Not too long ago, VPNs were dominating the market of intermediary servers that are used for cybersecurity improvements. Various businesses were and still are eager to use them.
A virtual private network (VPN) is designed for a secure remote network connection. VPNs are most commonly used for stable and encrypted traffic between the user and the server the user is accessing without transmitting any data to third parties, including your Internet Service Provider.
It’s especially handy for the work inside the organization or a group of them, not only securing the connection but providing access to the content of otherwise limited or blocked access.
For example, China has officially blocked Twitter, but some major Chinese companies such as Huawei still use it. They are working through a government-approved VPN server, so the block doesn’t bother them. Well, at least until the government decides to change its mind.
However, the VPN has many drawbacks that are being filled in by its alternatives. Which ones are worth considering? It depends on why VPN is not particularly good enough.
Shortcomings of VPN
- VPN usually has no protection against malware. Of course, you could use a VPN with built-in malware detection or have additional security systems that are used between a VPN and the corporate network.
- VPN routes all your traffic, not only the one you need to be routed but everything working in the background too. It slows down the flow of your work. Moreover, VPN uses a local client to make a connection to the server, and any trouble with a device you are using might result in slowing your connection down even more.
- VPN has a static IP address. It means that it faces the same problems that any single device has to deal with. If you are web scraping, managing multiple accounts, or trying to access geo-restricted content, you have no advantages and even might be at a severe disadvantage with the risk of getting blocked or restricted.
- VPN are meant for use by a smaller part of employees, but since the Covid-19 pandemic made remote work a reality of daily lives for most of us, it poses new threats for the security which can no longer be assured as much by the VPN servers.
Having said all of that, VPN alternatives seem like a necessary option to have at your disposal.
Numerous alternatives can be found on the internet. However, most of them lack one or the other key element to fill in all the drawbacks of the VPN.
For instance, Seedbox is a high-bandwidth remote server that adds additional security to a VPN server but it’s not a real alternative, to be precise, because it works best together with a VPN. It is used for downloading or uploading files while disguising your identity even more than it’s usually done in a VPN server. However, it needs to be combined with a VPN or a proxy to work best, so it’s more like an addition than an alternative.
The Onion Router (TOR) is another alternative that provides good security and anonymity. It encrypts the data through different layers, and each layer has only the information about where the data come from before and where it goes after. However, it doesn’t know the full route, so it can’t expose the whole information.
Nevertheless, it’s volunteer-based, therefore, it lacks speed because there are too many transitional points, and since those are scattered at random locations, geo-restricted content may not be available when TOR is used.
On the other hand, Lancer is also a volunteer-based tool but it solves these issues because it is primarily designed for allowing access to geo-restricted content. However, it has nothing to do with anonymity and likely collects information about your browsing and background activities.
Proxy servers as combination of other alternatives
All the advantages that other alternatives to VPN can provide are also given by proxy servers. Yet, it has fewer shortcomings. So, it works like the best combination of the features of all alternatives, including the VPNs themselves.
Since proxies work by readdressing the initial request and making the actual request for the user and only returning the response, it blocks and doesn’t pass all the unnecessary traffic.
For the same reason, it is way faster than VPN or most of its alternatives. Besides, it doesn’t need a local dedicated application to establish a connection; therefore, you can work faster without having concerns about the speed of the connection in other devices or having additional trouble because of your computer issues.
Proxies provide lots of different IP addresses and, consequently, they are capable of rotating them. It helps to access geo-restricted content, avoiding getting blocked or restricted because of suspicious activities. Different requests come from different IP addresses, and there’s no linkage between them.
Finally, proxies are better for bigger projects, especially for business matters when such things as data scraping are being concerned. The ability to provide a variety of IP addresses has lots to do with that. Datacenter proxies are more easily developed and faster, so they can more easily withstand bigger workloads without losing speed while maintaining better security and anonymity than a VPN server does.
It seems that VPN servers have served out their time already, and their alternatives are taking over more and more. When considering which one to choose, proxies can be distinguished as having most of the advantages that other alternatives can provide without having as many shortcomings. Whether it’s the best alternative might depend on the purpose you are looking for the alternative in the first place.