Intermediary Technologies: Difference Between Proxy and VPN

What sets a proxy apart from a VPN? This article provides in-depth insights of the difference between proxy and VPN to help you make an informed choice between the two.


By Ellie / Updated on June 27, 2024

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What is the difference between proxy and VPN?

Proxy servers and virtual private networks (VPNs) serve as intermediaries between an organization's internal network and the public internet. Your organization might route all network traffic through a proxy server, a VPN, or even both. Each technology caters to distinct use cases based on their roles within the network architecture.

While both VPNs and proxy servers conceal user identities and facilitate secure content access, they are often mistakenly used interchangeably. The crucial distinction lies in privacy protection—one safeguards your privacy, while the other does not. So, what exactly is the difference between proxy and VPN?

What is a proxy server?

Proxy servers function as intermediaries between your device and the websites you visit. Your internet traffic passes through a remote machine, which then connects you to the host server. This process masks your original IP address, displaying the IP address of the proxy instead (sometimes, the IP of other proxy users' computers is used). However, proxies operate solely at the application level, rerouting traffic only from the specific app you configure with the proxy. Additionally, they do not encrypt your traffic.

Remote Access Proxy

Advantages of proxy

  • Anonymity: Proxies offer anonymity by concealing the user's IP address, making it challenging for websites and advertisers to track user activities.
  • Access to geo-restricted content: Proxies enable users to bypass regional restrictions by connecting to servers in different locations.
  • Cost-effective: Proxies are typically free or low-cost, making them widely accessible.
  • No installation required: Proxies can be used without the need for installing any software or applications on the user's device.
  • Improved performance: Proxies can enhance browsing speed by caching frequently visited web pages.

Disadvantages of proxy

  • Limited security: Proxies do not offer the same level of security as VPNs because they do not encrypt data.
  • Limited privacy: Proxies provide less privacy than VPNs, as they do not fully conceal the user's identity and location.
  • Limited functionality: Proxies might not be able to bypass all geo-restrictions or grant access to all types of content.
  • Unreliability: Free proxy services can be unreliable or slow, causing frustration for users.
  • Limited device compatibility: Certain proxies may not function properly with specific devices or operating systems.

What is a VPN?

Similar to a proxy, a VPN routes your internet traffic through a remote server and hides your IP address, preventing websites from seeing your original IP or location (you can also refer to our article on how to change your IP location for more details). However, a VPN operates at the operating system level, meaning it redirects all traffic, whether from your browser or background apps.

Remote Access VPN

Additionally, a VPN client encrypts your traffic between the internet and your device. This encryption ensures that your Internet Service Provider (ISP), which monitors your internet activity and collects data, cannot see what you're doing online—only that you're connected to a VPN server. It also protects against government surveillance, website tracking, and potential interception by snoopers or hackers. A VPN significantly enhances your online privacy and security.

Advantages of VPN

  • Security: VPNs provide a high level of security through data encryption and hiding the user's IP address.
  • Privacy: VPNs enhance privacy by masking the user's identity and location, thwarting advertisers and trackers from monitoring user behavior.
  • Access to geo-restricted content: VPNs enable users to bypass regional restrictions and access content blocked in their location by connecting to servers in other regions.
  • Flexibility: VPNs are versatile and compatible with a wide range of devices and operating systems.
  • Remote access: VPNs facilitate remote access to a company's network, allowing employees to work from anywhere with ease.

Disadvantages of VPN

  • Slower speeds: VPNs may lead to slower internet speeds because of the encryption and decryption processes involved.
  • Higher cost: Certain VPN services require a subscription fee, which could be a financial hurdle for some users.
  • Risk of malware: Free VPN services can potentially contain malware or other security vulnerabilities, underscoring the importance of selecting a trustworthy provider.

The main differences between proxy services and VPN

Next, let's delve into some key differences between VPNs and proxy servers.




Security assurance

A proxy does not guarantee or provide any security.

A VPN ensures encryption, authentication, and integrity protection.

Protocols utilized

Protocols used in proxies include FTP (File Transfer Protocol), SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol), and HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol), among others.

Protocols used in VPNs include PPTP (Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol), and L2TP (Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol), among others.

Operational scope

Proxy functionality operates seamlessly within web browsers.

