Proxy vs VPN — How are They Different?

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Raj Vardhman
Written by
Raj Vardhman

Updated · Feb 21, 2024

Raj Vardhman
Chief Strategist, Techjury | Project Engineer, WP-Stack | Joined January 2023 | Twitter LinkedIn
Raj Vardhman

Raj Vardhman is a tech expert and the Chief Tech Strategist at, where he leads the rese... | See full bio

Teodora Dobrilova
Edited by
Teodora Dobrilova


Teodora Dobrilova
Editor-in-chief, Social Media And Digital Marketing Expert | Joined October 2021
Teodora Dobrilova

After getting a master's degree in Literature, Publishing, and Mass Media, Teodora spent most of her... | See full bio

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In 2020, it was reported that 31% of internet users use VPNs. A global survey also found that 7 out of 10 respondents have taken measures to secure their online privacy.

This increasing demand for online privacy tools can be attributed to the growing concern about online privacy.

Some are even thinking that achieving complete privacy is close to impossible nowadays.

Out of the most popular solutions, VPNs are best known for protecting users’ internet privacy, though proxies can also achieve the same results.

Deciding which one to use can be challenging without knowing their key differences.

In this article, you will learn the differences between proxies and VPNs to help you decide which is best based on your specific use case.

Read to find out more.

🔑Key Takeaways

  • Proxies and VPNs share the same function — rerouting users’ traffic and hiding their IPs.
  • The main difference between VPNs and proxies is VPN connections are encrypted while proxy connections are not.
  • VPNs perform better overall in terms of privacy and security, but deciding which to choose depends on specific use cases.

Proxy Servers and VPNs: What Are They?

VPNs and proxies share the same function – they are both used to hide users’ IP addresses by rerouting traffic to a mediating server.

Here’s a quick description of what VPNs and proxies are:



A virtual private network makes a secure connection between a client and a host server.

This is done by rerouting client requests to the VPN server through an encrypted tunnel.

Proxies are substitute IP addresses hosted on proxy servers.

The user’s client assumes the given proxy IP by rerouting traffic to a proxy server.

In essence, VPNs and proxies have the same purpose, although they are doing it differently.

The following sections will provide an in-depth presentation of VPNs and proxies.

Understanding What a VPN Is

As mentioned, VPNs or Virtual Private Networks, offer a secure connection through an encrypted tunnel – this is, in fact, the main difference between VPN and proxy.

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Let’s start by understanding how VPNs work.

How VPNs Work

Most VPN providers require users to install an application to use their service. VPNs can also work as browser extensions.

Once installed, the VPN app works to encrypt the device’s internet traffic, then reroutes them to the VPN server.

This process usually occurs at the operating system's level (except for browser extensions). It means the device’s incoming and outgoing traffic is encrypted/rerouted to the VPN server. 

As a result, even the ISPs (Internet Service Providers) will not be able to track and read VPN users’ online activities.

However, ISPs still know if a client is using VPN as they can see the traffic is being routed to a VPN server.

Key Reminder

The benefits of VPN use are mainly attributed to paid VPN providers. It is not recommended to use free VPNs as they are usually very slow for having so many users or poor infrastructure.

Running VPN servers is expensive. Free VPN providers may also generate revenue by selling their users’ information which defeats the purpose of using VPNs for privacy.

VPN Pros and Cons

Strong encryption is VPN’s main advantage, but it also has its drawbacks.

Here is a quick rundown of the pros and cons of VPNs:



  • Strong encryption with an industry standard of 256-bit.

  • Covers all traffic at the level of the OS.

  • Value for privacy as most paid VPN providers enforce a ‘no log policy.’ It means all users’ traffic data are not being saved.

  • A variety of advanced features from paid VPN providers
  • Generally slower than proxies due to the encryption.

  • Subscriptions generally cost more than proxies, so VPNs may not be suitable for one-time uses.

When To Use a VPN

VPNs are great, but it does not mean that everyone needs them. Here are some of the everyday use cases that you should consider:

Securing Connection to Public Places

Full web traffic encryption prevents man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks and any form of data interception.

VPNs are the best option for anyone who usually connects to open networks such as public wifi hotspots.

Circumventing Georestrictions of Online Content

Most VPN providers offer location targeting, letting users choose a corresponding server for a given location.

This allows users to access exclusive regional content on streaming sites or localized websites.


Keep in mind that circumventing geo-restrictions may violate user agreements with content providers. It may also present some legal issues as content carriers and copyright holders usually agree on these restrictions.

Overcoming Browsing Restrictions on Establishments

Browsing restrictions are often applied within internal networks such as in libraries, schools, and workplaces.

These restrictions usually work by blocklisting certain sites either through a DNS server or a proxy server.

VPNs can circumvent these restrictions by rerouting the requests to the VPN server before passing them to the actual target website.

Who Is It Good For?

VPNs are good for anyone who consistently wants a private and secure connection in most online activities. This is mainly due to VPNs’ system-wide application and subscription prices.

Now, let’s to defining what proxies are.

Defining Proxy

Proxies are essentially substituting IP addresses. By rerouting traffic to a proxy server, a device client also adopts a specific proxy IP instead of its default one.

Proxy configurations are usually done at an application or web browser level. System-wide proxy configuration is also possible on most popular operations systems such as Windows, MacOS, and Linux.

👍 Helpful Article: Try checking out Techjury’s articles on configuring proxy settings on Windows, setting up a proxy on Google Chrome, or even setting up your proxy server.

