Browsing the internet has become imperative in the modern world – individuals need to do it to reach people on the other side, and businesses need to gather enough data to inform business decisions.
However, being on the internet is no longer safe, and there is the need to take proper precautions whenever you go online.
Without specific security measures, it can be straightforward for people to target or harass you on the internet.
You will need to secure your data, including your internet protocol (IP) address, and stay anonymous if you don’t want any of these to happen.
Several tools can help you do this. But most times, people get confused about proxy vs. VPN and which of these two to use.
Today, we will look at both tools in detail to help you narrow down your decision.
What Are Proxies?
Proxies can best be defined as intermediary computers that mediate between users and the web, taking requests from users to servers and returning the results in the same manner.
Proxy servers are designed to act as gateways between you and the web. And they have a large pool of IPs, proxies, and locations to enable them to do this.
They don’t only transfer communications, but they do it while protecting you and keeping you anonymous.
Proxies can do this by using their IP and location rather than yours. That way, no one can see you or tie any activities to you. Hence, masking your IP and using its proxies give you anonymity.
In the same vein, by using any location, proxies can quickly help you overcome geo-restrictions and blockings that may be tied to your actual location. This way, users from any part of the world can visit any website on earth without restrictions.
What Are The Key Characteristic and Functionalities of Proxies?
There are essentially three characteristics of proxies that help to confer hey with the functionalities required to keep users safe on the internet.
- They Can Mask IP
Proxies can conceal your IP whenever you are on the internet. And because an IP, amongst other things, is what gives you away on the internet, proxies can guarantee you more security than other tools out there.
- They Provide a Large Pool of IPs and Proxies
Proxy servers can hide your online identity, but they can also do much more. They can provide you with a large pool of IPs to choose from. You need an IP to be on the internet, but you need multiple IPs to evade blockings, use a particular service repeatedly, and visit some websites multiple times.
All this is possible when you use a proxy, as it gives you several IPs to select from.
- They Can Bypass Restrictions
Proxies are also excellent at misdirection by offering users several locations to choose from. This can help users bypass geographical restrictions or access geographically restricted content on the internet.
What Are Some Major Use Cases of Proxies?
There are several ways that proxy servers can be used by users while browsing the internet, and below are some of the prominent use cases of proxies:
- To Improve Security
There are not many tools that can protect internet users from the harms of being online. Cybercriminals can now easily steal data to target individuals and businesses or even impersonate people and brands to commit fraud.
They can also steal data and sell it to marketers who will follow up with target advertising that causes online harassment.
Proxies are used to prevent this by encrypting all of your internal data and ensuring you stay safe as you surf the net.
- To Enhance Privacy
Businesses sometimes need to carry out large-scale operations on a low level. These operations can cause a brand to grow if done correctly. But they can also expose a lot of information to everyone on the internet.
Since each device is often tied to one IP at a time, anyone can follow your IP address to see what you have been up to on the internet.
Again, proxies help to avert this by concealing users’ IP addresses keeping all their activities private.
- For Web Scraping
One important use of proxies is facilitating web scraping. Web scraping allows brands to collect enough data and gain a competitive advantage in the global market, and proxies are used to make this a seamless process.
For instance, it would be practically impossible for a brand in a restricted region to access data from some websites without the use of proxies.
What Are VPNs?
Virtual private networks or VPNs work like a proxy to redirect your communications via third-party software.
It does this by re-routing your request via a remote server while encrypting your IP and data. Then it returns the results of the request you made through the same means.
This can provide you and your data with the necessary online security and privacy. The way the VPN works is simple. First, you have it installed on your device, and then you activate it every time you want to use the internet, and all the traffic going in and out of that device will be re-routed via the remote server.
What Are The Main Use Cases of VPN?
The following are the primary use cases of VPN:
- Data Security
The primary use of a VPN is to secure the user while on the internet. This is because VPNs can encrypt both the user’s sensitive data and their communications.
This way, it becomes challenging to identify the user online or see what they are doing on the web.
- For Reliable Connection
Because of how VPNs are built, it is often very rare to see them drop a connection. When users route their communications, requests are delivered, and results are returned without hiccups.
- To Bypass Geo-Restrictions
The VPN software can allow you to select a different location anytime you want. This is important when trying to get around geo-restrictions.
Differences between Proxies and VPN
Proxies and VPNs may share many apparent similarities, but they are different tools. Below are some of the most important differences to consider when comparing proxy vs. VPN:
- VPNs cover more encryptions than proxies. For instance, a VPN would encrypt both the data and traffic, while a proxy would only mask your data.
- VPNs function on the operating system level, while a proxy only covers specific applications or browsers.
- Proxies are known to be faster than VPNs since they don’t do a lot of encryption; hence you will enjoy quicker internet connections when you use proxies than when you use VPNs.
- Proxies are generally free or cheap and affordable, while VPNs are pretty expensive and require regular subscriptions.
There is never a clear-cut winner in the debate of proxy vs VPN as the tool of choice often depends on what the user wants and what they can afford.
We have described both tools above to help you see their benefits and decide which to use the next time you want to visit the internet. If you want more information, here’s a great article to proxy vs vpn.