VPN vs. Proxy – What’s the Difference?

Have you ever failed to watch your favorite Netflix show? Have you gotten frustrated when websites that you regularly use appeared in a different language or bore different information when you opened them at an airport during a layover?

LA Times seen from EU

Content and information on the internet are not as freely available as it may seem. While this can be inconvenient, it stems from the fact that producers of content or information have a legal say-so on where it is made available. This is most often seen in the realm of online entertainment, to which the access is often restricted based on geographic location.

Both VPNs and Proxies Are Useful

There are many reasons for these restrictions, but we won’t get into them now; it is worth looking into the possible ways to still use them. Perhaps you’ve been frustrated by streaming services limiting your access to TV shows and music videos in your part of the world. Research into those restrictions will likely bring you into discussions about VPNs and proxies.

VPN and proxy services are widely touted as the solution to bypassing geographical restrictions on online content. However, it can be confusing and difficult to decide between the two. If you find yourself overwhelmed by the complexity of your options, keep reading to learn more about the differences between a VPN and a proxy.

Comparing VPN and Proxy


To understand the ins and outs of VPN and smart DNS proxy services it’s helpful to know what each one is.

VPN stands for Virtual Private Network.

‘DNS’ in Smart DNS Proxy stands for Domain Name System

As you can imagine, this indicates that a VPN has stronger focus on privacy.


The simplest way to explain the function of a proxy is that it masks your exact location by changing your domain name system (DNS). This fools websites into thinking that you are located somewhere where you’re not. However, users need to understand that proxy is not an online privacy mechanism. You are just as or even more exposed to ISP monitoring, and malware online when you use a smart DNS proxy. Smart DNS proxies open up geo-restricted content, but do not put any restrictions on your data and content and offer no privacy or protection.

Unlike a VPN, a Smart DNS Proxy doesn’t encrypt your data.

On the other hand, when you use a VPN service to access blocked or restricted content in your part of the world, your network traffic is rerouted through a server in another part of the world. This intermediary server disguises your computer’s identity from the sites you visit. This affords you greater privacy, though you are still vulnerable to data monitoring and losing the rights to your own data to your VPN service provider. VPN service is not used merely to bypass restrictions on streaming sites, and often has implications outside entertainment.

Speed difference

There was a time when all internet use was slow compared to what it is today. This was a source of great frustration for internet users. However, even then it was a useful tool. Many current internet users don’t remember the days of waiting a long time for a page to load. A VPN can take you right back to the old days.

When you use a VPN service to access blocked and/or restricted content in your part of the world, your network is rerouted through the service provider. This can considerably slow down streaming. So proxy is usually faster.


While signing up for a virtual private network might seem like a great option for privacy and security, it is often not all it is made out to be. Your VPN service provider has access to your web activity. There is often tacit understanding that you use their private service in exchange for your personal or commercial data. This is most likely to happen with VPN service providers that offer use of their private servers for free or cheaply.

But a Smart DNS Proxy has its disadvantages too. Many experts suggest that the use of a smart DNS proxy could make you more vulnerable to snooping and hacking. This brings us to DNS hijacking. When you browse the internet using a smart DNS proxy service, your online traffic can be redirected to fake websites where scammers and hackers wait, ready to hack into your system and commit some form of online fraud or theft. This is referred to as DNS hijacking. As mentioned previously, VPN service does not always come with a complete assurance of online privacy.


If you are using any home internet connection, you are likely paying for it. When you opt for a VPN service, you are usually adding an additional payment for the VPN service provider. While some VPNs are free, most have a monthly fee. Those considered more trustworthy and more useful often cost more, so it’s often true that you get what you pay for. The cost of a smart DNS proxy of a comparative quality is usually a bit lower. However, we are talking about a difference of 1 – 3 dollars.