Types of Proxies

Here is a table of the different types of proxies and their uses:

Proxy Type


HTTP Proxies

One of the most common types of proxy as it mainly deals with website connection requests.

SOCKS Proxies

A versatile proxy that can handle multiple types of connections such as web requests, file downloads, and more. It is also known to be more secure than the other type of proxies.

Forward Proxies

Proxies that reroute traffic from client devices to proxy servers before reaching the target site.

Reverse Proxies

These proxies intercept traffic coming from client devices to prevent them from directly reaching the host server’s internal network.

Data Center Proxies

These are proxies hosted in data centers. They are incredibly fast due to most data centers’ advanced infrastructure.

Residential Proxies

ISP-distributed IP addresses to actual devices. Residential proxy IPs are usually owned by real users and are contracted by proxy providers to be rented to their customers.

Private Proxies

Exclusive proxies leased by proxy providers. If you buy or lease a private proxy, no one is using it but you.

Shared Proxies

These proxies are shared by many users.

Fresh Proxies

Proxy IP addresses that have gone through a cooldown period to ensure that they will work on the most sensitive websites.

Transparent Proxies

Parents and employers usually use these proxy servers. A transparent proxy setup reroutes all traffic from an internal network to a dedicated proxy server. It monitors all traffic while also restricting access to certain websites.

Proxy Use Cases

Proxies are the lighter versions of VPNs. Proxies are generally cheaper than VPNs, so they are best used for tasks that require multiple IP addresses.

To give you an idea, here are just some of the common use cases of proxies:

Circumvent Geo-restrictions

Proxies do the same function as VPNs in spoofing an IP location to circumvent regional restrictions online.

The only difference is proxies do this without the added security of high-level encryption.

Web Scraping and Crawling

Websites prefer to keep their data private, so they usually block IP addresses sending too many web requests at a given time.

This is where proxies come into use. Lists of proxies can be collected to do “IP rotation” to avoid being blocked while scraping data from sites.

👍 Helpful Article:  Web scraping has been a common data collection practice for many businesses. To learn more, you can read through the other related Techjury articles, such as: 

Managing Multiple User Accounts

Managing multiple accounts on a single device is also made possible by the use of proxies.

Proxy management tools can be configured to handle simultaneous connections using different proxy addresses.

This setup will allow users to manage multiple accounts on highly sensitive websites that use anti-bot measures.

Who Is It Good For?

Due to their cheaper price, proxies are best for those who only need one-time connections to hide their IPs. On the other hand, proxies are also best for those performing large-scale data collection projects such as web scraping and crawling.

Differences Between Proxies and VPNs

To help you more in deciding which one to use (VPNs or proxies), let’s make comparisons based on some important criteria: 

Encryption and Security

As mentioned, VPN connections are encrypted, but proxies are not. Proxies can only hide your IP, but the rest of the traffic data remains the same.

On the other hand, VPN encryptions can be as complex as 246-bit. VPN providers also offer various encryption systems.


VPNs and proxies offer the same anonymizing factor, hiding users’ IP addresses.

As long as the browser does not save or leak any user data (such as cookies), anyone can be anonymous using either of the solutions.

However, an encrypted connection is still preferable to maintain privacy and security.


VPNs usually affect the device’s whole system, while proxies only reroute traffic for a specific app or software.

You can also opt to limit the VPN’s scope to a single browser by using only the browser extension version of a given VPN service. This is the same with proxies, as you can also configure them to work for the whole operating system.


Without encryption, proxies are generally faster than VPNs. However, speed also depends on other factors, such as the quality of the VPN or proxy servers, and the location of the target host servers.


VPNs are generally easier to use as it only involves the installation of a given VPN application. On the other hand, proxies need manual configuration, either at the level of the operating system or a specific application.


VPNs are pricier than proxies. In the case of proxies, you can opt to lease only a certain number of proxy IPs. With VPNs, subscriptions come with many features that add to the service price.


Both VPNs and proxies are legal in most countries, but how you will use them is a different matter.

For example, if you use a VPN or a proxy to circumvent geo-restrictions on certain websites, you are likely violating the platform's Terms of Use.

Agreements to these terms can be binding under any jurisdiction’s “Contract Law.”

The use of VPNs and proxies in downloading copyrighted content or scraping personal data may also violate copyright and privacy laws such as the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in the US.

📝 Note: There was never a lawsuit against proxy or VPN use, except for large-scale web scrapers who were most likely using proxies. Examples of these cases are eBay v. Bidder’s Edge and hiQ Labs v. LinkedIn.

Proxy or VPN: Which One is Better?

VPNs score more on the important criteria, but it does not mean it is always the better option.

Deciding on which one to use ultimately depends on the specific use case you’re aiming for.

You can get the most out of these solutions so long as you stay mindful of the information given in this article. Choosing the right solution based on your needs will save you valuable time and money.


Is DNS and VPN the same?

No. DNS (Domain Name System) servers handle DNS queries so browsers can get the right IP address when accessing a website. On the other hand, VPN reroutes and encrypts a device’s traffic to hide its web activities.

Can I use VPN and proxy together?

Yes, you can use a proxy with VPN, but it’s not recommended.  Using one on top of the other will only slow your connection unreasonably. Using a VPN or proxy for a single connection is better.

Is proxy cheaper than VPN?

Yes. VPN subscriptions come with a lot of features that contribute to their price. On the other hand, you can opt to only buy a certain number of proxies based on your needs.

Can you make your own VPN?

Yes. You can use open-source software such as OpenVPN to create your VPN server. However, it is not very practical if you are the only one connecting to your VPN and it is fixed on a single location.


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