One of the most frequent confusions amongst internet users is the question of proxy vs. VPN. As news of cyberattacks become more common, the public is becoming more aware of using a proxy or VPN to strengthen online security. 

However, most users do not understand the underlying technology that drives both VPN and proxy servers. Misconceptions about these technologies can lead to the false assumption that you’re sufficiently protected on the Internet. 

In this article, we’ll explain what VPN and proxy servers are all about. It’s important to understand the difference between the two often-confused technologies before using any of them so that you can decide what’s best for you. 

Proxy vs. VPN—What’s the Difference?

Proxy or proxy servers are considered as gateways. In other words, proxies are servers that act as a middleman between your computer and the Internet. They are used to alter the IP address of your computer to access websites or contents that are barred in your country. 

The VPN routes information from your device to a secure VPN server before connecting to the Internet. Like a proxy, a VPN allows your device to take on a different IP address when connected to the Internet. However, a VPN goes a step further by encrypting the information sent and received by your device. 

It is important to note that a proxy server only masks the IP address of the device, but most proxies do nothing to encrypt the connection to the Internet. Generally, proxy servers are great for staying anonymous but lack the security offered by VPNs.

Another glaring difference between proxies and VPNs is the fact that the former only offers privacy protection on the browser level. VPN protects a device by enforcing system-wide encryption and IP-masking. In other words, all connections, regardless of browsers or apps, are protected by a VPN. 

Proxy Servers: The Pros and Cons

Most proxy servers are free and without any signup processes. All you need to do is access the proxy site on your browser and key in the URL of the target website. The redirection of the traffic through proxy servers will automatically unblock geo-restricted sites. 

The downside to proxy servers is that they do nothing to encrypt your connection. Even if you’ve had your IP address masked, hackers are still able to intercept and spy on the information passing through a proxy. 

Proxies are also notorious for their speed, or the lack thereof. Even if you could unblock streaming sites, you may be bugged by buffering and loading time. 

VPNs: The Pros and Cons

VPNs offer both stealth and protection by masking the IP address and encrypting the connections. Top VPNs usually use AES-256 encryption, which is used by military and government agencies to secure their data. 

Most VPNs have clear logging policies, which details the type of information logged when connected to the servers. A good VPN does not store any browsing data that can be traced to its users. 

While VPNs involve the additional process of encryption and decryption, top-rated providers ensure that speed is not compromised. Often, you’ll have no issues streaming on a VPN. 

The drawback of using a VPN is that you’ll often need to pay for a monthly subscription. There are some free VPNs around, but they are generally less secure and efficient compared to leading premium VPNs. 

Proxy Servers vs. VPNs—What’s Best For You?

It all depends on your needs when browsing online. If you’re looking for a quick way to access videos or websites blocked by the ISP in your country, using a proxy server is sufficient. 

However, if you’re concerned about security as a whole and hope to keep hackers or government from snooping on your device, you’ll need a VPN. Connecting to the VPN server ensures that you’re not only anonymous online, but all data sent from your device is encrypted. 

The VPN is also ideal when you’re coordinating remote employees from accessing resources within the company’s private server. Most VPNs have additional network features like a kill-switch, which automatically disconnects the Internet should the VPN connection drop. 

You can use most proxy servers without paying anything, but the well-rounded security provided by a VPN more than makes up for its subscription. 

Best VPNs 

If you’re concerned about cyberattacks and privacy intrusion, getting a VPN helps. Amongst the numerous VPN providers available, here are some of the best. 

1. NordVPN

NordVPN is a feature-packed VPN that operates with more than 5,400 servers in 59 countries. Besides employing the AES-256 encryption, NordVPN features Double VPN, which enables double encryption by connecting to two different servers. 

You’ll enjoy decent speed across its servers, making NordVPN ideal for streaming and torrenting. It’s also one of the few VPNs that allow access to Netflix. 

2. ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN enjoys the reputation of being the fastest VPN in the industry. It operates with the standard military-grade AES-256 and has a strict no-logging policy. ExpressVPN’s servers are built to store data on RAM, which ensures all operating variables are wiped off during each reboot.

The company also undergoes independent audits to assure users of its commitment to safeguarding privacy. 

3. Surfshark

Surfshark takes the unconventional route of offering unlimited device connections on its premium plans. Such marketing gimmicks aside, Surfshark has all it takes to be one of the best VPNs. It encrypts connections with AES-256 and has a clearly-worded no-logs policy.

You can get a decent connection speed with Surfshark across many of its 1,000+ servers worldwide. 

Summary

Proxy servers and VPNs serve different purposes. Proxy servers provide necessary stealth to access geo-restricted content by altering the IP address. A VPN goes beyond that by encrypting connection on the system level.

If you’re serious about staying safe online, getting a VPN is obviously the right choice.