Ease of use

A Smart DNS proxy is easier to get up and running than a VPN. This makes sense in remembering that a Smart DNS proxy simply changes your Domain Name System and misrepresents your location, whereas a VPN routes your web traffic through a separate private server. But let’s not make quick conclusions! Nowadays personal VPN services are becoming quite easy to set up too. It usually requires downloading the service, logging in, and clicking on the map. Not so bad, right?  Thank you, modern technology.


A virtual private network might be child’s play for a private user, but it can prove to be a mammoth task for a business user. If the private network needs to be set up in a workplace setting and multiple devices are involved, setting up VPN is much more complicated. Your VPN service provider might help with the setup, but you will likely still be expected to have a strong network management team to manage your private connection network.

On the other hand, a smart DNS proxy is rather easy to set up. Smart DNS proxy services do not involve installation of complicated software, and it doesn’t take a professional to manage a smart DNS proxy service on a larger scale.


Virtual Private Networks are often used to bypass spying and monitoring of your privacy by your ISP, or other third party entities. Perhaps for that reason VPNs are not legal in every country.

Countries in which you should study the law before using VPNs:

  • China
  • Russia
  • Turkey
  • Turkmenistan
  • The United Arab Emirates
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • North Korea
  • Oman

One way to know if they’re legal in your country is to take note when you are signing up for a VPN service. Most provider networks where the use of a VPN is illegal are blocked and restricted. Finding a way around these restrictions and signing up for a VPN service may result in legal consequences such as jail or heavy fines. Smart DNS proxies tend to have more countries backing them up.


Because VPN and smart DNS proxy services differ, there is a distinct user base for each service. Users of smart DNS proxies are mainly individuals looking specifically for access to geo-restricted content. These individuals often wish to get more out of their paid streaming services. In general, smart DNS proxy users are not particularly worried about online privacy.

VPNs are mainly used by those who wish to use open Wi-Fi networks securely. VPN users tend to be more concerned about online privacy, data theft, and monitoring by their ISPs, or other third parties. VPNs are also more commonly used on a commercial level in addition to their use by individuals. They are used for business and entertainment.

Finding a suitable service provider

It is easy to see that while both VPN and smart DNS proxy services provide access to blocked and geo-restricted content, the ways they get the job done and their primary purposes are very different. In most cases smart DNS proxy and VPN services are additional benefits to having access to the World Wide Web. However, for some individuals and commercial entities they may be a necessity – especially in the case of Virtual Private Networks. To minimize privacy issues and other complications while using a smart DNS proxy or VPN service the user must be informed and confident about what he is looking for to find the right service provider.

4 things to look out for:

  1. Well constructed privacy policy that is visible before signing up for the service. If you can’t read it, assume that it includes something tricky or unpleasant.

  2. Stable infrastructure and good reviews to ensure that your speed isn’t too compromised. If other or former users often complain about the speed, it’s a sure sign that you can’t rely on the internet speeds you’re accustomed to.

  3. Contact info for the VPN or smart DNS proxy service that you opt for. This way any issues can be reported and resolved. If this information is hard to find, it’s likely a sign of poor customer service and availability.

  4. Support and troubleshooting team. If they don’t make it clear that they provide it, they may not be equipped to tackle problems.


As you can see, when it comes to a VPN or smart DNS proxy, you get what you pay for. Privacy issues, slow speeds, and DNS hijacking are all commonplace realities when you sign up for too good to be true smart DNS proxy or VPN services at unbelievably cheap prices. Moreover, in most cases the VPN or smart DNS proxy service poses an additional cost to the cost of access to the internet and paid streaming services. You need to decide whether the extra cost is worth it for you, your family, or your business.

If your need for a VPN or smart DNS proxy service is not overwhelming, it might be best to avoid them. Vague laws surrounding smart DNS proxy and VPN services in different countries make them a legal hazard and an uncertain investment. Consider all the pros and cons before signing up for any of these services.

In terms of a competitive comparison between the two it is easy to see that one isn’t better or worse than the other. It is a matter of choosing the right service for the right purpose and choosing a smart DNS proxy or VPN that is secure and effective.

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