoying the excellent speed. VPNs are slower than proxies because they have to encrypt your data first before anything else.

However, you can still leverage the available ways of improving your VPN speed and bypass this challenge. Equally, a VPN connection has the best reliability of the two since proxy server connections are prone to dropping more frequently.


While there are various free VPNs in the market, good ones usually don’t come free of charge. You have to pay a subscription fee to access their best services. Network security experts argue against using free VPN services as they have their share of limitations. Also, they tend to mine your data.

Proxies don’t have any charges. You’ll access them at absolutely no cost. This makes them a perfect option if you need one-time use only.

Using Both Proxies and VPNs

A VPN encompasses everything a proxy server can do, meaning you don’t need to download a proxy if you already have a VPN. However, you may need a VPN even if you already have a proxy server. For instance, transparent proxy servers often tend to block and restrict your access to specific websites. So, you may need a VPN to bypass the restrictions.

Bottom Line

Both Proxies and VPNs serve specific purposes. While VPNs are much more effective, you can’t downplay the importance of proxies. That’s why you should always go for one that suits your security needs and goals.