What’s the difference between a proxy and a VPN?

You have probably experienced it: access to many sites is impossible to reach. To fix this, you can use a ssl proxy or VPN. However, one of the two goes further than the other. But what is the difference between the two?

Hide the user’s IP address

There are a few points where these two types of service meet. The common point between proxy and VPN is that they are both doomed to hide the IP of the user.

Let’s take a practical example. You want to connect to a site whose access is prohibited in your country. But now, you are denied access. How does this work in practice?

IP addresses are composed of four sets of numbers, and reveal information such as:

  • the network used;
  • imprecise geolocation information that may indicate the name of the country or city;
  • the operator to which you are connected.

In the first place, most of operators operate according to what are called DNS, i.e. global directories. When you type “domain.com”, they go to these directories in order to convert this mention into an IP address. However, some operators have lists of IP addresses in these DNS that must be blocked – this is the case of several illegal download sites, revisionist sites, etc. Assuming your carrier hasn’t blocked access, a site like “Domain” can itself analyze your IP address.

If you go through a proxy server or a VPN, it will serve as a gateway: the request that is sent to domain.com will go through another IP than yours. This allows you to trick the server into thinking domain.com that you are connecting from the United States or another region where access is allowed.


A proxy server interposes itself between your computer and the server visited. It will not be able to know what your IP address is, it will only know the IP of the proxy server. If a large number of players want to access the server of a given game, using the same proxy server is convenient because all requests then pass through the same address, which will improve the efficiency of their processing. Moreover, as we have seen, if the server of a Kyoto-based video game normally refuses access to, for example, French players, a proxy, like provided by Privateproxy, may give it the impression that they are connecting from Japan.

On the other hand, a proxy does not hide the activity you have on the web. In other words, if you manage, via a proxy, to access the site not accessible from the France, it would be possible to spyware detect your activity.


A VPN complements and extends the services of a proxy. Its role is to hide your entire activity from the outside world. The term itself VPN, Virtual Private Network, specifies what it is: the VPN creates a kind of private and secure virtual tunnel, which isolates the exchanges between your computer and the server consulted.

A paid VPN service offers dozens of different IP addresses, with various locations: Chicago, Madrid, Shanghai, etc. When you connect to the VPN, your information is routed through one of these servers. The visited site does not know what your IP is and does not know where you are connecting from, it does have the impression that you are actually connecting from Chicago, Madrid, Shanghai, etc. And since the VPN encrypts the data exchanged, if someone wanted to spy on your activity on the web, they wouldn’t be able to analyze anything about it.

What do proxies and VPNs have in common?

  • They hide your IP address on Internet.
  • They are compatible with the streaming and game consoles.
  • They tend to slow down computer activity.

What makes proxies different from VPNs?

Proxies can monitor your activity

There are many free proxy solutions. The downside is that it’s not uncommon for proxy services to monitor your activity and be able to sell it to marketing companies – that’s their way of making their service profitable. Conversely, VPNs, insofar as they encrypt your activity, allow a totally discreet and anonymous browsing.

VPNs are usually paid

It is possible to use a free VPN, but these are usually limited. For example, a large number of antivirus integrate a VPN function, but it will have various restrictions like the volume of data exchanged via this service. Similarly, the Opera browser offers a free VPN service, but it is itself limited to a small number of locations.

The problem, if you go through a free VPN is that they only offer a small number of substitute IP addresses. It is therefore relatively easy for companies such as Netflix or Disney to detect those particular IP addresses and blacklist them.

If you want to have a very large number of IP addresses and therefore be able to browse sites such as those mentioned above, it is better to go through  paid services.

VPNs work on multiple servers

A proxy usually works for access to a single server. A VPN will work on all kinds of sites and apps. There are, however, services such as Privateproxy that offer access to millions of IP addresses but, of course, this particular proxy service is paid.

Encrypting Web Activity

As we have seen above: the essential difference lies in the encryption (encryption) of your data. VPNs don’t just hide your IP address, they hide all your activity. To take an example, with a proxy, whoever would seek to spy on your activity could know which sites you visited. If this factor of discretion is essential, the use of a VPN is essential.

In short

VPNs and proxies are complementary services, which make sure to hide your IP from the server consulted. However, a VPN has the advantage of encrypting all your activity and therefore protecting you from any indiscretion, and it can work on all kinds of sites. Remember that it will be necessary, most of the time, to afford a monthly subscription to make the most of such a service.

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