Proxy vs. VPN: Which One Should You Choose?
Virtual private networks (VPN) and proxy servers are both great tools for protecting your identity online. People tend to think of them as doing the same thing.
However, these methods are different in many ways, including in their price, privacy levels, and use cases. Let’s see how they compare.
What is a Proxy?
You can consider a proxy server to be a median between your device and the website you want to visit. You send all your browser traffic to a remote machine first. The proxy server then hides your IP address and connects you to the website. When you browse the internet through a proxy server, everyone sees the server’s IP address.
Proxy server types are the following:
- Transparent proxies. These proxy servers won’t hide your IP address. They exist only to monitor traffic and control what websites the proxy user can access.
- Anonymous proxies. They will hide your IP address but not the fact you are using a proxy — all websites will be able to detect you’re not connecting directly.
- High anonymous proxies. These proxy servers will change your IP address periodically while also tricking websites into thinking you’re connecting directly and not rerouting your traffic through a remote server.
- Private proxies. When you use a private proxy, you are the only user with that IP address. It makes you more trackable, but it also minimizes the number of captchas you have to do, and you’re less likely to have your IP blacklisted by a website.
What is a VPN?
VPNs also reroute your traffic through a remote server and hide your real IP and location. Unlike a proxy, they work on a system level, so your browser traffic along with everything you send and receive from your device is rerouted and encrypted.
Encryption is another factor that differentiates VPNs from proxies. It makes it impossible for your ISP, advertisers, or other snoopers to see what you do online. They can only tell you’re connected to a VPN server. Some premium VPN providers have a workaround for that, too — they offer obfuscated servers that hide the very fact you’re using a VPN and rerouting your traffic.
Proxy vs. VPN
- Price. Both services come with free options, though they are considered unreliable and sometimes even dangerous. With a proxy, users are often charged for using an IP address or for downloading/sending a particular amount of data. VPN subscriptions usually come without data restrictions – you only pay a single fee for a selected subscription (usually a one-month, one-year, or two-year subscription).
- Privacy. Both VPNs and proxy servers can hide the fact you’re rerouting your traffic. However, proxy servers only reroute your browser traffic, while VPNs take care of all your online connections.
- Security. VPNs undoubtedly win in this category. Proxy servers do nothing to protect user data, while VPN services encrypt all data you send or receive. The encryption algorithms premium VPN providers use are also no joke — it would take billions of years for someone to crack them.
- User-friendliness. VPNs are easy to install, and the user-friendly interfaces on their apps are typically intuitive. Setting up a proxy might require more technical know-how.
- Speed. Both will reduce your speed a little — after all, your traffic is taking a detour to a remote server. Proxy servers might be faster because they don’t encrypt your data. However, if you find a VPN that uses modern VPN protocols and has a large server network that can handle plenty of users at the same time, you will hardly notice any changes in your connection speeds.
Which one should you choose?
For regular internet users who want an IP in another location and a secure and private internet connection, a VPN is a better option. A proxy is more difficult to set up and offers no extra privacy and security features. VPNs, on the other hand, have user-friendly apps for all major operating systems and offer additional features to increase your digital safety.
Best VPN for privacy and security — NordVPN
When it comes to VPNs, NordVPN is hard to beat. It offers all the premium features you could want from a VPN (and some surprising ones you never thought about before) — all for a great price. Let’s take a closer look:
- Price. Whenever you’re buying something, price is a major deciding factor. NordVPN offers different-length subscription plans, and selecting the two-year plan will save you the most money. The resulting price is only a few dollars per month. That’s a great deal!
- Speed. NordVPN is unmatched when it comes to speed, thanks to its massive network of servers and its own Wireguard-based protocol, NordLynx. Other VPN providers don’t come even close to offering the same speeds.
- Apps. Users don’t need any advanced technical knowledge to use NordVPN. It has dedicated apps for all popular devices, the installation process is straightforward, and once you log in, one click of a button is enough to encrypt your traffic and change your IP.
- Customer support. If you do run into any problems, NordVPN offers 24/7 customer support. And if you’re more of a DIY kind of person, its Help Center provides many useful tutorials and videos that will help you solve your issues.
- Additional features. NordVPN offers many useful features. Its Threat Protection feature guards your devices against viruses and blocks trackers, ads, and malicious websites. The Dark Web Monitor notifies you if your credentials ever end up in a data breach. And you can use Meshnet to access files on your computer back home while you travel.
- Security and privacy. NordVPN uses AES-256 encryption to protect users’ data in transit. It’s virtually uncrackable, so even if someone tries to snoop on you, all they’ll see is gibberish. NordVPN apps also support split tunneling, and you can set up a kill switch to terminate your internet access in case the VPN connection drops — this way, you’re never unprotected. And if you’re looking for some serious protection and privacy, try NordVPN’s double VPN servers — they encrypt everything twice, making it twice as hard to track you.
As you can see, when you choose NordVPN, you get so much more than just a VPN. It’s a versatile cybersecurity tool that protects your digital life from various threats and gives you peace of mind.