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What’s the Difference Between Proxy and VPN Services?

Proxy vs VPN

What’s the difference between proxy and VPN services, actually?

Whenever you look up the benefits of these services, they just make proxies and VPNs seem very familiar, which can be confusing.

Well, here’s all you need to know about the proxy vs. VPN debate:

What’s the Main Difference Between Proxy and VPN Services?

Here’s a quick look at what both services are, and how they work:

Proxy Server

A proxy server is either a device or an app that helps you hide your IP address.

The proxy intercepts your connection requests, and forwards them to the web on your behalf.

Also, the server can cache web pages locally, resulting in faster load speeds when users request them.


A VPN is an online service that helps you hide your IP address and encrypt your Internet traffic.

VPN servers hide your IP address, and they establish an encrypted tunnel with the VPN client when you initiate a connection.

Any traffic that passes through that tunnel can’t be decrypted by anyone. Only thee server and client can do it.

Proxy vs. VPN – Pros and Cons

Since both service hide IP addresses, people often ask us – are VPN and proxy the same thing?

Not at all.

Sure, they might help you achieve relatively similar goals, but they both have their own distinct benefits and disadvantages:


Proxy Servers

  • Pretty easy to use.
  • You might get better speeds.
  • Local caching delivers faster load times.
  • Online proxies let you unblock web pages very fast (just copy-paste the URL on the proxy website).


  • VPNs are better at unblocking geo-restricted content because they’re harder to block.
  • VPNs encrypt your traffic and data, making sure nobody can see it.
  • Compared to proxies, VPNs offer much better Internet privacy.
  • VPNs can offer additional features like DNS leak protection, port forwarding, and Kill Switches.


Proxy Servers

  • Don’t offer encryption
  • Some content. providers can block them.
  • Servers (especially the free ones) get overcrowded fast.
  • Can’t protect your privacy as well as VPNs.
  • Cached content doesn’t include live services, and might not be up-to-date.


  • Might slow down your speeds more than a proxy due to distance from the server and use of encryption.
  • Doesn’t have a local cache ability.
  • Unblocking a web page on the spot with just a click isn’t really possible with a VPN. You need to download and install the client,  and connect to a server first.

What About SOCKS5 Proxy vs. VPN?

SOCKS (Socket Secure) is a protocol proxy servers use to establish and run connections. SOCKS5 is supposed to be a more advanced version of the protocol, so that’d mean SOCKS5 proxies are as good (if not better) than VPNs, right?

Not at all.

What SOCKS5 does different is allow proxy servers to support IPv6 addresses and the UDP protocol. Other than that, it’s nothing special. SOCKS5 proxies still don’t use encryption, so they’re not as secure as VPNs.

What’s more, only specific applications can use the SOCKS5 protocol (like torrent apps or some browsers), so you’ve got less flexibility than you do with VPNs.

VPN or Proxy Services – Which Ones Should You Use and When?

Many of our users asked us multiple questions about which situations VPN and proxy services are better suited for. So, we compiled a list to answer all the questions right here.

Proxy vs. VPN for Security

Since proxy servers don’t offer the same level of encryption as VPNs, it goes without saying that they’re not as suitable for securing online data.

VPNs can actually provide military-grade encryption, making sure nobody (not hackers, not advertisers, not even the government) can monitor your Internet data. And that’s true even if you use an unsecured public WiFi network.

While it is possible to configure some proxy servers to encrypt web requests, it’s still not enough to compete with a VPN in terms of privacy.

The only benefit proxy servers offer in this regard is the ability to filter out malicious websites. However, you can enjoy a similar level of security (and more) by just using a VPN alongside antivirus/antimalware programs.

Proxy vs. VPN for Privacy

Since a VPN offers end-to-end encryption, it’s a much better way to protect your online privacy.

Protect Online Privacy

After all, without encryption, a proxy server can’t help you:

  • Prevent your ISP from spying on your browsing history to sell it to advertisers.
  • Stop advertisers from tracking your online movements, and crafting targeted ads based on that info.
  • Keep government surveillance agencies and cybercriminals from monitoring what you do on the web.
  • Prevent ISPs from throttling your bandwidth.

What’s more, if you use a HTTP proxy, there’s a good chance the proxy server owner might be able to monitor your traffic.

Oh, and since VPNs can offer advanced privacy features like Kill Switches, you’ll be able to make sure you’re always safe – even if your connection goes down.

VPN vs. Proxy for Torrenting

Both services hide your IP address, so you won’t need to worry about other members of the Swarm (the total number of seeders and leechers) seeing it. But only a VPN properly encrypts your traffic to keep your torrenting activities a secret.

Don’t get us wrong – you’ll have no problem downloading torrents if you use a proxy server. But you’ll have to deal with exposed web traffic if you do that.

If you live in a country where torrenting is a sensitive legal topic, your ISP might report you to the authorities or copyright agencies, or terminate your service if they catch you doing that.

