Difference between a Proxy and VPN

A proxy server is a server that acts as an intermediary, relaying your request for connection to a webpage, file, or service on the Internet. The location of the proxy server could be physically anywhere in the world. The recipient of the request (e.g a website, service or file) will only see the request for connection coming from the proxy server. The recipient will not know that you were the source of the original request.

The main use of anonymizing proxy servers are: Protecting the identity of the computer behind it and avoiding geographic restrictions.

Pros: Many free solutions; Anonymises your web browsing and Unlocks geographic restrictions.

Cons: There is generally little or no encryption provided, so all information being sent by you through the proxy server is completely transparent and can be intercepted. With an SSL proxy, communications from the client to the proxy are correctly protected.

-Connection speed with free proxy servers is generally slow. Bandwidth costs money.

-Plenty of free solutions require software installs, and or display intrusive adds to pay for the running of the service.

-Many proxy server IP addresses are known as sources of spam and are blocked by the end destination site.

-Beware anonymizing proxy services declaring themselves VPNs.

As with Anonymous proxy providers, trusting your VPN service provider is vitally important. There is a growing source of VPN services, but not all are trustworthy. Most types of VPNs require a software installation. Proxy services DO have a use, but they have limitations and risks attached. Reliable VPN services will generally have a cost attached to them.

Whilst both of these technologies reroute your computers network internet connection and change your IP address they do work in slightly different ways and the products co-exist as customer compatibility with either or both may vary based on firewall security and/or ISP provisions.

Think of a proxy server as a kind of filter, in simple terms the proxy settings are applied to your chosen internet browser (i.e. Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox etc).  Then when browsing web pages they are routed to you via the proxy with all the benefits associated with the proxy server (i.e. security, speed, geographic location etc).

Unlike a proxy, which only secures the internet browser or software application with the proxy data entered into it, VPN (Virtual Private Network) encrypted tunnelling encrypts all your internet access, effectively replacing your local ISP routing 100% for all applications with all the benefits associated with the VPN server (i.e. security, speed, geographic location etc).  VPN can easily be connected or disconnected with a click on a desktop icon. In conclusion a proxy is purely browser based and has less compatibility with certain websites that use non-browser technology (i.e. Zattoo, View TV, 4OD, Sky Player, FOX OD etc); whereas VPN will work with all internet based services but offers less choice on which applications you route through the external server; as with VPN everything is routed whilst you are connected to it.

Starting with the differences between what they are essentially: a proxy is an intermediary computer which communicates on behalf of another computer. A VPN is an emulation of a private local network connection over public networks or the Internet.

The VPN connection has a series of advantages over a proxy:

  • VPN connections are much more stable than proxies
  • no further configuration is needed for applications to work under a VPN connection
  • VPN connections are more secure than proxies. There are lots of transparent proxies and even anonymous proxies cannot be fully trusted
  • not all applications are compatible with proxy usage and most applications need special configuration to work with a proxy
  • Most VPN connections have higher speed and uptime than proxy servers and will provide a pleasant browsing experience.
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