VPN, Smart DNS, Proxies: The Good, The Not-so-Good and The Ugly
Those who are looking for some kind of security solution that would allow private and anonymous internet browsing activities, there are usually two tools that you would come across with: a VPN and a Proxy. There is also a third option which is called a Smart DNS proxy but it’s basically a reduced version of a VPN with the missing feature of encryption.
In terms of popularity though, VPN is the leading security solution service/ product today. Proxy is already past its prime. There was a certain point in time when users only had proxy servers to use in order to unblock geo-restrictions.
VPN services have somewhat catapulted into the scene and has saturated the market with better security and IP masking service offerings. While both VPN and proxies offer the same functions and purpose, they offer advantages against one another. To understand what each tool offers, let’s take a look at their definitions and their most notable differences.
Here are the respective definitions of both a Proxy and a VPN technology.
“In computer networks, a proxy server is a server (a computer system or an application) that acts as an intermediary for requests from clients seeking resources from other servers. A client connects to the proxy server, requesting some service, such as a file, connection, web page, or other resource available from a different server and the proxy server evaluates the request as a way to simplify and control its complexity.”– a definition from Wikipedia.
“A virtual private network (VPN) extends a private network across a public network, such as the Internet. It enables a computer or network-enabled device to send and receive data across shared or public networks as if it were directly connected to the private network, while benefiting from the functionality, security and management policies of the private network. A VPN is created by establishing a virtual point-to-point connection through the use of dedicated connections, virtual tunneling protocols, or traffic encryption.” – a definition from Wikipedia.
To summarize the broad definitions, a VPN is fundamentally the more sophisticated tool between the two technologies. A VPN facilitates both security and anonymity in any network connections. A proxy server on the other hand only offer IP masking features with no encryptions whatsoever, thus they are more prone to connection interferences.
Since proxies don’t make use of data encryption, they are therefore more vulnerable to cyber threats such as hacking, spying, data sniffing and identity theft. There is really no competition in security features between a VPN and a proxy service; VPN easily wins by a landslide.
VPN services make use of army-graded encryption systems up to 256-bit which offers high-level of security. Whenever you use a VPN, you are basically safeguarding all your communications and data from the open internet.
A VPN does not only hide you from the cyber space, but it also gives you freedom to access all the contents and websites you desire. Never will your privacy be intruded again, not even your Internet service provider can monitor your browsing activities. That’s how bigger and better VPN is compared to a proxy.
Most proxies were and are still being offered for free which is why many people are lured into using the said services. The problem with ‘free’ proxy services is that most of them are actually scams, data resellers and phishing sites. Once users fall into these ‘free proxy’ traps, their information could be compromised anytime.
There are also VPN services that are being offered for free but most of the reliable VPNs are subscription-based services. In order to get the most out of a VPN service, you must be willing to pay for the premium VPN packages. The average price of a monthly VPN plan ranges from $9.00 t0 $11.00.
Free VPN accesses are generally limited in terms of speed and bandwidth usage. Free accesses are also exempted from other features like server switches, live chat support and multiple or simultaneous VPN connections on other devices.
Browsing and Download Speeds
When it comes to connection speeds, VPN is still the better platform. Since most proxy services are free to use, they generally offer slower speeds due to overloaded servers.
VPNs on the other hand don’t compromise connection speeds. Although there are minor speed slowdowns due to high-level encryptions, these slowdowns are basically unnoticeable and irrelevant.
You can use a VPN service on the most popular machines and devices today. VPNs generally support Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, gaming consoles, set top-boxes and wireless routers. Most VPN service providers also offer a dedicated VPN client to facilitate easy and convenient VPN setups.
Meanwhile, proxy servers are only compatible on certain internet browsers. You’ll need to configure your computers / browsers to have a certain HTTP proxy server. You may also simply use the given proxy service in your browser to ask a request from the servers to connect you to certain websites. Remember that you’ll have to do this step for every website you’d want to access which makes it plain inconvenient. VPN service providers take away the hassle of getting your IP addressed cloaked with a single click.
Here you to – if you just want to browse websites and access information which is blocked by your government or company – these free Proxies are good enough for a quick fix:
Stability and Reliability
With regards to the reliability and stability of a proxy, we can say that connections are often unbearable and frustrating. Connections usually crash and certain websites are just not accessible (i.e. streaming websites).
So with a VPN, you are provided with fast, stable and highly-secured connections. No disconnection issues, no slowdowns, no bandwidth limitations and no pop-ads – that is if you’re using premium VPN services. You will most likely be bombarded with various limitations and advertisements if you use free VPN services.
VPN Vs Proxy Vs Smart DNS Proxy
Ideally, you would want to make use of a VPN service. Just skip regular proxy services because you really don’t need them anyway. If you’re on a tight budget and you need an anonymizer tool or IP cloaker, you can simply use a free VPN service.
Now, if you’re subscribed to a premium VPN service and yet, you still can’t access certain streaming websites such as Netflix and the likes, we recommend you use a Smart DNS Proxy. The leading VPN service providers usually offer a free Smart DNS service together with a VPN plan purchase. You may want to check with your VPN provider if they are offering a Smart DNS proxy service.
Smart DNS services are designed to unblock websites and streaming media. A Smart DNS proxy will come in handy when you’re trying to watch your favourite US TV shows on Hulu.
VPNs used to be able to grant access to streaming media. Unfortunately, streaming websites have started blocking VPN traffics due to copyright issues. VPN services are wise though. They have developed their own Smart DNS services so they can still provide a solution to streaming media, which is basically a way of monetizing on current subscribers.
The Bottom Line: Which Tool is Better?
If you want the most reliable, most useful and most secured tool, choose VPN over proxies and even Smart DNS. A VPN has all the features you need in order to completely anonymize your online activities. If you still haven’t subscribed to a VPN service yet, please go ahead and check out our VPN Comparison.
On this site you can compare the biggest players on the VPN market – where they have their server locations, in which jurisdiction their company is in, what protocols and encryption types they support – and of course you can also compare the prices for the subscription. If you are on a really small budget, you can also get a VPN Coupon to enjoy a free VPN service for a few months. If you just use one VPN Coupon after another, its easily possible to get a whole year of free VPN service at no cost at all. Enjoy!!