When it comes to online privacy and security, two of the most commonly used tools are proxy servers and VPNs. Both offer similar functionality, but there are some key differences that set them apart. In this article, we'll take a look at proxy servers vs VPNs, and compare their pros and cons in order to help you decide which one to use and/or which one of them is the better option for you.
Proxy - What is it? How does it work? Pros and cons of proxy
What is a proxy server?
A proxy server is a computer that acts as an intermediary between your computer and the internet. The dictionary defines a proxy as “a person authorized to act on behalf of another person or organization.” In the case of proxy servers, they act on behalf of their users, forwarding requests from computers to web servers and returning the responses back to them. So, imagine a situation where you want to tell a secret to your friend John. However, instead of telling it directly, you tell the secret to a proxy, let's say another friend - Jane. Then, Jane tells the secret to John, acting as a proxy between you two.
When you use a proxy server, all of your internet traffic is routed through the proxy server before it reaches its destination. This means that any website you visit will see the IP address of the proxy server instead of your real IP address.
How does a proxy server work?
When you set up a proxy server, you can choose to route all or only certain types of internet traffic through the proxy server. For example, you could set up a proxy server to only route your web traffic (traffic from your web browser) and not route your email traffic (traffic from your email client), so on and so forth. The proxy will communicate with your devices in order to either pick up and reroute traffic or stay still.
Pros of Proxy
There are both advantages and disadvantages to using a proxy server. Some of the benefits of using a proxy server include:
More privacy: When you use a proxy server, your real IP address is hidden from the websites you visit. This means that you can browse the internet sort of anonymously, and your online activity cannot be tracked by your ISP or other 3rd parties. You separate your traffic from your personal internet subscription, if such an expression makes sense. This can be very beneficial in all kinds of environments, both personal and business.
Security: Proxy servers can also offer security benefits. For example, if you only route your web traffic through a proxy server, any malicious software that tries to infect your computer will only be able to do so by going through the proxy server. This adds an extra layer of protection. If you're interested in knowing more about company and business data protection in the current digital landscape, we wrote a blog on one of the most common types of attacks - exec phishing on our blog. Give it a read to get more acquainted with the topic - click here
Cons of Proxy
As with the pros, there are also some disadvantages to using a proxy server that you should know about.
Slower Speeds: Because your traffic has to go through an extra server, it can slow down your connection and reduce the bandwidth. This is especially true if the proxy server is located in a different country or far away from you. Keep this in mind if you're trying to collaborate on a document in real-time, share or download large files, play games.
Less Security than with a VPN: While proxy servers do offer some security benefits, they are not as effective as VPNs. This is because proxy servers only encrypt web traffic, whereas VPNs encrypt all traffic, including traffic from your email client, file-sharing programs, and instant messaging apps.
VPN - What is it? How does it work? Pros and cons of VPNs
What is a VPN?
A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is a type of proxy server that encrypts all of your internet traffic and routes it through a remote server in another location. This means that any website you visit will see the IP address of the VPN server instead of your real IP address. Millions of internet users online have VPNs on their mobile devices, tablets or computers and use them for a wide variety of reasons. Here is a chart with three of the most popular ones.
In addition to this, nowadays, accessing Netflix and other streaming platforms, is definitely very close by as a category and in the top positions as well.
When looking at the frequency of VPN use, it just further solidifies our claim regarding its importance.
As we can see, half of VPN users use it daily or no less than 4 times per week.
How does a VPN work?
Picking up where we left with proxy servers, we have to say that a VPN works in a very similar way. It encrypts all of your internet traffic and routes it through a remote server in another location. The main difference is that proxy servers only encrypt web traffic, whereas VPNs encrypt all traffic, including traffic from your email client, file-sharing programs, and instant messaging. Nevertheless, this isn't equal to total anonymity since your unencrypted traffic, rather than getting obtained by your ISP, is collected by the VPN service provider. So, on paper it's better but in practice, the genuine benefits are not as great as usually advertised.
Pros of VPN
Unlike proxy servers, which are often much more limited in their capabilities, VPNs provide you with a wider coverage. You can use a VPN to access websites and content that are not available in your country or region. For example, if you're traveling abroad and want to access your favorite streaming site, you can connect to a VPN server to make it look like you're in that location, instead of your home, work, etc.
So, let's say you're from the US and travel to the UK for 2 weeks. However, your favorite TV show is only available for streaming in the US. So, you turn on a VPN, access a US-based server and voila! You can watch your TV show.
Location switching is not the only reason people use VPNs. Another big one is security. When you connect to a VPN, all of your internet traffic is routed through an encrypted tunnel. This means that if someone were to intercept your traffic, they wouldn't be able to read it or see what websites you're visiting. This makes it a solid protection from many hacking and phishing actions, as well as even ad personalization.
Cons of VPN
These tools come with a few disadvantages as well. The first one is that they can slow down your internet connection, just like a proxy. This is because all of your traffic is routed through a remote server, which takes some time.
Another downside is that VPNs can be quite expensive, depending on the provider you choose and the features you want.
VPN vs Proxy - final verdict
The main distinction between proxy servers and VPNs is that proxy servers only encrypt web traffic, whereas VPNs encrypt all traffic. This particular point that we're referring to quite often is the main differentiation. However, neither proxy, nor VPN service can grant you total anonymity online. They do a good job of hiding your true location and IP address, but it's still very much possible to track you, if someone has the resources and knowledge to do so.
Hence, you shouldn't stop at using proxy servers or VPNs to protect your privacy. Take it a step further and embrace tools like Kraden
for total anonymity when sending messages.
Why is Kraden way better than proxy servers or VPNs for messaging? Firstly, because it offers end-to-end encryption for every message sent. Secondly, Kraden never stores any of your data (it's zero-knowledge) and we never ask for personal info during sign-up! So, you're getting the best possible deal.
Kraden is also available as an app for users with Google Pixel phones, running GrapheneOS. What is GrapheneOS? Read our guide of GrapheneOS (Click here
) to find out more about it - the most secure version of Android in the world!
If you're looking for a way to encrypt your traffic and hide your true location, proxy servers and VPNs are both good choices. However, they each have their own set of advantages and disadvantages that you should take into account before making a decision. In general, VPNs offer more features and better security than proxy servers, but they can be more expensive. It's up to you to make the decision.