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“You wanna battle me? Please. Battle me? Please. With your so called ‘flow’“
Ladies and gentlemen,
What you’re about to witness tonight is an unprecedented battle between the Two Defenders of Your Privacy – the proxy and the VPN! It’s time to decide which one is the go-to service you will cheer and which one will be buried in the Internet archives. There can only be one!
VPN vs Proxy: Presenting the fighters
In the blue corner, fighting with the red trunks is the current lightweight champion, winner of many unofficial bouts fought on the streets and in private arenas, the one, the only – Ppppproxyyyyyyy SSSer-verrrrrrrr!
[teenage screams heard from the cheapest standing seats, quickly silenced by boos from the seated crowd]
The proxy server acts as a medium between you and the rest of the internet. It can be installed locally on the router or on public Wi-Fi access points, e.g. in an airport. They are used to check who uses the network and manage access to content. Today we will not be talking about them.
In order for a proxy to work, the user has to configure it.
Our interest lies in proxies that are set up on remote servers. In this case, they can act the opposite way, allowing users to see restricted content. In order for a proxy to work, the user has to configure it. If properly configured, the proxy makes sure your IP address cannot be seen and you appear to be accessing the web from the location of the proxy server, which can be in a totally different country. This also means websites will no longer be able to show you targeted ads.
Depending on the content you want to access, you are likely to use one of two most common proxy variants.
If there’s a website with a link to an FTP and you click on it – you will immediately lose your anonymity.
These are the oldest ones – they managed to survive the process of evolution due to their simplicity. They route your browser traffic through a proxy server, so having a browser extension should be enough to establish a successful connection. As the name says, this proxy is built for browsing using the HTTP protocol. So if there’s a website with a link to an FTP and you click on it – you will immediately lose your anonymity, since most browsers allow not only HTTP but also FTP connections.
You can also use it for other services, like torrenting or gaming.
This one is essentially an advanced version of the HTTP proxy because it works following the same principle. The only difference is that the SOCKS proxy is not related to your browser. This means you can also use it for other services, like torrenting or gaming. But just as you have to configure a HTTP proxy for web browsing, you have to configure SOCKS for all services separately, which takes some time, just like pairing your socks after washing them.
Virtual Private Network (VPN)
In the red corner, wearing no trunks, stands the current heavyweight champion, acknowledged by many private and official wins, a young gun to be reckoned with, Mr. V-P-N!
[the majority of the crowd shouts]
The Virtual Private Network, VPN in short, is also a proxy that acts as a remote server between the user and the source he wants to reach. Yet, unlike a simple HTTP or SOCKS proxy, a VPN encrypts all your traffic, meaning your information travels through a secure tunnel from your device and aback. What is more, the encryption level is so advanced, it is virtually impossible for any hacker (except maybe this one), using any type of device, to decipher it.
Therefore, they are praised not only by private users, but also by companies and governmental institutions.
VPNs are also capable of carrying a much bigger load, while also providing stability. Therefore, they are praised not only by private users, but also by companies and governmental institutions. This should be enough for you to be able to enjoy the upcoming battle, yet if you want to know more about how VPN works, check out this article.
Proxy is a lightweight, so it’s really brave or even hot-headed to step into the ring with a younger and much larger contestant. So who it will be – VPN or Proxy? Ladies and gentlemen, we are about to find out. So without further ado, let’s get ready to rumble!!!
Differences between the VPN and the Proxy. Fight!
This battle is not between free proxies and free VPNs as neither is something you should use if you are looking for a security and privacy solution. Free proxies have these major disadvantages:
- Unstable connection
- Slow speed
- 7 of 10 proxies are unsafe, injecting malware into your system
- Showing ads or selling your personal data
While free VPNs can have and sometimes do have the same issues, they are still a better alternative if you choose some of the best free VPN tools available.
At first sight, the heavyweight VPN seems to have no weaknesses and is considered a favorite to win in this Proxy Server vs VPN match. But can the Proxy find a chip in its armor? We’re about to find out, ladies and gentlemen. Round 1, fight!
