When it comes to privacy and security on the Internet, two terms are often used: VPN and Proxy. If you’re wondering what exactly those words mean or what you need, you’re not alone. While these two services offer something similar, it is important to know the differences and similarities so you can decide which one works best for you.
What is a VPN?
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is best described as an encrypted virtual tunnel that commutes your Internet activity between a host server and your PC or phone. Everything you do on the Internet, from checking your bank statements to playing online, is seen only by the VPN host server.
You can use a VPN to get around geographic restrictions because your IP address is different, but a VPN does much more in terms of privacy. Public WLAN is not always secure – users can track your activity if your data is not encrypted. But it will be safe if you use a VPN.
Many companies use VPNs so employees can access their own local intranet or corporate network while on the move. A VPN can be used on any device where the client is installed. So it does not matter where you try to access the VPN.
For the casual user, you will probably purchase a VPN service and connect to your server to surf the Internet privately and securely. Setting up is generally straightforward, making it an appropriate option for many people. However, before you download a VPN client, you should be aware of some disadvantages.
What are the disadvantages of a VPN?
The first and probably biggest disadvantage of a VPN is the price. For example, our top pick for a VPN, NordVPN, is $ 83 for a one-year subscription and $ 12 for a monthly subscription.
What is a proxy server?
A proxy server is best described as a mediator for your PC and the Internet as a whole. When you connect to a proxy server, your activity appears as if it came from the proxy’s IP address, not your own. Because of this, a proxy can bypass the geographic restrictions. This is similar to a VPN, but here the similarities stop.
If the traffic between your PC and the host server, which hides behind an encrypted tunnel, remains largely open to all interested parties. This means that anyone with the right tools can view your Internet traffic as if you were not using a proxy at all. There are also some Java and Flash instances that cause the proxy to fail when you try to load its items into a Web browser so that a Web site sees your actual IP address.
Many free proxy servers are less than legitimate, so they are only recommended for short-term access to geographically restricted, non-sensitive content. Since running free proxies usually costs a bit, ads will no doubt show up, and your proxy service information may be sold to a bidder.
Is a VPN or a proxy better?
Before you work with any of these tools, remember that in the age of data protection nothing is completely safe anymore.
However, in almost all cases, a VPN beats a proxy for privacy and security. You get solid encryption for all Internet traffic coming from your PC, and you can still work around geographic restrictions. Unless your VPN provider does not rule you out, your Internet traffic should be virtually completely private. A proxy should in most cases only be used for occasional, non-confidential actions if you are seriously concerned about your privacy and security on the Internet.