People often get confused while dealing with a topic like proxy vs VPN or virtual private network. Why? The reason is simple as they both are related to hiding your IP address while browsing a public network or the internet. That way, both serve the same purpose. But are they exactly same? The method, functionality, and approach that both uses are entirely different from each other. Let’s understand the difference between proxy and VPN. How are they different in concept and approach.

A proxy acts as the mediator between the client computer and the server which hosts your website. The internet traffic from your laptop appears as though coming from a different IP address rather than that of the computer. But the connection between your machine and the proxy server is never encrypted.

A VPN on the other hand completely encrypts the internet traffic coming from your remote computer. It creates a tunnel between the client’s computer and the remote VPN server.

All the data would pass through this tunnel, making it impenetrable for anyone online. Not to mention, it does hide your machine’s IP address as well. There are multiple of types of VPN but with common use cases and functionalities.

Privacy – Which one provides more security?

While the proxy hides a client’s IP address, it doesn’t encrypt or secure the internet traffic between your computer, proxy server and the target website or web server sitting on the internet. All it does that it makes the target website believe that the traffic is coming from a different location (location of proxy server) other than your device.

But your Internet Service Provider (ISP) would be able to see any internet activity performed by your computer or any other device. Additionally, your internet activity would also be visible to anyone snooping around on the internet.

While you may be able to get access to restricted content through a proxy, there is no guarantee about your data being completely safe. There have been examples of free proxy websites, selling sensitive customer data, to generate revenue.

A VPN, on the other hand, provides secure encryption of your internet traffic flowing between your device, such as a laptop, smartphone, etc., and the VPN server. There is virtually no chance for an ISP or a snooper to eavesdrop on any transmission between the client’s computer and the remote VPN server.

Ultimately, you will gain access to the target website, where it will only know information related to VPN web server but not your details.

Configuring your laptop by using a VPN would eliminate worries related to data thefts. Even if you are not in a foreign country, with a VPN in your computer, you wouldn’t need to worry about questionable security practices in public Wi-Fi hotspot or in the Free Wi-Fi provided by your hotel. A proxy, on the other hand, cannot offer that.

Proxy vs VPN configuration

You don’t configure your entire computer for a proxy. Proxies are configured on an application to an application basis, such as for your web browser, BitTorrent Client or any other proxy-related application.

A VPN, on the other hand, covers the entire operating system (OS) running on your laptop or smartphone. In a nutshell, this means that if you use a proxy, it will only cover the browser which has proxy settings and applies to all websites getting opened.

This could be troublesome if you have different browsers and applications since everything needs manual proxy server configuration. Whereas if you use a VPN, the whole operating system will be covered. So, even in future if you install new web-based applications, you could rest assured of security and privacy.

This implies that proxies while being easy to configure are not able to provide complete online security. A VPN, on the other hand, needs little or no customization once it has been installed. Initially, VPN configuration might be a cumbersome process but in the long run, it provides complete online security.

A proxy, unlike a VPN, doesn’t require software for it to be set up. This makes it a lot less resource intensive compared to a VPN. As a result, a proxy will almost occupy no space on your hard drive compared to a VPN.

Application and uses

There is a difference between proxy and VPN from the application point of view as well. Proxies are mostly used for short stakes applications, in which online anonymity is not a huge issue.

One of the best examples is using a proxy to visit a website that is restricted in your country. Another example is of watching an online channel or online movies in a different country.

A VPN is hugely important when the applications demand online secrecy. This could be when protecting your internet activity from government organizations and hackers or accessing the LAN of your corporate office.

Tracking your Online Activity

Some Proxy servers keep a log of all your internet activity even though they hide your IP address. Every internet action performed through the proxy is recorded in the log. Placed in the wrong hands, this log data can be extremely detrimental to your privacy.

A VPN, on the other hand, ensures log free protection of your online activity. VPN’s available in the market such as the NordVPN are frontrunners in supporting customer privacy. They provide full encryption of the online traffic, keeping the user identity completely anonymous.

Which one is better at Latency?

Till now you must have understood that proxy only passes on your information without encrypting the channel. As a result, there is no question of much bandwidth requirement as a little extra latency would be sufficient to meet the requirements.

On the other hand, VPN servers involve bigger and better concepts of encrypting and securing the internet transmission. In the process, they consume much of your bandwidth.

I must say that the latency is could be reduced if the VPN servers sitting in middle have more processing power and better VPN protocols for encrypting the data. That’s why you should always go for best VPN service providers if this is a concern for you.

Over to you on Proxy vs VPN

There is a huge difference between proxy and VPN. Both are not same. Also, it is quite evident that a VPN is much better equipped to strengthen your online security and privacy than a proxy.

A VPN provides every benefit that a proxy does, doing so with less risk, better functionality, and more protection. A Proxy should be used only if a quick fix is your requirement such as watching movies, browsing the internet, etc.

Otherwise, a VPN is better in every single aspect dealing with private secure networks, accessing online financial from a public place such as public WiFi hotspot, etc.

Proxy vs VPN often confuses people since both hide client's IP address while browsing the internet. But they are different. Proxy pass on the internet traffic between client's machine & target web server. But VPN encrypts the channel between client's machine & VPN web server