During the last year, the vocabulary of ordinary internet users has been enriched with previously unfamiliar words: proxy server and VPN. If earlier such words were used in conversations only by system administrators, programmers or advanced users, now in the street, in public transport, in offices and cafes you always hear that one needs to download and install the VPN.
What is the reason for such a keen interest in VPN and proxy servers? It is all very simple: in most cases to bypass the blocking of forbidden social networks and services or encrypt their Internet traffic.
That is why the journalists and advanced users started talking about proxy servers and VPNs. People began to wonder what this VPN is. Why is it needed and how to use it? Let us find out everything about proxy servers and VPN technology, how they work and what benefits they bring. Also, is it safe to use free VPN services and proxy servers?
What are proxy servers?
The main function of the proxy server is to send requests from its own IP address which allows the users to completely or partially hide their real IP addresses. One should distinguish between anonymous and transparent proxy servers. The difference between them is significant – the anonymous ones hide the address of the computer completely, and the transparent ones pass it on to the headers, which become available for the system administrators of sites. With the help of proxy servers, you can easily access a site that is not accessible from your IP address, while a disguise will enable you to protect your personal information from prying eyes.
It is worth noting that the proxy server is needed to disguise (hide) the true IP address, to be able to view the sites blocked for the region or specific user, and also to conceal the very fact of visiting such sites.
The simplest kind of proxy services is a web proxy. The maximum of their capabilities is to redirect the user's web traffic (HTTP and HTTPS) from the client (your browser) to the host (the server hosting the site you need) while hiding your IP address.
When should I use a web proxy?
If the access to a particular site in your country is for some reason blocked by your ISP, then using proxy services, you can get temporary (slow and insecure) access to this resource.
This is a slightly more advanced, but much more rare option than a web proxy. The difference is that such proxies are able to work with traffic of different types, not only with web traffic.
When should I use a SOCKS proxy?
Since such proxies do not encrypt traffic, we would not advise sending e-mail via a free SOCKS proxy. However, you can use such services to access FTP servers (File Transfer Protocol), if you cannot access them from your own IP address.
We do not recommend using untested proxy bots and other doubtful services. If you do not have any reliable information about the development team and their purposes, it is better to refrain from using such resources, since unpredictable consequences can follow.
One of the obvious consequences is the risk that such services get access to your personal data. For example, bots will get access to the information about your profile, except for only the phone number, which can then be used by third parties. Also, you become the target of spam mail and ads. Do not forget, in that case, blocking the access to the proxy-bots will be automatically lost.
The minimum criteria for determining the quality of proxy services is the availability of the official site and application in the AppStore and GooglePlay. Be as cautious as possible with the services that do not meet these criteria.
What is a VPN?
The most important alternative to proxy servers is undoubtedly VPN (Virtual Private Network). And it is more reliable, too, with good protection and encryption capabilities. As Wikipedia says, VPN is a generic name for technologies that allow one or more network connections (logical network) to be installed on top of another network (for example, the Internet). In other words, when you try to go online, a kind of "tunnel" is formed between your PC and the rest of the Internet, which prevents any attempts to get inside from outside. When visiting any site, you are visible to the system administrators not under your real IP-address, but under a completely different one, from another country, which you can choose yourself.
There are different types of VPN services which include VPN for torrenting, VPN for avoiding geo blocking of specific sites and some VPNs are best for social networks. There are a lot of great VPN services: some of them are paid services, some are free ones. It is better to choose the tested paid services, the ones that have long proven themselves in the market. It’s always advised to take your time and learn about all the differences and peculiarities before using any VPN service or proxy server.