Both opponents start the duel cautiously, looking for each other’s weaknesses, one trying to land a punch, the other trying to defend and counter-punch. Seems like none of the two are going for a quick knockout and we’re gonna see some more of VPN vs Proxy bout!
Proxies can be encrypted and non-encrypted. We will not be talking much about the latter because they offer minimum security. The encrypted option allows you to at least hide from your ISP. But you should be aware than you can never hide your IP from the proxy owner. Here comes the question of the protocol being used:
- HTTP proxy offers no encryption for connection to HTTP servers. It’s good if you browse only HTTP websites and need speed but not security. Proxy owner can monitor your traffic.
- HTTPS proxy encrypts data between you and the server, so they are much safer but slower. Proxy owner cannot monitor your traffic.
- SOCKS can handle different types of traffic, even HTTPS, but they are slower. Proxy owner can monitor your non-HTTPS traffic.
The protection each proxy offers is commonly divided into three levels:
- Transparent Proxies (Level 3). Don’t be fooled by the name – these proxies offer almost no security and put your IP out in the open..
- Anonymous Proxies (Level 2). Much better than transparent proxies on many levels. They hide your IP well, but everyone will see you’re coming from a proxy.
- Elite Proxies (Level 1). These do not inform you’re coming from a proxy yet the website can see the IP of the proxy server. Since everybody wants to be elite, these proxies tend to be the most crowded and, therefore, slow.
Another categorization you might encounter is based on the exclusivity of the proxy which is often used to determine the price you’ll be paying.
- Dedicated proxy – you’re the sole user and have a static IP. This is good for speed, but bad for security as the IP address leads specifically to you.
- Semi-shared proxy – here you have 3 more people using the proxy and thus sacrificing some speed for more security.
- General proxy – shared by anyone, so your anonymity depends on the crowd numbers. And so does your speed.
You have to remember that the HTTP proxy covers only your browser traffic. For torrents and other activities you would need a SOCKS proxy. On the contrary, VPN routes and encrypts all traffic that goes through its servers, no matter if you visit an encrypted or unencrypted site. The best VPNs available use military-level encryption, while some offer slightly less secure options. But compared to them, proxy security level is similar to the one offered by a snoring guard.
Proxy throws haymakers which are unencrypted and easy for the opponent to figure out. Mr. VPN, on the other hand, is a fast and strong puncher as well, but also adept at feints that are beyond the comprehension of his foe.
Using a reputable VPN is like wearing blue jeans and an ironic t-shirt – nobody’s gonna notice you until you stuff the latter into the former.
We all know that using your home or office connection is probably a more secure option than connecting to a public Wi-Fi, especially one that’s free or even not password-protected. But what if you’re in another country, need to urgently access your private data, and the only option you catch is some unprotected “Free_Candie_69” network? If you have nothing, you’re going into the virtual world the way you came to the real one – naked. Using a proxy leaves you topless and the cash you had under your underwear, for which you worked so hard, is being taken away. Meanwhile, using a reputable VPN is like wearing blue jeans and an ironic t-shirt – nobody’s gonna notice you until you stuff the latter into the former.
Logging and monitoring
Proxies mask your IP address but it can still be seen by the proxy provider. And most of the time the provider will keep logs of your activity.
Paid proxies lose to paid VPNs in the soft power wars of reputation. VPNs might offer their own proxy servers for those not willing to pay for the VPN and at the moment none of the proxy-only providers have a well-know brand users have been trusting for at least some years. There are so many proxies most of them are not even reviewed, while with VPNs you can almost read at least a few reputable sources and decide if the security level is good enough for your. Most popular VPN reviews can also be found on our website.
VPNs for Android are also quite likely to come with some form of malware – almost one third has it, in fact.
You should read this before you hook up with any VPN because there is always a chance your personal data is being intentionally exposed to third-parties, whereas in the case of using a paid proxy, it would happen only because of some malware injected into the system, resulting in your data being collected and sold to spammers. VPNs for Android are also quite likely to come with some form of malware – almost one third has it, in fact.
In other words, proxies are more likely to result in low-level nuisances but a VPN can give you a great amount of problems if your activities start to interest governmental institutions or similar organizations.
