When it comes to your online security, the debate rages on—which are better VPN or proxy server? Staying incognito during an online session is becoming more and more like detective work. With new technologies being cranked out every day, and new ways for entities such as the government, hackers, and spies developing new and ever more interesting ways to tap into your privacy, VPN and proxy server technology is struggling to keep up. Here we will look at the differences between a VPN and a proxy server, and a little information about which proxy servers are free and a few of the best proxy websites out there.
Virtual Private Network (VPN)
In previous articles, we’ve talked about what a virtual private network (VPN) is so let’s just go into it briefly. A VPN is, in a nutshell, an encrypted tunnel by which your information travels from an anonymous IP (you) to an anonymous server. Through this method, you can surf the internet with complete anonymity. No one has access to your information nor can anyone outside know where your information originates from. A VPN allows access to blocked content in Geo-restricted regions by making your IP address look like it came from the region that is doing the blocking.
A VPN is usually the first thing someone comes up with when asked how to hide online identity. No one ever talks about its little sister, the Proxy Server. A proxy server is a go-between server that allows (or blocks depending on how it’s configured) access to blocked sites and certain content granted by the network administrator. It does not encrypt your IP address, but, to the internet, you look like you are coming from the proxy server IP. Network admins use proxy servers to block access to the restricted site in schools and office environments.
Ever wonder why you can’t access Facebook at work or why you can’t watch streaming video at school? That’s a proxy server at work. Geo-restricted sites are also accessed through a proxy server; however, this is not the safest way. Your information is not encrypted with a proxy. It’s saved. The sites you visit are cached so the next time you access that site, it comes up quickly, no need for protocol.
Whose is better and why?
There are a few pros and cons to using a VPN or a proxy server. Let’s look at a few of them:
|VPN service can cost money; few free options.||Much cheaper or Proxy server free.|
|Bank level encryption.||Encryption on SSL connections only.|
|Compatible with all devices and systems.||Only works on the browser you happen to be on.|
|Handles more access like torrent downloading and Streaming HD video.||Limited to accessing websites only.|
|Can be slow at peak time, but otherwise decent speed.||Very slow.|
This is by no means all of the pros and cons between a VPN and a proxy but you get the idea.
Proxies typically use two types of protocols: HTTP and SOCKS. An HTTP proxy server can only handle traffic that begins with HTTP:// or shttp://. Since this is all that it handles, it makes this Proxy server way faster than a VPN. SOCKS have the same security level as HTTP but are slower due to their handling of more traffic. SOCKS, and more recently SOCKS5, can handle POP3 and SMTP (emails), FTP for torrent and file uploading and IRC chat. Despite this extra workload, which comes in handy, it also makes the SOCK proxy slower.
Free or Fee
Many public and private proxy websites have cropped up lately. These sites offer lists of IP addresses and port numbers for you to configure for yourself. Two free proxy sites are freeproxylist.org and hidemyass.com. Both offer anonymous proxy access from a list of IP addresses and port numbers.
But, like everything else, you get what you pay for. If you want to go free, then your access is limited only to a certain few websites, not to mention there is virtually no support at these free sites. They come and go quite frequently, disrupting your access as well. Some of the best proxy sites have a small fee (smaller than a VPN service). Private proxy sites like squidproxies.com, myprivateproxy.net, and newipnow.com offer a fee for their proxy service which is much safer and more reliable as these sites have invested in support for their servers. The fee proxy sites also offer proxy and VPN packages.
Having an internet connection is a joy that allows you to connect to the world. But sometimes that connection is blocked or inaccessible to you due to government restrictions or because work or school block them. A VPN service will give you full access, but if that’s not what you need then a proxy service is the way to go. Free services will get you online to your favorite websites, but there is no support for these servers leaving you vulnerable. Many VPN service providers also offer a proxy service for a small fee that is affordable. Whichever you choose, keep in mind not all that glitters is gold. Dig deep, and you’ll find the treasure you seek!