Key differences between proxy servers and VPN software explained

Although proxies and VPNs are both effective in hiding your actual location, these tools are not identical. Anyone who cares about online privacy and data protection should be aware of these important distinctions.

Proxies: They Are Actually Different from VPNs

what is proxy

These digital tools share some of their functions, namely identity protection and elimination of geographic restrictions on content. This explains why the terms are often used as synonyms. But this is not entirely correct, as one of these alternatives offers zero privacy defense.

A proxy tool acts as an intermediary in your data exchange with a website. The second type of software encrypts your whole session, making it impenetrable for malicious parties. Here is a brief look at the main distinctive features revealed by basic proxy VPN comparison.

Why They are Called Proxies

This knowledge is essential for any security-conscious individual who uses the internet, which means practically everybody nowadays. These servers reroute the information exchanged between a client’s internet-connected device and internet pages.

This means that traffic is relayed through a remote machine, which in turn establishes the connection to the host server. Just like the second tool, a proxy server keeps your actual location, i.e., IP address, replaced. This way, the site only detects the IP of the proxy itself. Even basic encryption is notably absent.


A proxy falls into one of the three categories, all of which engage separate applications.

  • HTTP-based

These are only applicable to webpages. A browser equipped with such a tool reroutes all traffic through it. This is effective for general browsing and getting around geo-blocks.

  • SOCKS-based

Despite surpassing HTTP tools in popularity, these servers still only function on the so-called application level. This means they could be used on a game, video streaming app, or a P2P platform. Their popularity accounts for the slower speeds due to the sheer number of users.

  • Transparent

As the name implies, these proxies are normally invisible to users. They may be added by parents or employers with the goal of monitoring and limiting internet activity on a device. You have probably encountered them when traveling. Many hotels implement such tools to vet users connecting to their hotspots.


What Makes VPNs Stand Out?


vpn more protect your data

Basically, these pieces of software do the same thing. They redirect traffic through another server and hide users’ actual IPs. The first difference is the scope. While proxies only work on applications, VPNs engage the whole operating system. This means that all traffic from all apps and browsers is rerouted. In addition to this, it is encrypted.

Not only is your internet provider unable to track your online activity, but you are also shielded from cybercriminal attacks or surveillance. This brings ultimate privacy and security provided that your VPN provider is trustworthy, keeps no logs, and allows no leaks.



Overall, one of these tools is clearly superior to the other. Nowadays, given the rampant hacking, masking one’s IP address is simply insufficient. Although you can surely access geo-restricted pages via a proxy, this does not ensure your data is not exposed. In this regard, VPNs are in essence a step up. They combine IP switching with encryption for safe and unrestricted browsing.


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