Round 1 started with Proxy aggressively punching Mr. VPN but it seemed the heavyweight knew every next move and dodged effortlessly – such were the unencrypted punches of Proxy. Then Proxy began to publicly taunt Mr. VPN, trying to expose some weakness but the challenger stood well giving no secrets.
Round 1 winner – Mr. VPN! While Mr. VPN has won, seems like the match VPN vs Proxy is far from over, ladies and gentlemen.
Round 2. Speed
We’ve said we’ll not discuss free proxies or free VPNs, but we must still warn you that free proxies are usually very slow. That is because a ton of users are trying to use the same route at the same time, eating all possible bandwidth.
Paid proxies are a whole different story. They limit the number of users per one gateway, so the speed can increase dramatically.
Paid proxies are a whole different story. They limit the number of users per one gateway, so the speed can increase dramatically. Also, since only the access to the proxy server is encrypted, not the data itself, it takes less time to transmit. SOCKS tend to be slower than an HTTP connection, meaning that for online gaming you should probably seek out a fast VPN instead.
Proxies have no road signs, which might lead to an unexpected crash.
VPN offers not only a private highway but also more security, meaning it makes sure you arrive at your destination. Meanwhile, proxies have no road signs, which might lead to an unexpected crash. The key factors influencing the speed of your VPN connection is your distance to the VPN server and the speed of the device you are using.
While the general consensus is that best VPNs are generally faster than the top proxies but it all comes down to the region you’re connecting from, your hardware and software, and the actual VPN or proxy of your choice. Proxy can be faster in web browsing when there is no encryption, but in cases like torrenting or gaming, a good VPN will prevail.
Although Proxy has thrown many punches in Round 1, it still shows now sign of stopping, attacking and even hitting Mr. VPN more often. The heavyweight counterattacks with the same speed, yet not giving any chances for Proxy to do serious damage. So, Round 2 is barely won by the Mr. VPN. Stay tuned for the next round of VPN vs Proxy, ladies and gentlemen!
Round 3. Netflix
Half of the VPN users are using VPN to access geo-locked media content, including Netflix. The first thing is neither proxies nor VPNs can provide you with a 100% 24/7 access to Netflix. That is because there’s a constant battle between Netflix blacklisting IPs and VPN providers adding new servers. This is not a cheap thing to do, so it’s hard to expect something similar from paid proxies as not even all paid VPNs bother to act. Basically, one of the top VPNs should be your selection if you want to have the highest chance of watching the next episode, especially if you are traveling somewhere with restrictions to the freedom of information.
Since Netflix basically requires only a browser, it is technically possible to unblock content using an HTTP proxy.
Since Netflix basically requires only a browser, it is technically possible to unblock content available from the USA, UK, or Canada using an HTTP proxy. Also, using a dedicated proxy with a static IP will help you avoid getting blocked.
The situation changes dramatically if you want to access Netflix via the app – this would be necessary if you wanted to setup a proxy for a router or smart TV. The Netflix app can change the device’s DNS settings, so its location doesn’t match with your IP’s location, resulting in a ban from Netlfix. In this case, SOCKS is the only option.
Be sure that the server of the proxy you choose is in the country whose library you want to access. And if it’s not working well, you’ll have to look for another one and reconfigure it. Meanwhile, a VPN will always offer at least a few servers and eliminates the need to tinker with anything manually.
In Round 3, both contestants of the VPN vs Proxy battle started to put on a show for the audience, forgetting the cautious punching and switching to aggressive jabbing and the occasional powerful hook. And while Proxy manages to keep the attention of its fans, Mr. VPN seems to be the much flashier one, displaying his power with confidence. Therefore, Round 3 belongs to Mr. VPN!
Round 4. Torrenting and P2P
Key point of this discussion is weather you value speed or your privacy more. Just like in Round 2 of the Proxy Server vs VPN fight, a proxy has an advantage here because the speed is not hampered by encryption and decryption. VPNs generally offer slower but still good enough speeds, while also making sure your anonymity is not compromised. The good thing about paid VPNs is that some of them have a built-in option to use a SOCKS proxy, in case you must download 50 GB of experimental European cinema to watch with your new date from the Arts Department. You can check out the overall best VPNs for torrenting and choose the one you like.
