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VPNs and Proxies: The Differences and Advantages

What is the difference between a VPN and proxy, and why you should care about these differences? Both act as intermediaries between your computer and the Internet by swapping out your IP address for that of the service. A VPN adds encryption to the equation, while a proxy is much simpler to use.  

Concealing an IP is important because an IP is tied to the name and location an Internet Service Provider has assigned to you. Hiding your IP address is the most basic thing you can do to protect your online identity, and bypass online blocks.

Type of proxies you can use

There are three basic types of proxy servers:.

  • Forward: A forward proxy sends and “forwards” a device’s request over to its intended recipient. So when a user Googles ‘proxy,’ for example, the request will go to the proxy server first before going to Google. When Google answers back, the results with go back the same way.  A proxy server stands between a user’s device and the Internet so the user’s IP and online activities are hidden from websites that the user is visiting.

how a proxy works

  • Forward proxies work basically as seen above. Alice makes the request to the proxy and the proxy forwards it to Bob. Bob, who knows there is a proxy standing between him and the origin of the request, answers without knowing to whom the information is going to. This is how proxies can hide online activities.
  • Open: An open proxy is a forward proxy that is “open” and can be accessed by anyone on the Internet.
  • Reverse: A reverse proxy forwards a request as though it came from itself. In other words, the website won’t know that there’s another IP behind the request it’s receiving. As far as the website is concerned, that reverse proxy server is the requester. For people who don’t want websites to know they are actually using a proxy, the reverse kind is definitely the way to go.

There are three types of proxy servers available to use.

The advantages of using proxies

Without a proxy masking an IP address the identifiable information, such as the near-exact location of the user, are easy to learn.

Particularly dedicated hackers can use an IP address, track it back to an ISP, and learn about who the subscriber is. If anyone with malicious intent has somebody else’s IP, they can easily demand information about the IP address owner from the ISP. A simple copyrights-violation claim, for example, can force an ISP to give up personal data of its subscribers.

One good difference between an ISP and a proxy server is that proxy providers can have their user accounts separated from payment information for total anonymity. For instance, TorGuard‘s payment system is completely independent of their proxy system. In other words, their users’ proxies are not tied to their users’ name, address and other financial information.

Useful for getting around geo-restrictions

Proxies make it possible for users to appear like they’re in a different location than their actual physical location. With a different IP address, proxy users can:

  • Bypass country restrictions: When videos are not available in a viewer’s country, messages like the image below are displayed on YouTube, and many other sites. With proxies, people can say goodbye to country and region-restricted videos.

youtube video blocked

  • Post ads in different locations: Post multiple jobs in different locations without getting flagged on Craigslist and other classified advertisement websites.
  • Access all geo-blocked websites: Proxies allow users to access geo-restricted websites. In fact, downloading even geo-restricted applications is possible! Remember when so many people had to wait for Pokemon Go to come to their country? There’s no waiting with a proxy!

Many good things come from having a new IP address, especially when it comes to appearing as if your computer is in another country.

Hide location against data collection

A proxy can provide protection for its users from the industry that builds IP geolocation databases. The information contained in these databases are collected and sold to anyone interested, and all without the people in them knowing about it. Some databases can even be accessed for free by the public!

ip2location screenshot example database

IP2Location is an example of a free database that anyone can access by simply downloading it. According to the website, the country of origin and exact geographical location of any IP address can be determined using their database.

Reduce bandwidth use

One function of a proxy is to cache web pages. It stores pages locally so when a page is requested again, it quickly checks for changes on the live page first before serving the cached page when no changes are apparent.

It saves the unnecessary use of bandwidth and is particularly useful for companies with employees accessing the same web pages multiple times in a day, the company home page being a prime example. These companies may use a proxy provider which also doubles as a VPN provider so they get the best of both worlds, Proxy-N-VPN is an example.

Have plenty of IPs for different online activities

IP address tell websites and apps a great deal about users, and having different IPs available allows users to:

  • Voting: The ability to switch from one IP to another is helpful for people who use voting websites. Voting online typically requires one IP per vote, and people who want to be able to vote many times can get around this by using different IPs.
  • Families: Having many IPs is also convenient for households whose members can’t have different accounts in a website unless they each have different IPs to prove that they are different people.
  • SEO: Multiple IPs are also useful for SEO professionals. They can check page rankings of websites from different countries using IPs located in those countries or perform large SEO searches on Google without CAPTCHA trouble.

Captcha example

Google explains that any time it receives traffic that looks automated, the user must key in a CAPTCHA image to continue using the service. SEO professionals who check a lot of webpage rankings and do a lot of searches will benefit from having multiple IPs they can use for this reason.

Prevent websites from leaving cookies on devices

Websites leave cookies on devices accessing them to identify and authenticate users the next time they visit. Because cookies help in remembering their visitors, they make it easier to navigate websites for these same visitors. Cookies, though, also strip people of privacy.

With proxies, people can block cookies and prevent websites from leaving cookies on their devices. People using proxies can protect themselves from data collection for marketing purposes.

Stop hackers from stealing cookies and identities

Because cookies contain information that authenticates users by websites they visit, cookies can also be used by hackers to gain entry to these same websites– like email and social media platforms that may contain sensitive information.

Cookies that are saved in computers can be accessed by hackers. By preventing websites from leaving cookies on devices, people who use proxies also can protect themselves from hackers who may use their personal information and steal their identities.

The two kinds of VPN

VPNs encrypt all connections to the Internet while they also swap IP addresses, making them the non-technical people’s best shot at achieving 100% anonymity online. They are good for people who use the Internet for a more serious task that requires an additional layer of security. Online journalists and bloggers doing research are a prime example.

There are basically two types of VPNs according to function and VPN security protocols:

  • Remote Access: This allows a remote device to connect to one’s home network privately and securely via the Internet. Ideal for both personal and business use of travellers and professionals.
  • Site-to-Site: Also called a router-to-router VPN, this is recommended for companies with multiple locations for their offices. This allows for secure and private communication between different networks in different locations.

These two types of VPNs cover private individuals, and public companies respectively.

Secure your connection with VPNs and proxies today!

With proxies and VPNs, Internet users can browse without fear, secure their real identities, hide online activities, and keep more of their private data private.

These are the kinds of proxies and VPNs that can help you stay safe and anonymous online. These anonymization services are great not just for businesses but also for individuals looking for an added layer of protection.