Have you heard about proxy and/or VPN but you did not understand what is the difference between the two terms? Here we will explain what is the difference between proxy and VPN.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PROXY AND VPN?
WHAT IS A PROXY?
A proxy server, commonly known as only proxy, is nothing more than a particular computer of a computer network that acts as an intermediary for the communications that pass through it. In other words, a proxy is a special computer that conveys the output data, typically to the Internet, and at the same time delivers the incoming data to the target client.
The proxies have been used in the company for several years with the sole purpose of filtering and verifying the traffic to the Internet that was generated by its employees. The proxy servers were in fact the only access port from the corporate network to the outside, allowing it to impose limits on the traffic passing through it. For example, proxies blocked P2P communications, the use of applications other than normal browsers or email clients, or filtered traffic by preventing access to certain Internet sites that risked damaging the productivity of their employees.
Today the controls on the online activities carried out by users are somewhat diminished, both because of the practical difficulties in implementation and because of the growing need to use the Internet in the daily activities of companies. However, proxying technologies have remained for various uses such as:
- provide anonymity when browsing the Internet (via, for example, the Tor system );
- storing a local copy of the requested web objects so that they can be re-supplied without making any other access to the destination servers;
- create a sort of barrier to defend the Web, acting as a filter for incoming and outgoing connections, as well as monitoring, controlling and modifying internal traffic.
WHAT IS A VPN?
A VPN (acronym for virtual private network) is a method of establishing an encrypted communication and secure channel between two nodes that are on the Internet. But what is a VPN for? Firstly, a VPN is the best solution to create secure connections between computers and local networks. A VPN, in fact, can put in direct communication between two devices, a device and a network, or even two networks, both in business and in the home. If the quality of the Internet connection allows it, a VPN could also integrate the local networks of two offices or two houses, so as to share the resources present within them.
However, a VPN can also be useful for other purposes, especially if you rely on a commercial level infrastructure. There are in fact several commercial services that make available their servers to establish secure connections, thus increasing the level of privacy of those who use them, thanks to the fact that external servers will never know the real address and the real geographical position of the client but only that of the exit point on the Internet. This aspect translates into a further very important advantage: using servers located in other areas of the world, you can in fact easily circumvent the geographical limitations imposed by the various sites and/or services on the Web, representing, therefore, a problem of no little account for all those sites and services that offer it streaming multimedia content, such as Netflix or Spotify, to podcasting online content offered by many television networks.
Finally, a VPN can also be useful to ensure greater security when you are having to use a public network, just like that, for example, a local, an airport or a hotel. By establishing a VPN connection in these situations, one can in fact also connect to the most sensitive services, such as those of home banking or e-commerce, without risking that their personal information can be intercepted by malicious people. In any case, we must not forget that the privacy, anonymity and security offered are in the hands of the VPN provider, who would have all the tools to analyze traffic, associate users and activities carried out online, and keep log details, providing them, if necessary, to those in charge.
Both proxies and VPNs are therefore essential elements that provide privacy and security in online communications, even if they do so differently. A proxy, in fact, only provides a different IP address but does not encrypt your connection, with the consequence that your data can still be intercepted and therefore read. A VPN, however, encrypts its own connection and also provides a different IP address, thus providing an even better level of security. In any case, it should not be forgotten that nothing is enough to compromise all the precautions taken using any of these methods. The browser, for example, can reveal the identity of a user due to the particular combination of hardware and software parameters that communicate to all the web servers, that is the so-called device fingerprint, which can also be associated with the user’s identity if this performs some revealing action during the browsing session. Arrived at this point, however, you should finally have realized that there is a difference between proxy and VPN.