Proxy servers and virtual private networks (VPNs) are somewhat similar in the sense that they offer online anonymity and privacy. This means that they assign your computer or mobile device a new IP address, thereby hiding your real IP address. However, they are principally different.
How do VPNs Work?
Virtual private networks work by creating a tunnel, known as a private network, between your computer and a VPN server, also referred to as an exit node. As a result, the data packets sent from your computer appear to originate from the exit node before being directed to the target website. This means that your computer acquires the VPN server’s IP address. At the same time, your computer is assigned a different location – the location of the exit node. Thanks to these attributes, you can access geo-restricted content.
The VPNs encrypt the data packets flowing within the tunnel created between your computer and the exit node. This security measure safeguards your browsing activity from prying eyes. This makes VPN a must-have tool whenever you use public Wi-Fi.
Notably, if you feel that a single VPN server does not suffice, you can use two VPN servers. As part of this arrangement, known as a double VPN connection, your traffic passes through the first exit node before being redirected through a second VPN server. In this regard, the arrangement creates two tunnels. You can also chain your connection – this involves more than two servers.
However, as we will discover later, VPNs have a downside.
How do Proxy Servers Work?
Proxy servers/proxies are intermediaries between your computer and websites’ servers. Like VPNs, they provide online anonymity. But their functionality differs from that of VPNs. At their core, proxies route all the internet traffic from your computer through themselves, simultaneously assigning the web requests a new, unique IP address. This arrangement creates a situation whereby your internet traffic appears to originate from another computer.
Unlike VPNs which encrypt data packets, proxy servers do not. But this also works to proxies’ advantage, as we will detail later. You can also use multiple proxy servers, but the functionality differs significantly from VPNs. To use several proxy servers simultaneously, you need what we refer to as a Chrome proxy extension.
Chrome Proxy Extension
A Chrome proxy extension is a program that can be downloaded and installed in the Chrome browser. At its core, it facilitates the management of multiple proxy servers. This makes it a handy tool in social media management and web scraping applications, wherein IP blocks and bans are common.
The extension acts as a centralized interface that congregates proxy servers from different service providers, enabling users to switch between the various proxies.
For instance, if you wish to extract data from multiple websites, you need different proxy servers. Each server offers a unique IP address, enabling you to access the webpages and extract data. However, in order to ensure seamless and continuous web scraping, you have to continually change the IP addresses to prevent a situation whereby a single online identifier makes too many requests.
Ordinarily, you would have to deal with individual proxy providers’ websites whenever you intend to switch between proxies. But this is no longer the case thanks to the Chrome proxy extension. As a proxy manager, it lets you add an unlimited number of proxy servers. At the same time, it enables you to switch between the different proxies.
VPNs vs. Proxy Servers
VPNs encrypt all the data packets originating from your computer, while proxy servers do not. While this offers extra security, it makes VPNs slower. Notably, if more than one exit node is used, the connection is slowed even further as each of the servers in the chain has to individually encrypt and decrypt the data packets. Thus, when it comes to speed, proxies triumph.
Additionally, while VPNs and proxy servers both anonymize connections, the former category is mostly preferred by single users who require encrypted services. Users and organizations that wish to perform web scraping operations and social media management prefer proxy servers. In this regard, proxies are preferred during business-oriented applications, while VPNs work best in individual use cases.
Thus, proxies and the proxy extension offer users more opportunities.
Virtual private networks and proxy servers change users’ IP addresses before sending requests to target web servers. As such, they both promote online anonymity. However, VPNs secure the internet traffic by encrypting the data packets, while proxies do not. As a result, VPNs are slower. Notably, VPNs are oriented towards single-user applications such as accessing geo-restricted content or connecting a computer to the internet via public Wi-Fi. On the other hand, proxies are used by organizations and individuals looking to perform web scraping operations and social media management. In cases where users have to deploy multiple proxy servers, a Chrome proxy extension is preferred.