VPN, TOR or Proxy? Which One Is the Best Choice?

If you value your privacy, you need at least some level of protection. When people talk about online privacy solutions, the most discussed options are VPNs, the Tor network, and proxies.

Each choice has its own pros, cons, and specific uses. For those who are just starting to explore online security services, the variety of options may be incredibly confusing.

Which is the best for accessing geo-blocked websites or anonymously torrenting files? Which option has the biggest impact on Internet speeds? To determine which solution is the right one, we should compare all of them.

Pros and Cons of Using a VPN

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) creates a secure connection between your computer and the online destination that you want to access. Anyone who monitors your Internet traffic, such as your Internet Service Provider, simply sees that you are connecting to a server (the server of the VPN). On the other end, anyone monitoring the sites that you visit can only see the IP address of the VPN server.

With this secure connection, the VPN service is creating a secure tunnel between you and the sites that you visit. All traffic that gets passed through this tunnel also gets encrypted.

Using the VPN, your IP address is masked behind its servers. Your traffic is encrypted, resulting in complete anonymity as you browse the Internet or use a BitTorrent client.

While a VPN creates a secure encrypted connection, it may cost money. Free VPN services are not reliable and are more likely to store data logs that track your online activity. If these logs are shared with a government agency, they defeat the advantage of using a VPN.

A VPN may also restrict your Internet bandwidth. As all traffic needs to get encrypted, Internet speeds can suffer. Luckily, some VPN providers do a good job and don't consume many resources.

Pros and Cons of the Tor Network

The Tor network is another option that provides anonymity when browsing the Internet. With this software, your computer connects to the Tor network, which is comprised of thousands of computers across the world. Your HTTP requests are sent through this network, bouncing from computer to computer before arriving at the website that you plan to visit.

As with a VPN, people monitoring activity on either end do not get a complete picture. Your ISP sees the IP address of the first computer that you connect to. Anyone monitoring the website that you visit only sees the IP address of the last computer that your traffic passes through.

Tor is free to use, which is its biggest strength. You can install it on any device for free. Unlike free VPN services, you do not need to worry about a company logging your data.

However, Tor does not offer the same level of privacy compared to a VPN. If the website that you are connecting to does not use SSL certificates, the chain of computers that you connect through may not be secure. While it is still difficult, it is possible for agencies or hackers to trace the route and determine which sites you visited.

Using the Tor network can also severely reduce your Internet speeds. The number of hops that your information is relayed through slows the overall speed of the connection.

When you visit a website, the data on the site may need to travel through a dozen computers before reaching your computer. Due to the slower speeds, streaming HD video is nearly impossible through Tor.

The Tor network does not offer complete protection. It only routes traffic through your browser. For example, there is one scenario that happens very often. Because users are not well informed, their IP address is exposed when downloading torrent files.

Pros and Cons of Using a Proxy

As with a VPN service, a proxy directs Internet traffic through a computer instead of connecting directly to a computer or server. Unfortunately, this type of routing has more flaws than benefits.

You need to configure proxies individually for each piece of software that you plan to use. For example, you may need to set up a proxy for your web browser and another proxy for BitTorrent.

Using a proxy is very similar to using a VPN without the data encryption. Your traffic is simply routed through a computer, which may not protect you in some situations.

Should You Use a VPN, Tor, or Proxy?

In the end, a VPN service is a preferred choice for anonymous browsing and torrenting. It offers a complete solution instead of just addressing the most common security concerns.

With a VPN, all traffic is encrypted, including traffic that comes from a BitTorrent client. Your IP address is also hidden while torrenting, keeping you hidden from trackers.