Both Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) and proxies are commonly employed by Internet users as a way to maintain their privacy online. Simply put, to protect your privacy when surfing the web, you’ll often start by masking your IP address so that the owner of any particular portal cannot become privy to your exact location. Additional layers of security can include encrypting your traffic so as to make it unintelligible to people who might attempt to eavesdrop, as well as preventing anyone from being able to keep logs of your behaviour while on the Internet.
Whether for privacy reasons, security, or just the ability to access Internet content from anywhere, VPNs and proxies have become increasingly widespread, essential tools. Most people are familiar with them and use them on a day to day basis.
Not yet up to speed? A handy website where you can find complete and thorough information about both is VPNpro.com.
Proxies: The Pros and Cons
As the name suggests, a proxy (abbreviated from proxy server) is essentially an intermediary between you, the client, and the servers you access on the Internet. For instance, instead of your PC or laptop sending information directly to the Netflix website about your machine and location, your device asks a third party (the proxy) to act as a transitional node in the exchange.
The most prevalent use of a proxy is to implement a content filter that observes the fair use doctrine as employed by various jurisdictions (such as schools or corporations). However, for individual users, proxies are a way to bypass content filters such as geo-fencing. For instance, subscribers of Netflix might use proxies in order to access content that is blocked in their region or a region they are travelling to.
One advantage of using a proxy server is that the latter are usually free to use. In addition, a proxy can easily give you access to geo-blocked content, as well as bypass other web restrictions without much fuss.
On the other hand, you never know who is running a proxy. That party might use the free service you enjoy in order to intercept your private data. There is no encryption involved, so the owner of a proxy can potentially turn it against you very quickly. Finally, proxy servers normally ensure a low-quality connection. This means that you won’t be able to stream or download anything besides text documents and pictures.
VPNs: The Pros and Cons
Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) have recently become the more famous counter-part to a proxy. Like Proxies, VPN services make it look like your activity originates at a different location than your own. However, what distinguishes a good VPN from a proxy is the fact that your data is also encrypted by the former in the process of surfing the web. This means that your Internet traffic is encoded using a proprietary protocol, such as OpenVPN.
The encryption basically ensures that, even if the information is, by any chance, intercepted by a third party, your online activity will be unintelligible. The costs of decryption are so high and the process so thoroughly complex that few, if any, organization actually attempt to break this layer of protection.
As such, using a VPN offers you online protection even on a public WiFi network. When you turn the VPN on, you don’t have to worry about the privacy of your personal data or third parties trying to spy on you. Your anonymity will be legally protected by the company you’re working with and there are enough competitors on the market for you to be able to choose a service that best matches your needs and standards. Other applications and firewalls are additional potentially strong features that come with each subscription, depending on your choice of service and company.
The main drawback with VPNs is that a quality service will always require a fee. Moreover, the proprietary algorithms used to encrypt and reroute your data will most likely slow your Internet speed. However, the fees tend to be very small. In fact, you can benefit from high-quality encryption and privacy for as little as $4 or $3 per month. More importantly, VPN providers such as Nord, Express, CyberGhost, Astrill, and PIA have optimized their services to become better at streaming, browsing, and torrenting.
Making a choice based on your needs
Ultimately, it is your choice whether you use a proxy or a VPN. The right service for you is dictated by your needs. If you just want to read an article that is currently unavailable in your country, then a proxy might be a good idea. However, if you find yourself in need of more privacy and security, a VPN is definitely worth it.
For instance, business professionals constantly travelling places are most definitely in need of a good VPN service. They will often have to answer messages on the go using public networks, as well as perform financial transactions while abroad. In these instances, they would expose their private data to anyone with enough networking knowledge to perform a man in the middle attack. Most VPNs are currently affordable and provide competitive offers. In other words, no matter which of them you choose, you’re likely to get a great deal.