If you want to stay with a proxy, make sure it’s not HTTP but SOCKS.
If you want to stay with a proxy, make sure it’s not HTTP but SOCKS. The only reason you might want to download torrents using HTTP is to avoid your ISP attempting to throttle the bandwidth, which basically takes away any point in using proxy as its only real advantage over VPN so far is speed. But even if the ISP doesn’t care how much bandwidth you are using, thing is that unlike SOCKS, HTTP was never designed to be used for anything else but browsing, so you might experience significant slowdowns just because of that.
And here we reach the point where VPN offers better usability by encrypting your entire internet connection. Let’s say you buy a great proxy for torrenting. But you will probably want to cover the tracker websites you visit? You will need another proxy for that, while the VPN covers it all. A VPN can only be uncomfortable if you want to access the internet via your true IP whilst downloading torrents using a proxy server.
To sum this up, VPNs cost more because they have more features and are a bit slower. Proxies are cheaper as they have less features and are usually faster. So the answer to the question “VPN or proxy?” really depends on your security preferences. If you don’t care getting caught torrenting and just need to unblock the service, a proxy will probably do just fine. But if you want to remain anonymous both when browsing tracker websites and downloading your selection, paying a few more bucks for a good VPN is worth it.
Round 4 ends in a Draw but the blood has been drawn – it’s on Proxy’s left eye! Yes, the brow looks cut! Neither of the opponents gained an advantage over this round, but we can be sure that the final half of the VPN vs Proxy bout will be intriguing!
Round 5. China
Who has the power to punch through the Great FireWall of China? Certainly not a Mongolian VPN or proxy which shall remain beyond the scope of this article.
Proxy servers are popular in China as they allow to unblock web content, like YouTube, social networks or Google.
Proxy servers are popular in China as they allow to unblock web content, like YouTube, social networks or Google. And if you are an aspiring journalist who wants to say something anti-governmental, better use a VPN and connect to a server outside mainland China – this gives you much more security.
Yet even if you use a good VPN in China, chances are the speeds will be slow compared to what you were used to at home, even if the server you’re connecting to is not far away.
There may actually be an alternative both for more regular proxies and VPNs to have the best connection in China. Local coders have created Shadowsocks, a type of proxy using the SOCKS5 protocol. It works better than a VPN because it’s less centralized and it’s harder to catch your traffic compared to most VPNs. What is more, VPNs were never intended to bypass censorship – they were built with the goal of creating a secure connection. This also means that while Shadowsocks might connect you to Facebook, the likelihood of being exposed is greater because maintaining security on an open-source project is not an easy task.
Also, Shadowsocks requires quite some knowledge to set up. First you start by renting a Virtual Private Server (VPS) outside mainland China that supports Shadowsocks. Then you download one of the apps (there is a version for both Windows and iOS) and access your VPS. If you’re new to IT, this isn’t the most straightforward thing to do. That, plus the security angle, is why we recommend regular users to get one of the best VPNs in China instead.
Many VPN websites are blocked, so you may have trouble subscribing or downloading if you’re already in China.
If you’re not using a VPN right now and plan to visit China, you should download it and create an account before you go. Many VPN websites are blocked, so you may have trouble subscribing or downloading if you’re already in China. Also, make sure your selected VPN has support for your preferred devices. Paying up-front is also recommended.
China’s main goal is to censor, not necessarily to punish, so you should feel free to try out both VPNs and proxies before deciding which works best. At least you can feel safe enough to try out both VPNs and proxies, unless you came there to spark a revolution.
Also, be aware that if you want a VPN that has a server in China which you want to connect to from outside, this might mean a different VPN would fare better compared to the ones we recommend for using in China to access the outside. But due to the increasing censorship and strict data storing requirements, the number of VPNs who still offer servers in China is dwindling.
