Best Proxy Services of 2020
If you’ve been looking into ways to protect your privacy online or bypass firewalls and censorship, you may have been presented with two different options: a proxy or a VPN.
While both proxies and VPNs work in very similar ways, they have a few crucial differences that you should take into account before choosing between them.
This guide will tell you what a proxy is, how it works, and how it differs from a VPN, as well as taking a look at some of the best proxy options available.
What is a Proxy?
A proxy service works as a middleman between your browser and a website by redirecting your traffic through a proxy server.
By acting as an intermediary between you and the site you’re accessing, the proxy effectively hides your IP address and presents its own. This is incredibly useful when it comes to geo-spoofing, or tricking websites into thinking you’re based in a different location.
Sometimes, content online can be geoblocked. This can apply to everything from TV shows that are affected by licensing restrictions to websites that have been censored by government firewalls.
If you want to access this content from a country or location where it has been blocked, you will need to spoof your IP address. By rerouting your traffic through a proxy server in a different location, you appear to be accessing the internet from that location instead of your own — thereby bypassing any geo-restrictions that apply to your location.
There are two different types of proxy:
- HTTP – The original and most common form of proxy, HTTP works with web-based traffic using the HTTP protocol. The HTTP proxy is capable of understanding the data it is filtering, giving it plenty of functionality.
- SOCKS -The SOCKS proxy is a more simple protocol that only exchanges data rather than accessing it. SOCKS does not have the ability to understand data and is therefore compatible with any form of traffic. While this makes it useful for activities like torrenting, SOCKS can sometimes be slower than HTTP.
Proxy vs VPN
VPNs work in a very similar way to a proxy. A VPN will also mask your IP address by rerouting your data through a private server in a different location.
However, there is one vital difference. As well as hiding your IP address, a VPN will encrypt all of your traffic as you use the service. A proxy cannot encrypt your data, making it far less secure than a VPN.
Without encryption, a proxy cannot protect your privacy — it can only spoof your location.
This is especially relevant when it comes to free proxies. Free proxies are not secure and often rely on heavy advertising to make revenue. Unchecked ads can be vulnerable to malware insertion, leaving you and your data exposed.
Free proxies can also be subject to heavy traffic, making them slow and unwieldy.
Another difference between VPNs and proxies is that VPNs will protect all of the traffic on your internet connection, regardless of the application. When using a VPN you can surf the internet on your browser or use a torrent client and all of this activity will be automatically safeguarded.
Proxies only work with one application at a time and need to be configured on each separate application you want to protect.
So why do people opt to use a proxy instead of a VPN?
Since a proxy only covers one application at a time rather than your whole connection, it can be faster than a VPN. If you’re only carrying out a low-risk activity such as geo-spoofing to watch a show that’s not available in your country, a proxy can be a viable option.
However, if you’re looking to get around government censorship or carry out any other activity that you don’t want to be tracked, logged, or spied on, a VPN is a much more secure option.
Bear in mind that many streaming sites are also proficient in detecting proxy services. Most proxies are not powerful enough to bypass strict geo-restrictions so you may find you need to use a VPN anyway.
The Best Proxy Services
The safest option is to subscribe to a VPN that also offers a proxy service as part of your subscription. That way, you can protect yourself with the VPN, and switch to using the proxy when you want to quickly and easily carry out low-risk activities.
Here are some of our top recommendations for VPN services that offer a proxy:
When not using the proxy, you’ll be protected by military-grade encryption and innovative CyberSec software designed to shield you from malware and ads.
A huge network of 5,200+ servers in 60 countries will give you speeds so fast that you might not notice the difference between using the VPN and the proxy anyway. See for yourself with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
In 2015, PrivateVPN announced that it would now support HTTP proxy. All you need to do is configure your chosen application using the PrivateVPN server list.
As well as offering a proxy, PrivateVPN is simple, affordable, and user-friendly, with intuitive apps across all major platforms and devices.
The VPN service is also extremely focused on security with AES 256-bit encryption that will keep your data private when you need something a little more robust than a proxy. See what real users have to say about PrivateVPN or try it for yourself with a 7-day free trial or 30-day money-back guarantee.
While NordVPN and PrivateVPN both offer HTTP proxy, IPVanish is one of the only VPNs that offer a dedicated SOCKS5 proxy server. You can find a complete guide to configuring the IPVanish SOCKS5 proxy here.
Alongside the proxy, IPVanish boasts a decent network of 1,300+ servers in 75+ locations, great speeds, and anonymous torrenting with a strict no logs policy despite its US HQ.
Our users have reported issues with IPVanish’s unblocking capabilities but applaud the VPN for its fast speeds and 7-day money-back guarantee.
If you’d really rather not pay and you’re not concerned about the risks of using a free service, these are some trusted free proxy providers:
CyberGhost – CyberGhost offers a free proxy browser extension for Firefox and Chrome.
Hotspot Shield – Hotspot Shield’s free proxy is compatible with all iOS and Android devices.
Summary and Further Reading
If you’re just looking for a quick and easy way to spoof your IP address, a proxy can be a good solution.
However, with so many of the best VPNs now offering lightning-fast speeds, we doubt you’ll be able to tell the difference between using a proxy and one of our recommended fastest VPNs.
When you consider the additional protection and privacy that comes with using a VPN, it really does seem like the preferable option.
If you’ve changed your mind and would rather stream your favorite shows with a VPN, here’s our rundown of the best VPNs for Netflix.
Looking for advice on torrenting? Check out our guide to torrenting anonymously and safely.