The main purpose of using both proxies and VPN services is to hide the IP Address of the users or to prevent tracking bodies and individuals from identifying their location. For example, this may even be used to access certain sites that are not otherwise accessible in the user's country. A lot of VPN providers also provide proxy services apart from providing VPN services. You can also use many public proxy servers at little to no charge.
A question that has probably occurred to many individuals who has set out to use a proxy or a VPN is this: what is the difference between them? They do, in fact, perform very similar functions. However, the difference comes in as far as the processes that are involved and the consequences that are to be endured.
A proxy server can be any computer that serves as the intermediary between the Internet and the guest computer. This means that any traffic that is routed through this intermediary computer will appear to be coming from the IP address of this proxy server, and not the actual guest computer. One way in which proxy servers differ from VPN servers is that the former do not need to devote additional resources in order to encrypt the traffic that has to pass through these servers. This means that proxy servers use less resources the VPN servers to fulfill its functions and readily accept simultaneous connections from a larger number of users. This number can go up to tens of thousands of users.
SOCKS proxy servers don't interpret the network traffic, which means that they are more flexible. However, this also means that they will usually have to deal with more Internet traffic, which is likely to slow them down. This is the biggest advantage of SOCKS servers; they support all Internet traffic, including the use of torrents. It also leads to the biggest disadvantage, which is the slow performance. Like web proxies, each software component has to be individually configured, and it also has security issues, just like HTTP. Individuals who only want to hide their identity to download BitTorrents can use a SOCKS proxy server together with an SSL connection.
Proxy servers can deal with a lot of connections at the same time, so a lot of public proxy servers are now available. They are usually very unstable, and may stop working without any warning. In addition to this, one cannot rely on them for providing a stable speed. It is also always a risk trusting owners of these public proxy servers with one's sensitive information.
To use private proxy networks, one usually has to pay a fee. They are reliable and provide support to their customers. In addition to this, these servers also offer customized software.
Web proxies are also available, which let users surf the Internet from their regular browsers anonymously, without having to download or install additional software or configure their devices.
The term VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. This creates an encrypted tunnel of sorts between the guest computer and host server. All online traffic is routed through the host server. The governing authority or the ISP will only be able to see that the individual has connected onto a VPN server. However, nothing else will be visible inside the VPN network. This means that any monitoring body will not be able to keep track of the individual's activities or the IP addresses that he or she may be using. All such information is completely concealed from monitoring bodies with at least a 128-bit (usually 256-bit) encryption.
Most VPN providers log certain users' activities (IP address assigned and time of connection) for at least 30-days. This is why most people who have even a basic awareness of VPNs are often looking for VPN servers that do not keep any logs. If, however, a VPN server or provider is keeping logs, then the individual's activities can be revealed to a certain extent when required by government agencies with a warrant.
In order to set up a VPN, one does usually have to download or install a VPN client. Also, users will have to configure the mobile device or computer through which browsing is to be carried out. However, this should not serve as deterrent to those looking for such services, since only very basic computing skills and awareness is needed. Most Virtual Private Network providers also provide consumers with step-by-step manuals that contain all the details needed by users. Although some people might be a little reluctant initially to go through the process of setting up the VPN network, it also provides the assurance that all Internet activity is now going be safely routed through this VPN.
The only possible downside to using VPN servers is that they may appear to be a little expensive. Furthermore, the encryption process also taxes VPN servers. This means that if a server is facing a lot of heavy traffic, it may slow down your connectivity to the Internet.