You might have heard or read about proxies and VPNs since you are frequently browsing the internet. However, are you familiar with these terms? Both proxy and VPN provide service to computer users by re-routing internet traffic and changing IP addresses. Its main purpose is to let people browse the internet anonymously so that their device fingerprints are safe. Though, these two are slightly different in terms of function.
Proxy is similar to a web filter with the purpose of assisting the proxy server to form a bridge between the user’s computer and the internet. Any traffic routed through the proxy server will appear to come from its IP address, not your computer. The bridge formed by proxy server carries the user’s request through the path and routes the traffic as requested. Note that its settings are applied to internet browsers, whether you are using MSIE, Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Internet Explorer, etc. When you browse the internet using a proxy server, all benefits with that server are used that includes security, speed, and geographic location. Since your IP address has been concealed, you can now access all web pages. Proxy servers don’t use any kind of encryption to secure all traffic that passes through them and will only secure traffic via the internet browser using the proxy server settings. Thus, it can accept simultaneous connections from several sources. Proxy servers communicate with the internet using 2 different protocols: HTTP or SOCKS.
On the other hand, VPN (which stands for Virtual Private Network) is a much more sophisticated tool. It will not only use all benefits of the VPN servers, such as speed, geographic location, and security but also promotes user security and anonymity. It constructs a secure tunnel using army-graded protocol, such as PPTP, L2TP, SSTP, and OpenVPN, between user’s computer and the target server. It also uses high-level encryption to encrypt all of your traffic, replacing user’s ISP and routing all traffic through the VPN server including all programs and applications. Using this method, only the designated website can decode the communication, where security tunnel only allows encrypted traffic to pass through it. The VPN can be easily connected and/or disconnected with a simple click of a button.
In conclusion, a proxy server is completely based on user’s browsers and may not be compatible with certain web pages that use non-browser technology. While the VPN will work with all internet based services, but will offer less choice on which applications will be able to run through your ISP and everything is routed through the VPN server when connected.