When you use the Internet your computer connects more or less directly to the site or service you're accessing. This exposes a lot of personal information like for example where you are. It's possible for this information to be used to find out your identity or even everything you do on the Internet. A proxy server acts as a go-between between you and the rest of the Internet so that instead of directly connecting to every website, the proxy connects for you. This increases privacy and has the added benefit of being able to virtually change your geographic location just by connecting to a proxy server in a different place. Now in practice VPNs work very similarly, but they specialise in something a little extra: encryption. Imagine you're sitting in a crowded classroom and you want to pass a message to a friend on the other side of the class.
Anyone between you and your friend can read your note unless you write it in a code that only the two of you know. Now no matter who sees the note they can't read what it says. This is what encryption is like. Nobody can see what websites you're going to or what you're doing there - not even your ISP. The downside is that encrypted connections run a little slower, though not usually enough to be noticeable. Now we've already mentioned how proxies and VPNs can make it seem as if you're connecting from somewhere else in the world. And this can be really useful for unlocking region-restricted websites like Netflix. Smart DNS services strip away all the fat from the proxy concept to create a fast and streamlined unblocking service. The only traffic that gets routed through the proxy server is traffic that needs to be unblocked. Everything else just acts normally. There's no encryption, no extra privacy - just access to blocked websites. This means that smart DNS can be a lot cheaper and faster than a VPN or even a proxy. So, with all that in mind, what kind of service do you need? Well, for general all-purpose privacy and security, we really recommend using a VPN.
VPNs pretty much do everything a proxy server can do, only better - and they tend to be easier to set up and use as well. If, on the other hand, all you want to do is unblock Netflix, well then maybe it's worth looking at a cheaper smart DNS service instead. What's really important, though, is that you're able to trust whichever service provider you do go with. A good VPN can dramatically increase your privacy and security, but it's important to remember that every single go-between service - and this especially applies to free, public proxies - can potentially intercept all of your Internet traffic, or even reroute it to a hostile website. That's why it's so important to choose a trustworthy provider.
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