VPN Vs Residential Proxy – Which One Should You Use?

  • Residential proxies seem to offer similar benefits, but they can't be more different.
  • Although they can both conceal IP addresses, there is a lot more each of them can do.
  • In this article, we aim to compare key differences between a VPN vs a residential proxy.

Cybercrime has increased over the last couple of years, prompting individuals and businesses to enhance security to secure sensitive information.

In this vein, some people wonder whether to use a VPN or a residential proxy.

While both tools hide your IP addresses they differ in their approach to providing anonymity and online security.

The debate on VPN vs residential proxy boils down to the features each tool offers and what your personal and business needs are. 

Let’s go ahead and explore these characteristics.

Residential proxy vs VPN – What are they?

What is a residential proxy?

A residential proxy is an intermediary server provided by your Internet Service Provider (ISP) or a dedicated residential proxy service.

The proxy addresses come from users who have leased their IP address to an ISP as a proxy server.

To use the residential proxy, you have to set it up on your browser using its IP address and the information provided when you got the service.

The ISP uses the proxy server to replace your IP address before connecting to your target website. It gets feedback directly from the website and sends it back to you.

Residential proxies are ideal for individuals who perform web scraping, data mining, or social media management. This is because it offers a huge collection of IP addresses around the world.

Through this, users engaged in these activities can freely rotate as many IPs as they want without the risk of being blocked due to suspicious activity.

What is a VPN?

On the other hand, a VPN is a tool that creates a secure, encrypted tunnel between the user’s device and the internet.

They ensure your privacy by encrypting and rerouting your online activity through various servers, so ISPs and other third parties cannot detect and track your online activity.

Similarly to a proxy server, when you connect to VPN, your real IP will be replaced with one belonging to the VPN server.

Because VPN services provide access to a wide range of servers coming from many different countries, they’re a good option if you want to bypass geo-restrictions.

Unlike residential proxies, some VPNs may slow down the connection because of the encryption. Nevertheless, as long as they’re high quality and well configured the slowdowns will be unnoticeable.

Let’s compare exactly what benefits they have so you know which would be better for you.

VPN vs residential proxy – the differences

Both tools are created with different goals in mind. Here’s a summary of the differences between a VPN and a residential proxy. 

FeatureVPNResidential Proxy
🛡️ SecurityProvides end-to-end encryption, making it difficult for hackers to intercept and steal dataRoutes internet traffic through an intermediary server, but no encryption
🎭 AnonymityOffers shared IP addresses, which can make it easier for websites to detect and block the use of a VPN.
Some VPNs do include static IPs, but you have to pay extra for them.
Offer a higher level of anonymity by providing a unique IP address that is not shared with other users, making it difficult to detect or trace user activity.
⚡ SpeedUse shared IP addresses, which can slow down internet speed due to increased traffic on the server. However, fast VPNs have a negligible impact on internet speed. Offer faster speeds than VPNs because they provide dedicated IP addresses.
🧰 UsabilityEasy to use and require no technical expertise to set upRequire technical know-how to set up and configure.
👩‍💻 Use casesProtect you from online hacking.Useful for data mining, social media management, and market research.
🌎 CoverageReroute all your online traffic including background applicationsOnly reroute traffic from one specific browser window. 
💰 PriceFree and paidFree and paid
⚙️ Advanced featuresUsually, come with additional features like ad-blockers, kill switches, and obfuscation toolsRarely have additional features. 

Note: This table includes the main differences between VPNs and residential proxies. However, other features and differences not included here may be relevant to your specific needs and use case.

When to use a residential proxy or VPN

It’s very clear VPNs and residential proxies are designed to achieve different goals.

Let’s look at when it’s best to use each of them.

When to use a residential proxy

Residential proxies are great if you just need to hide your IP address or visit a website quickly. That said, proxies tend to simulate human traffic to prevent detection, making them ideal for:

1. Market research and web scraping

Residential proxies are rotating in nature, meaning your IP address changes on request or at time intervals.

This allows you to scrap massive amounts of data without setting off CAPTCHAs or being detected and blocked by anti-scraping software.  

By using residential proxies, businesses gather data from multiple sources without being blocked or flagged as a bot. This can be useful for price monitoring, sentiment analysis, and trend analysis.

2. Social media management

If you’re managing multiple social media accounts, residential proxies can help you avoid being flagged by social media platforms for suspicious activity.

Assigning a unique IP address to each account makes it appear as though each account is managed by a different person from a different location.

3. Streaming

Residential proxies can provide better internet quality for streaming. Plus, as opposed to some VPNs, they won’t be detected and blocked by streaming platforms.

VPN addresses are shared, and some services block specific IP addresses they know belong to VPNs. However, proxies can bypass detection by providing fresh IP addresses.

Mostly because your residential proxy address is only yours and these websites can’t associate it with anything else.

Unfortunately, unlike a VPN, the residential proxy cannot unblock geo-restrictions. So while they’re great for streaming buffer-free content, you can only access services available in your area.

Aside from that, residential proxies have a greater bandwidth and network speeds for better streaming since they do not slow down activity through encryption. 

When to use a VPN

VPNs are great for users who need more security and privacy.

That’s because the encryption scrambles your traffic, making it quite difficult for trackers to know what you do online.

They also hide your real IP address and give you the possibility to change your virtual location. These benefits make a VPN ideal for:

1. To enhance your online security

VPNs encrypt your internet connection and protect your online activity from tracking.

They also hide your IP address and prevent detection by third parties and IPS making it difficult for anyone to identify your true location or online activity.

This way VPNs make for a more secure browsing experience. It’s particularly useful on public networks like school, work, or hotel WiFi, allowing you to protect the privacy of the data you share over the internet.

It is great for tasks like online shopping, online banking, and general web browsing.

2. To get remote access

If you need to access a private network remotely, such as your company’s network or your home network, a VPN can provide a secure connection between your device and the network.

This can be useful for tasks like remote work, file sharing, and accessing home media.

Keep in mind that these are different types of VPNs. The term is generally used to refer to commercial VPN services that provide users access to their servers. Those are called VPN tunnels.

On the other hand, for remote access, you’ll be using a VPN bridge which works a bit differently.

These types of VPNs are different because they belong to the organizations and use bridging to gain entry into these files.

3. Torrenting

If you want to download or share files using peer-to-peer (P2P) or torrent clients a VPN can help protect your identity and activity from being tracked by third parties.

Not all VPNs offer dedicated support for it, but those that do are great for faster and more importantly secure file sharing.

4. Geo-unblocking

Another VPN benefit is that it also allows you to access geo-restricted content such as streaming services like Netflix and Showmax, or even geo-blocked games and local websites.

The primary difference between the use cases for residential proxies and VPNs is the level of security and anonymity required. 

If your online activity involves sensitive information, remote access, geo-restricted content, or censorship, a VPN can provide the security and privacy you need to stay safe online.

And if you just need to bypass geo-restrictions or an IP-based website block, VPNs are your best bet. A VPN re-routes your traffic through a server in a country in which a particular website is accepted.

Immediately this happens, your original IP address is concealed and you can circumvent any ban on such a site.

In Summary

Residential proxies are best for activities that require a high level of anonymity, while VPNs are best for activities that require a high level of security.

Hopefully, this article has provided insight into the VPN vs residential proxy debate. Both VPNs and residential proxies offer unique features that suit different purposes and needs.

Overall, we recommend using a VPN for general internet use and a residential proxy for specific activities that require a higher level of anonymity.

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