AVPN operates through the firewall.

Network simulation

A proxy does not replicate a private network over a public network.

VPN creates a simulated private network over a public network.

IP address handling

A proxy uses an anonymous network ID instead of the actual client IP address, effectively concealing it.

A VPN does not conceal the client's IP address.

Tunnel creation

A proxy does not establish a direct tunnel between end users.

A VPN establishes a secure tunnel between end users.


Security level

A proxy does not provide any form of security.

A VPN provides a high level of security.

Connection stability

The connection through a proxy is often unstable.

A VPN ensures a smooth and stable connection.

Coverage scope

Proxy servers only conceal individual websites or applications.

VPNs encrypt all of a user's internet activity, regardless of the specific website or application.

Traffic encryption

A proxy does not encrypt data traffic.

A VPN encrypts the traffic to ensure security and privacy.

What should you use, a VPN or proxy server?

If your objective is to conceal your IP address, both a proxy server and VPN can achieve that goal. If browsing speed is a concern and you only need to hide your IP from a specific site or app, a free proxy server is sufficient.

However, if you prioritize keeping your browsing activity private from prying eyes, using the internet through a VPN is the superior choice. This is primarily due to encryption: VPNs encrypt your data while online, whereas proxy servers do not. This encryption is crucial for activities such as online banking or shopping, offering heightened security.

While top VPN providers typically require payment for their services, the security they offer ensures that your most sensitive personal and financial information remains protected from potential threats.

In summary, a VPN provides superior privacy and security compared to a proxy because it routes your traffic through a secure VPN server and encrypts it. A proxy simply routes your traffic through an intermediary server without additional protective measures. Unlike proxies, VPNs operate at the operating system level to secure all internet traffic.

AnyViewer: Secure remote desktop software over the internet

When it comes to managing remote access securely over the internet, AnyViewer stands out as a reliable and efficient remote desktop solution. Designed with user security and convenience in mind, AnyViewer offers a seamless remote desktop experience, making it easier for individuals and businesses to access their devices from anywhere in the world.

AnyViewer uses advanced encryption protocols to ensure that all data transmitted between your devices is secure. This protects sensitive information from potential cyber threats, providing peace of mind when accessing your desktop remotely. In addition to encryption, AnyViewer employs multi-layered security measures, such as two-factor authentication and privacy mode, to further safeguard your remote sessions.

Choosing AnyViewer means opting for a secure, efficient, and user-friendly remote desktop solution. Its robust security features ensure that your data remains protected, while its intuitive design makes remote access straightforward and hassle-free. Whether you're a solo user needing to access your home computer on the go or a business seeking to enable remote work for employees, AnyViewer offers the tools and security necessary to meet your needs.

Step 1. Download and install AnyViewer on both your local computer and the remote computer. Create an AnyViewer account and log in on both machines.

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Step 2. On your local device, locate the remote computer in the device list on the Device tab. Click on "One-click control" to initiate a remote desktop session over the internet.


To utilize AnyViewer's built-in proxy functionality, begin by accessing the Settings menu and navigating to the Network section. Within this menu, input the necessary proxy configuration details. Once completed, activate the proxy feature by selecting the appropriate option. This method guarantees a secure and efficient connection to remote computers beyond your local network through AnyViewer's integrated proxy capabilities.

Proxy Settings

★Tips: Enhance your experience by upgrading to a Professional or Enterprise plan, unlocking a host of additional benefits:
Expanded device access for remote operations.
Unlimited simultaneous sessions to streamline productivity.
Accelerated file transfers for faster exchanges.
Improved image quality and richer color reproduction.
Advanced device management capabilities.
And much more to optimize your workflow efficiently.

The bottom line

In conclusion, understanding the difference between proxy servers and VPNs is crucial in choosing the right tool for your needs. While both hide your IP address, a VPN offers robust security with encryption, safeguarding all internet traffic at the operating system level. In contrast, a proxy operates at the application level, providing basic anonymity without encryption.

For those prioritizing robust encryption and comprehensive data protection in remote desktop access, it is recommended to use AnyViewer. AnyViewer not only ensures secure remote desktop connections but also incorporates advanced encryption protocols and multi-layered security measures, making it ideal for both personal and professional use in today's digital landscape.