The Difference Between Proxies and VPNs

If you live in a smaller country which does not have access to Netflix, Hulu or Spotify, then chances are you’ve used a proxy or a VPN in order to access blocked content in the past. If you haven’t then you should know that both a proxy and a VPN fulfill the same roles: they both can be used to either mask your identity or spoof your online location, so that you can access restricted content.

However, even though they fulfill the same role, they are very different, as they both have pros and cons to them. It doesn’t help either that there are multiple kinds of proxies, thus making it very hard to choose what to use, but in this article we will go over the pros and cons of both proxies and VPNs, and we will also go over the various kinds of proxies available.


A proxy is a computer which acts as an intermediary between your device and the Internet. As long as you’re running a proxy, Internet traffic will have the proxy computer’s IP address and not yours. This means that you can easily spoof your location using a proxy. There are public proxies, to which many computers can connect, and private proxies, which are recommended.

Public proxies are fairly unreliable, as their public nature means that they often go offline without notice, their speeds are extremely slow at times, and you have to trust their owners with your information. Web proxies are a type of public proxy which does not require you to download anything. You can find them easily through a Google search, but be ready, as most will shove ads down your throat and will stop working as soon as you encounter a complex website.

Private proxies, on the other hand, are very reliable. However, they come with a fee, and most of the times, they aren’t cheap at all. However, if you plan on using a proxy a lot, and you don’t like the idea of others connecting to the same proxy as you, then it might be worth making the investment, as a private proxy will not only offer great service, but also amazing speeds.

Now that you know the difference between public and private proxies, it’s time to analyze the difference between HTTP and SOCKS proxies.

HTTP proxies are only good for web surfing, as they can only interpret traffic on the HTTP level, hence their name. If all you’re planning to do is watch some Hulu or listen to Spotify, then perhaps an HTTP proxy would suffice. These are often times very cheap or even free, but with some clever use of Flash or Javascript, websites can detect your real IP and render the proxy useless.

SOCKS proxies are usually slower than HTTP proxies, but they can interpret all types of Internet traffic. Therefore, with a SOCKS proxy, you can use torrent files safely and, for instance, use IRC chats anonymously.


VPN stands for Virtual Private Network, and as long as you are connected to one, everyone else, including your ISP or the government, can only see that you are connected to the VPN, and nothing else. This way, you are fully protected while online, and you can do all sorts of shady things, even though that is not advised, as if the VPN provider keeps logs of your activity, the authorities can get their hands on them.

A VPN requires to be downloaded and set up manually most of the time, but the effort required is minimal. They make up for this with their amazing encryption, as your identity is secure while using them. They can also spoof your location, just like proxies can. Unlike HTTP proxies, VPNs cover all your Internet activity.

VPNs, however, are generally more expensive than proxies, but there are some free or trial ones available on the Internet.

Warning! Do NOT download Hola VPN! Their Google Chrome extension, which is the most popular one, is always running in the background unless disabled, and it uses your computer as a server, which means that if someone connects to your IP and does illegal stuff, you will be the one having to explain it to the authorities.