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Proxy Vs VPN: Which Really Gives You More Privacy?

The need for online privacy solutions is on the rise as more people realize how vulnerable they are on the Internet. Proxies and VPNs are two of the most commonly suggested privacy solutions, but they are often confused with being the same. The reality is that VPNs and proxies have more differences than similarities, and this proxy vs. VPN comparison will set things straight.

Proxy vs VPN: How they work

Proxy and VPNs are very similar in how they work, and this is mostly where the confusion comes from. Both technologies make use of servers that act as an intermediary between your computer and a web server. All your connection requests go through a server (a proxy or a VPN server) which in turn will pass your requests on to the destination web server. When the web server responds, the data goes through the proxy or VPN server first before finally reaching your computer.

What the servers do to your requests depend on whether you’re using a proxy server or a VPN server. We’ll discuss the differences in the next section.

Both solutions are similar in the aspect of masking your real IP address. Both VPNs and proxy servers allow users to obtain a different IP address from a different location, effectively allowing users to bypass geographic restrictions.

Users looking to get around censorship or geo-blocking can use either solution in most cases. However, we highly recommend that you use one of these geo-unblocking VPNs for reasons we will cite below.

Proxy vs VPN differences: Encryption

The main characteristic that sets VPNs apart is that it obfuscates the network. When you connect to a VPN server, it does more than mask your IP address; it also encrypts all your data packets. The best VPN providers use heavy encryption standards, such as those used by the military and the government: AES 256-bit encryption.

Essentially, this enables VPN users to evade hackers, spies, and data brokers who can’t see the user’s online activities. If you’re a VPN user, websites detect and log the VPN server’s IP address instead of your real IP address. Because of encryption, sites can’t trace that IP address back to you. Here’s a quick video on how a VPN works.

Proxies do not encrypt data. Because of this, they are better suited for people who are not really after Internet security and are only looking to bypass geographical restrictions. Even then, they don’t work effectively as proxies, especially the free ones, get picked off so easily by websites that want to stop people from bypassing geo-blocks.

People who are serious about online privacy, security, and connection reliability, should use VPNs.

Proxy vs VPN differences: Speed

The side effect of heavy encryption is that it slows down connection speed. Heavier encryption affects connection speed more. It takes time to encrypt network traffic, but other factors come into play as well:

  • ISP speed
  • VPN server location
  • VPN protocol
  • VPN bandwidth

It’s difficult to establish that proxies are indeed faster than VPNs. For one, your connection speed will also depend on the number of users connected to the same proxy server at a given time. Speed is a major issue when using free proxies since there are hundreds (even thousands) of users simultaneously connecting to a single proxy server.

It is safe to say then that speed is a major concern for both VPNs and proxies. With VPNs, any slowdown is justifiable because of their encryption process. This doesn’t mean that all VPNs will slow down your connection. We tested many VPN providers, and we were able to find the fastest VPNs.

Proxy vs VPN differences: Setup

Using a VPN is simple: install the VPN client that’s compatible with your device, then turn on the VPN. There’s usually no more need to change anything on your device, unless you’re installing the VPN directly on the router.

With a proxy, and depending on the proxy type, you need to make some configuration changes on your browser or device. Also, not all devices support proxy configuration natively.

Then there are issues like what is displayed above. Proxies can be very buggy, especially free ones.

Proxy vs VPN differences: Pricing

There are free proxies just as there are free VPNs. However, they aren’t recommended because of speed and security issues.

When it comes to paid plans, VPNs are considered cheaper since you get to access any VPN server in any country for as low as under $3 per month. Take a look at the pricing plan of IPVanish, one of the top VPN providers:

IPVanish price

On the other hand, most proxy providers let you choose only one location and will give you access only to a limited number of proxy servers in their pricing plans. Proxy providers have different pricing strategies, but basic plans with one server location and an average of five proxy servers cost around $60 to $80 per year.

More Privacy with VPN

While your IP address is masked with a different one when you use proxies, it doesn’t mean that you can’t be traced. Remember: proxy servers are only intermediaries between you and another web server.


Your network traffic isn’t encrypted so anyone with the right tools can detect that you’re using a proxy and track you. In fact, proxies are quite easy to catch, which is why websites can easily block users suspected of using proxies. Aside from bypassing geo-blocks, proxies are usually used for SEO activities, like data scraping, competitor research, and link building.

On the other hand, VPNs are more associated with security and privacy because of the encryption that comes with them. People who want to hide their identities while streaming, torrenting, or bypassing geo-blocks prefer to use a VPN. They know that their online activities can’t be traced back to them. Here are the top 3 VPN providers, as ranked by the experts here at BVP:

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