In the middle of the Round 5, Proxy throws a 5-punch combination named Shadowsocks, a Martial Arts move it probably learned somewhere in China. This stuns Mr. VPN for the moment. Yet it seems it will take more than 5 successive punches to take down Mr. VPN as it comes back with the same old reliable and non-flashy moves, jabbing Proxy right in the left eye again, which seems to be closing up. The question is will they cut it and what do they mean by “it” – the eye, or the bout VPN vs Proxy?
Round 6. Easy to use
All paid proxy and VPN services try to make the user experience as seamless as possible. Therefore, we will not be discussing the user interface nuances as you can easily get used to any VPN or proxy mentioned in the best paid proxies or top paid VPNs articles. Instead, we will focus on settings and configuration steps that are common for almost any VPN or proxy.
Unlike proxies, the VPN doesn’t have to be set up separately on each app.
To start the comparison, using a VPN service mostly means installing its app while proxy can be accessed via the website (if it’s an HTTP proxy). So the latter is better for quick web access using a public device and the former is easier to use in the long term because, unlike proxies, the VPN doesn’t have to be set up separately on each app.
Proxies also may have to be configured for the specific server you want to connect to. This means you cannot easily switch between watching Netflix US and German Youtube. As for VPNs, they often have dozens of servers in various countries, so connecting between them both is easy and safe.
Proxy’s eye is completely shut, it cannot see the fact that the opponent is methodically getting to a position of undisputable advantage. The round ends with Proxy doing a 360, not able to find his corner, shouting “Cut it!” to his medic. The director cuts to the commercial. Round 6 of the VPN vs Proxy bout belongs to Mr. VPN.
Round 7. Price and Payment
VPN or proxy if I want it for free?
The short answer is neither. Every server costs money and there are few good Samaritans running some charity VPN or proxy. You will pay by looking at ads and/or your personal data will be sold to third-parties. As long as there are ad viewers and data buyers, server owners will be less than willing to make sure you get the fastest, most secure and private service they can give. But if you hold us at gunpoint, we’ll mumble that free VPN is a much better option solely because they encrypt the whole connection, increasing the likelihood of staying anonymous.
VPN or proxy if I’m willing to pay?
When it comes to opening your wallet, getting a decent VPN is still the better choice because the prices are not that high compared to proxy sellers, and VPNs usually offer much more functionality, security, and support.
Round 7 seems to go in favor of Mr. VPN. Proxy’s eye has been cut but the swelling’s too much, making it hard to defend from the powerful right-handed blows of the heavyweight. As VPN vs Proxy might end any minute, I want to take the time to thank our sponsors, starting from the most generous… Oh no! Proxy’s on the ground after a right jab! The referee is counting – 3, 4, 5…
The winner of the bout – Mr. VPN vs Proxy?
…6, 7, 8… and Proxy heroically stands up! But it’s left-eye is a mess and it seems to be disoriented, looking for the nearest exit in vain. The referee waves hands – it’s a TKO! It’s all over! The winner is Mr. VPN, ladies and gentlemen!
While technically it wasn’t a knockout, the VPN has been named the new champion and the Defender of Our Privacy.
Proxies only win when there’s a need to urgently access some data, especially web-based, which is not available from your location and retrieving it is more important than keeping your security.
Whereas VPN sacrifices some speed for stability, its user-friendliness, support, and extra features mean it can easily wear its opponent down in the long run. But even if we’re talking about online gaming, a more stable connection and better speeds are in favor of the VPN. If it’s torrenting and P2P, the situation is more or less the same, but VPNs are more convenient as they secure your whole connection, not only torrent downloads/uploads. For US-library Netflix and Hulu, VPN also has an advantage as it costs a lot to fight constant IP blocks, and VPNs are more suited to withstand prolonged battles. Also proxies will need to be configured to work on smart TVs and routers.
So our advice is to save time trying to pick your own winner of this Proxy server vs VPN battle and just go for a VPN of your choice. And if you want to save time looking for the best VPN – here is our comprehensive list of top VPN players.
Disclaimer: Affiliate links help us produce good content. Learn more.
Karol is an experienced freelance writer, translator, and editor. His creative output covers a wide range of technology topics such as fintech, privacy, cryptocurrencies, blockchain, and more. He does not limit himself to just plain articles and writes guides, editorials, think pieces, and reviews.