VPN vs. Proxy: Understanding the Differences


VPN stands for “Virtual Private Network”. Both Proxies and VPN’s are used as a security tool when accessing the Internet from your own computer or laptop. However, using a proxy service does not encompass the same degree of security features, as does a VPN or “Virtual Private Network”.

First one needs to be familiar with the term “IP Address”. Everyone who receives mail from the post office to their residence uses a residential address to facilitate proper delivery of your mail by the post office worker. In the same fashion, our home or business computer has a similar address feature when we access the Internet or other networks. It is in this way that computers communicate with each other to properly direct request of information or data to the intended destination on a network such as the Internet.

Under normal circumstances, you are not anonymous on the Internet because your computer reveals its “IP Address” while using the Internet. If you were downloading sensitive information or something illegal, either way, it can be determined your action was done through your computer. Your data, for example, scrupulous individuals who have the knowledge to act on such breaches of data can hack into private emails, financial information and passwords.

Proxies utilize a remote computer for you to access the Internet. What this means is the Internet destination or website you access does not ever know your IP Address giving you a degree of confidentiality. In the same fashion, a VPN does the same process of camouflaging your IP Address by first having your computer communicate with a “middleman server” or computer so the destination website sees the IP Address of the server rather than your own computer. Both the Proxy and VPN use the remote computer in the same fashion. The similarity ends there.

With a proxy server, only your IP Address is hidden, not any data your computer transmits on the Internet. The VPN, however, also hides all your data via an encrypted, private tunnel operated by the VPN service you utilize. This tunnel exists because the VPN has its own private servers communicating with each other, thus securing your personal data. Generally, paid for service VPN’s do not keep logs further enhancing your anonymity. Your security of sensitive information like finances, passwords, downloads and email is secure and confidential under normal circumstances using the VPN service.

An example where a Proxy is useful is where a website restricts access only to computers within a certain geographical area. If the website you wish to visit, for instance, is broadcasting a sporting event in France, then choosing a Proxy service located in France accomplishes your ability to access the restrictive website. Only the Proxy IP Address in France will be visible to that restrictive website. Since VPN’s perform more extensive security features, the bandwidth loads also increase. This could mean increased computer processing power would be required on your end to prevent data transmission lags. VPN services that use superior protocols are preferred for increased bandwidth issues.