VPN vs. Proxy Server for Unblocking and Streaming Content

Usually, both services work pretty well if you need to bypass geo-blocks or firewalls since they do an equally great job of hiding your geo-location.

What Is Geo Blocking & How Can You Bypass Geo Restrictions?

But VPNs seem to be a much better and safer choice, and that’s not only because they encrypt your traffic. It’s also because content providers are becoming more and more adept at blocking proxy services – like Netflix, for example. Providers target VPNs too, but aren’t as successful at blocking them.

On the other hand, a proxy server might offer you better speeds, something which we’ll discuss at the next point.

Proxy vs. VPN for Speed

Since proxies don’t use powerful encryption, they might offer better speeds than a VPN. Also, their local caching ability allows proxy servers to load web pages much faster. Of course, you should keep in mind that local caching means you can’t get live services (like a social media feed) or up-to-date info.

Your operating system might also work a bit faster with a proxy since it’s usually less resource-intensive than VPNs.

That’s not to say VPNs will only deliver slow speeds. In fact, you stand to get pretty decent speeds with lightweight protocols like IKEv2 and SoftEther.

However, VPN encryption can get in the way if you use a protocol that’s too “heavy” (like OpenVPN), if your CPU can’t handle the encryption/decryption process, or if you’re too far away from the VPN server. Besides that, there are also other factors at play when it comes to VPN speeds.

Another thing you should keep in mind is that proxy servers might not deliver decent speeds if they’re overcrowded. That’s usually the case with free proxies.

Proxy vs. VPN for Ease of Access

VPNs are normally pretty simple to use – especially if the provider developed a user-friendly client. Still, if you need to manually configure a connection (if you use SoftEther, for example), and don’t have any tech-related experience, you might find it difficult.

Using a proxy server is normally hassle-free. Most of the time, you just need to copy the URL of the web page you want to unblock on a proxy’s website, and you’ll get direct access. If you need to manually set up connections and change servers, though, things might get a tad more difficult.

In this case, both options are good, but proxy servers might work better if you need a very fast and easy way to unblock a specific website on the spot.

VPN vs. Proxy Server for Gaming

Both services hide your IP address, so they are equally efficient when it comes to:

  • Accessing banned or geo-blocked games.
  • Bypassing region locks on your consoles.
  • Bypassing unfair IP bans.
  • Staying safe from DoS/DDoS attacks.

A VPN might be a better option if you’re afraid your ISP is throttling your bandwidth because you use up “too much data” whenever you play online with your friends. A proxy can’t offer something like that because it doesn’t use strong encryption.

On the other hand, if you’re very worried that slow speeds will ruin your online matches, a proxy server might work well because it doesn’t impact your online speeds as much as VPNs do.

Overall, it’s up to you which type of service would work best in this case.

VPN vs. Proxy Server for Bypassing Firewalls

Both services work well in this case since they both hide your IP address. Doing that is enough to get around a firewall – be it a government-enforced one, or a school/work network one.

Still, online proxies might not be as reliable as VPNs.


Because network admins can block the proxy websites, so you won’t have any way to access them. Well, you could use a VPN to unblock them, but at that point you might as well continue using it instead.

Can You Use a VPN and Proxy Together?

Contrary to popular belief, you can actually do that. Many people think using a VPN and proxy together will just result in them cancelling each other out. But that’s likely because they think the two services are similar or the same.

In reality, if you use both of them together, the VPN will likely intercept and route your proxy traffic through its encrypted tunnel.


So, you’d essentially get the experience of using a proxy server with the encryption of a VPN as an addition.

Of course, there is a pretty good chance that you’ll get slower speeds and performance that way.

If that concerns you, a good alternative is to not use the services simultaneously, but alternate between them. For example, you could connect to a proxy server to quickly retrieve a geo-restricted web page, shut it down, and then run a VPN connection to to download any files you need from there.

Still, instead of using two providers for both services, you should consider using a VPN provider whose VPN servers double as proxies. That way, you get to enjoy secure VPN servers and proxy features without having to pay for two different subscriptions.

Need a Reliable VPN Service?

We here at SmartyDNS offer high-speed VPN servers with military-grade 256 bit AES encryption and highly-secure VPN protocols (OpenVPN, SoftEther and IKEv2) and we adhere to a strict no-log policy.

Our VPN servers double as proxy servers and we also offer a Smart DNS service that lets you unblock 300+ worldwide geo-restricted websites.

We offer user-friendly VPN apps for Windows, Mac, iPhone/iPad, Android, and Fire TV/Stick and browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox.

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Proxy vs. VPN – The Bottom Line

So, what’s the difference between proxy and VPN services?

Pretty simple – while both of them hide your IP address, only a VPN uses end-to-end encryption to secure your traffic too. Also, a proxy server can locally cache web pages, something VPNs can’t do.

Both services have their pros and cons, and are suitable for specific situations. However, if you want to get the best online experience, you should use a VPN provider whose servers double as proxies. That way, you get access to all the perks.

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