What is a VPN connection?
When you’re logging on to your internet, you begin by connecting to your local ISP (Internet Service Provider). This gives you access to the online world. However, all of the sites and applications that you visit while connected to that ISP can be logged through their servers.
Connecting via a VPN protects your data as it travels from your laptop, tablet or cellphone. The data is encrypted through a ‘VPN tunnel,’ and your ISP can no longer eavesdrop on your history or data. They can’t see your activity online since it’s routed through the VPN servers.
Anyone else trying to snoop through a hacked WiFi will only see you’re connecting through a VPN, not your ISP, and cannot read your data. If they are able to get any of the data, it will look like gibberish.
VPNs vs. Proxy Servers
There is a lot of confusion about proxy server versus VPN being the same thing. They are not.
A proxy server simply masks your identity to other websites. If you use a proxy to connect to a website, your ISP is masked by that proxy. It appears as if you have a new IP address (the proxy’s IP address) to the website you’re connecting to and thus that site does not know who you are. You appear as a different identity and location via the proxy, where that specific proxy server is physically located.
To break it down, a proxy is the middleman between your computer and the internet. It acts as an intermediary to mask your computer’s identity.
Here’s the downside of using a proxy, and where it gets a little invasive; The proxy server knows your real identity. While almost all HTTPS connections like online stores, financial and email services are secure, the owner of the proxy can see all the unencrypted sites you visit. If you decide to use a proxy, you’re putting a lot of trust into them.
If the proxy is the (hopefully trustworthy) middleman, the VPN is the secure tunnel that connects you directly to whichever website you’re visiting, encrypting your information along the way and masking the location of your ISP. To the websites you visit with a VPN, you will appear to them as if you’re located where the VPN servers are housed.
So why would you want to use a VPN instead of a proxy? It’s all about security. If you’re running a small business, keeping your financial data and that of your client’s privacy is extremely important. Any data breach of your information can jeopardize your reputation and your company’s future. If you go with a proxy, you’re trusting all your information to a completely unknown entity.
Let’s say you trust your proxy server. Even if that is that case, the proxy only protects you for the specific website you’re currently visiting, while the VPN secures your connection completely.
Another great reason to choose a VPN is ease of use. VPNs do not require extensive configuration. They’re basically plug-n-play and versatile across devices such as tablets and mobile.
A paid subscription VPN will not log your activity like a proxy will. If you need to access your customer’s information or respond to requests from a public WiFi network, rest assured your information and theirs will remain private. A proxy server will only hide your ISP, but VPNs will encrypt the whole connection to the internet.