Why Use a Proxy Service?
The top performers in our review are Golden Frog, the Gold Award winner; Hide My Ass, the Silver Award winner; and PureVPN, the Bronze Award winner. Here’s more on choosing a Proxy Server to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of 10 services.
Using a web proxy can help you protect vital information. Proxy services create a virtual private network and encrypt your data as it travels from your devices and across the internet. These proxy servers help you connect to other computers in your network securely, even over a public network.
A web proxy gives you and your employees the ability to connect to each other while outside of the office. The best proxy servers help you create a secure line for your employees to access files remotely without putting your company's data at risk. If you are a small business owner who needs a secure way to connect with employees while on the go, you might want to look into web proxies.
Differences Between Proxy Servers & VPN
Proxy servers protect your data as it travels across the open airways of the internet. A proxy encrypts one program and allows you to connect to your server through an anonymous IP address. More advanced servers are called virtual private networks, or VPNs.
While a proxy server is very useful if you are looking for a way to stream Netflix or encrypt your information while browsing on a public network, a VPN provides complete protection for all of your online activity and provides faster connections.
Much like a proxy, a VPN connects you through an anonymous IP address and allows you to decide that location of the server you would like to connect to. VPNs offer more security than proxies do because they encrypt your entire internet connection. If you need to connect multiple devices to one account and are looking for advanced protection, a VPN server is the best route to explore. For more information, read some of our articles on VPNs or visit our sister site Tom's Guide to read its article on How a Virtual Private Network Can Boost Your Security.
Benefits of Using a Proxy Server
Much of the information we share and store on our computers is personal or proprietary. Hackers look to exploit weaknesses to get ahold of this information. Proxy services act as an intermediary between you and the rest of the internet, using their servers to send your information to the web and then sending the response back to you.
Many people also like the anonymity that web proxies and VPNs provide. Web proxies do this by cycling through IP addresses so that your search history and data cannot be connected to you through your registered IP. Many services also allow you to pay anonymously through Bitcoin and some even let you use gift cards to stores like Walmart and Subway.
Web Proxy Security
Web proxies use what is called tunneling to package and transfer information. Tunneling works when a secure connection is established, using the internet, between a server and devices. The information sent through the tunnel is first encrypted, then sent through the secure connection across the internet and unpacked on the other side. While this whole process occurs in the blink of an eye, it is a multi-step procedure designed to protect your security.
Different methods that proxy sites and VPNs use to tunnel and transfer your data are called protocols. There a many different types of protocols that proxy servers use to package and transfer your data. A few of the most popular are PPTP, Site-to-site VPN, L2TP VPN, IPsec and SSL.
PPTP, also known as Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol, is the most popular and widely used protocol. OverPlay VPN and Private Internet Access both utilize PPTP as one of their protocol methods. PPTP has many advantages, including that it is easy to use and one of the most cost-effective security protocols on the market. However, its connections are not as stable as some of the protocols listed above.
Another type of tunneling protocol frequently deployed is OpenVPN. This protocol is an open-source software used by companies like Cyber Ghost and Hotspot Shield. This type of protocol is mixes SSL and TLS as a key exchange. It also relies on advanced security features, such as user authentication via usernames, password, key codes and certificates. OpenVPN is one of the most secure virtual private networks on the market. However, it is more expensive to run.
One Feature to Expect From All VPN Providers
Companies that provide proxy servers devote a lot of time to marketing specific features. Many of these features are useful and essential for a web proxy and VPN to successfully run and protect your information. Since every company on our lineup and nearly every company in the industry offers unlimited bandwidth, we did not include it on the matrix.
Your bandwidth determines how quickly signals are transferred. Unlimited bandwidth ensures that your pages will load rapidly and that your attachments, even large documents, are sent without lag time. Bandwidth also allows you to easily access sites and download content quickly, so your day-to-day business activities are not slowed down. Bandwidth is essential for proxy servers and many companies advertise having unlimited bandwidth. You will find that companies across the board offer this, so do not choose a service based on bandwidth. Just expect it to be there.
What We Tested & What We Found
When using a web proxy, it is important that the service is easy to use and set up. You should be able to successful install and create accounts without the help of an IT team. Many small businesses do not have the resources to hire and staff IT members, so it is critical that these services are user friendly.
When problems do arise, you need to know that the company you choose is responsive and reliable. Any web proxy service should provide full help and support to answer your most basic questions and assist you with troubleshooting.
To test proxy servers, we downloaded accounts from each company to test usability of the control panel and dashboards. We first determined how the setup process went and noted if setup time was longer than average or required additional steps. Once our accounts were set up, we tested features such as the abilities to choose a server location or add additional devices to an account and choose security protocols.
While each control panel has similar functions, we found some were much easier to use than others. One standout dashboard came from CyberGhost. The CyberGhost platform was extremely user friendly and intuitive; it has an interactive interface that made selecting a server and location a one-step process.
Support is an indispensable feature for any service, but is especially important when you are relying on another source to protect your data from prying eyes. Help and support staff should be available to you through email and phone support. Staff member should be knowledgeable and focus on the issues at hand, rather than trying to upsell you on more products.
To test the quality of support provided by proxy sites, we contacted support multiple times at all hours of the day; you never know when something could go wrong and put your security at risk. We reached a score by ranking five separate criteria in help and support. A customer service representative needed to have a working knowledge of the user-interface and security protocols, rather than just directing us to various links in the company's FAQs or support center.
When we tested help and support, we found that many companies offer live chat on their websites but that often these live chats were unavailable. When we checked multiple times throughout the days and on various days, we were unable to reach customer support via this function.
One company that stood out in our help and support tests was ibVPN. This company quickly responded to email support requests with helpful, knowledgeable answers. Support is also active in the company's user forums and on social media channels. Support representatives quickly responded to complaints and concerns.
Top Ten Reviews seeks, whenever possible, to evaluate all products and services in hands-on tests that simulate as closely as possible the experiences of a typical consumer. The companies had no input or influence over our test methodology, nor was the methodology provided to any of them in more detail than is available through reading our reviews. Results of our evaluations were not provided to the companies in advance of publication.
Our Verdict & Recommendations
Choosing a VPN provider is important for protecting your online information and ensuring that you are transferring information across your network securely. While all services offer basic protection, there are a few things that make certain providers stand out.
One company that does an exceptional job of respecting and protecting your privacy is Private Internet Access. This company allows you to register for proxy or VPN services using gift cards from major retailers, such as Walmart, to sign up for your VPN account. This means that none of your personal credit card information is logged.
Another standout company is TorGuard Anonymous, which cycles through 20,098 different IP addresses on 1,287 different servers to help keep your identity safe. This is more than some of the top-ranked companies offer.
Golden Frog, ibVPN and Private Internet Access offer a stand-out feature: the kill switch. A kill switch is a highly valuable tool that helps protect your information, even if your VPN connection is dropped. Without a kill switch, your identity is no longer protected if something goes wrong with your proxy server.
Choosing the best proxy server gives you the peace of mind that your data is secure and protected from prying eyes when you are transferring important information or using an unsecured network. Look for proxies that best meet your needs to protect your data.