This could potentially get into a very technical discussion! However, we will try to avoid this, and keep this discussion focused on what we think you want to know. If we don’t cover areas you would like to understand better, please post your thoughts and questions.
We believe the question is as follows;
I want to secure my communications over the internet and protect my identity. I want to do this with the least impact on the speed of my internet connection, with maximum levels of security/anonymity and with the most cost effective solution. What is the difference between proxy server and VPN (Virtual Private Network) solutions?
A proxy server is a server that acts as an intermediary, relaying your request for connection to a webpage, file, or service on the Internet. The location of the proxy server could be physically anywhere in the world. The recipient of the request (e.g a website, service or file) will only see the request for connection coming from the proxy server. The recipient will not know that you were the source of the original request.
The main use of anonymizing proxy servers are:
- Protecting the identity of the computer behind it.
- Avoiding geographic restrictions.
- Many free solutions.
- Anonymises your web browsing.
- Unlocks geographic restrictions.
- There is generally little or no encryption provided, so all information being sent by you through the proxy server is completely transparent and can be intercepted. With an SSL proxy, communications from the client to the proxy are correctly protected.
- Connection speed with free proxy servers is generally slow. Bandwidth costs money.
- Plenty of free solutions require software installs, and or display intrusive adds to pay for the running of the service.
- Many proxy server IP addresses are known as sources of spam and are blocked by the end destination site.
- Beware anonymizing proxy services declaring themselves VPNs.
In a previous TUVPN blog article entitled, What is a VPN service? we throw light on what a VPN service provides, and how it works. We also cover this in our FAQs. So we will not repeat ourselves again here, but rather we will spend a little more time highlighting a VPN’s ‘Pros and Cons’.
In a following blog post, we will go into a more detailed explanation of the differences between PPTP and OpenVPN solutions.
- Anonymizes and encrypts all communications over the internet. Not just web browsing as is the case with Proxy solutions. VPNs protect emails, VOIP, chat applications…. i.e. ALL your Internet traffic.
- Wireless Hotspot protection. See our blog article, Protection for WIFI Connections (hotels, airports…).
- Subject to the quality of the supplier, high connection speed.
- Solution to geographic restrictions.
- With PPTP solutions you don't need to install any software as clients are provided with most Operating Systems or mobile devices. PPTP has limitations vs OpenVPN – we will look at that later as previously mentioned.
- Stable and Reliable.
- There is a cost to high data speeds.
- As with Anonymous proxy providers, trusting your VPN service provider is vitally important. There is a growing source of VPN services, but not all are trustworthy.
- Most types of VPNs require a software installation.
So in summary, proxy services DO have a use, but they have limitations and risks attached. Reliable VPN services will generally have a cost attached to them. You must judge for yourself if the added security and convenience provided is worth that extra cost.
Please dive in with your thoughts or questions.