Proxy vs VPN: What's the Difference?

Your digital fingerprint: what it is and how it is used to deanonymize you.
Proxies and VPNs help maintain online anonymity. They show websites an IP address different from the user's real address, allowing one to bypass existing bans, connect to a local network, or protect personal information. So, what's the difference between these tools? How do they function? Which is better: a proxy server or a Virtual Private Network? The Octo team has prepared a detailed guide with all the answers you need.


What are VPNs and proxies for?

Proxies and VPNs are used to maintain anonymity online. They redirect traffic through another server so that the websites a user visits see a different IP address. Generally, the processes are similar, but they differ in reliability and application possibilities.

What is a Proxy Server?

A proxy server acts as an intermediary between your device and the online resource you are accessing. Normally, your device and the website know each other's IP addresses and exchange information directly. When you use a proxy, your device first sends the request to a remote server, which then forwards it to the web page, retrieves the information, and sends it back. During this process, the online resource sees the address of the proxy server, not your computer.

With a proxy, you can:
  • Bypass regional restrictions; e.g., watch a Netflix show that is only available in the USA from any country;
  • Access applications blocked in your country, like Telegram or Instagram;
  • Purchase airline tickets with regional discounts;
  • Protect yourself against scripts that collect your data for advertising;
  • Restrict access to unwanted resources for employees in the office or children at home;
  • Speed up the loading of popular pages through caching;
  • Compress data;
  • Manage multiple accounts on social media and marketplaces in combination with a multi-accounting browser.
Would you like to know what your browser fingerprint looks like? You can use such services as Pixelscan, BrowserLeaks, Whoer, and Creepjs. These services will also highlight the parameters that look suspicious to website owners.

Types of Proxies

Depending on where proxies are located, they are known as datacenter, residential, or mobile proxies. There are also private and shared proxies: the former provide one IP address to one user, while the latter provide the same IP address to multiple users. You can read more about these proxy types in our guide. Now, let's delve deeper into the classification of proxy servers by the connection type:

  • HTTP proxies use the most common protocol, HTTP. They can be used, for example, to watch a Netflix show that is not available in your country. They are also suitable for bots and parsers because they are simple and fast. You can only access web pages with URLs starting with https using this type of proxy. If you click on the icon on the left side of the address bar, you will see a lock and a message stating that the connection is secure.
  • HTTPS proxies use the TLS protocol, which encrypts the information, to transmit data. If malevolent actors intercept the traffic of HTTPS proxies, they will not be able to extract confidential data from a cryptographically protected message. Thanks to this, such proxy servers are safer than HTTP proxies, and thus you can make online transactions and manage multiple accounts using a multi-accounting browser.
  • SOCKS proxies transmit data through a protocol lower than HTTP, namely TCP. This allows SOCKS proxy servers to work with all types of traffic and operate at the application level. SOCKS proxies are suitable for streaming content, such as video streaming or online gaming, and accessing file-sharing services. This proxy server type is also used to bypass firewalls.
  • SOCKS5 is the latest version of SOCKS proxies, supporting the UDP protocol for fast information transmission. SOCKS5 proxies are also suitable for tasks related to authentication and multi-accounting. The drawback of SOCKS5 is that it retains packet headers that may contain user-specific information, which can be used by online resources to identify a user even with a changed IP address.
According to the confidentiality level, proxy servers are divided into transparent, anonymous, and elite proxies.

Transparent proxies do not replace the IP address, but cache and compress traffic and block undesired websites. For example, a company might use these proxies to prevent its employees from accessing social media on company devices; parental control works the same way.

Anonymous proxies replace the user's IP address with their own. Usually, this is sufficient to bypass regional restrictions. However, if you need complete confidentiality, it is better to choose elite proxies.

Elite proxies not only replace the IP address, but also hide the fact of spoofing from the website. This enhances your confidentiality and reduces the risks of identification. However, even elite proxies do not guarantee 100% anonymity.

What is a VPN?

A VPN stands for virtual private network. It acts as an intermediary between the client and the online resource, showing its address instead of the user's IP address to websites. This helps maintain anonymity and access online resources blocked in your country.

The main difference between a VPN and a proxy is the encrypted communication channel. All information transmitted through the virtual private network is protected from hacking attacks. Even if fraudsters intercept your traffic, they will not be able to decrypt it.

A VPN works with any information type, protecting all data you send or receive. To work with it, you need to install a separate application on your device.

A virtual private network can be used for:
  • maintaining anonymity;
  • bypassing blocks;
  • additional data protection;
  • remote connection to a local system, for example, for remote work;
  • transmitting information between different departments within a company.

VPNs and Proxies: Similarities and Differences

 What kind of information is found in a browser fingerprint?
Proxy servers and VPNs are similar in that they enhance privacy. Both replace the user's IP address with their own. As a result, websites do not know who is accessing them. However, there are more differences than similarities between these tools:
  1. Level of Confidentiality. A VPN not only spoofs the user's IP address, but also encrypts traffic; only HTTPS proxies can perform the same function. If hackers or the ISP intercept a message, they cannot read it. In addition, a virtual private network hides the IP substitution fact to arouse fewer suspicions. Elite proxies can do this too.
  2. Coverage. Proxies are installed as extensions, allowing them to work with web traffic from the browser or a specific site. This is convenient for multi-accounting in an anti-detect browser when different IPs are needed for individual profiles. VPNs, on the other hand, are installed as applications covering all types of traffic from all programs.
  3. Versatility. Proxies only support one protocol at a time. Different extensions need to be installed to work with various types of connections. A VPN is suitable for all protocols.
  4. Application. A VPN can control who has access to the local system. On the other hand, a proxy server can distribute the load, cache, and compress messages to speed up processes and save resources.
  5. Cost. The cost depends on the country, provider, and type of service. On average, a VPN is more expensive than proxies. With an annual subscription, you can expect to pay around $2 per month for the cheapest virtual private network, while you can buy a reliable residential proxy for the same amount.

What to Choose: a VPN or a Proxy?

The choice depends on your tasks. For online shopping, connecting to a company's local system, or exchanging confidential data, it's better to choose a VPN, as it transmits requests and responses through an encrypted channel. A virtual private network also helps protect against hackers and hides messages from your ISP. A proxy server is more suitable for IP spoofing, anonymous surfing, and bypassing regional blocks. It also caches and compresses data and distributes the load.

Proxies are better suited for working with a multi-accounting anti-detect browser. They do not encrypt traffic, which makes you appear more like a regular user. Proxy servers spoof IP addresses for individual websites or applications, allowing you to choose a separate address for each profile in a multi-accounting browser. Proxies are often cheaper and work faster, which is important for multi-accounting and bot configuration.

Before installing a proxy, read online reviews and choose only paid services: they do not collect personal data and operate faster; and if you’re in doubt, we have a list of the most reliable proxy providers for reference.


What’s better: a VPN or a proxy server?
Both services work fine for IP spoofing. If your priorities are higher speeds, low costs, or creating many accounts on a platform, choose a proxy. For exchanging confidential information and online payments, it's better to install a VPN, as it encrypts information by default.
Do I need a proxy server if I already have a VPN?
A VPN bypasses regional restrictions and maintains anonymity. However, if you need load balancing, caching, traffic compression, or plan to create multiple accounts on a platform, it’s better to use a proxy.

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