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VPN Vs. Residential Proxies: Which Should You Choose and When?

Learn the differences between VPNs and residential proxies and find out the ideal option for better online security, uninterrupted data collection, and seamless social media automation.


With cyberattacks on the rise, in order to protect yourself — whether you’re a business or an individual — and your data, it’s imperative that you use services such as VPNs and residential proxies. These services can provide proper protection for your personal data, preserve your anonymity, prevent data leaks, and ensure you’re not under any unwanted surveillance.

While protecting private data and preserving user anonymity are avenues where VPNs and residential proxies are useful, other instances where these services can be utilized are providing remote network access, web scraping, social media marketing, and accessing geo-restricted content.

In this article, you will learn about the importance of using VPNs and residential proxies, their differences, as well as their use cases.

What Are Residential Proxies?

Residential proxies act as an intermediate server, which is essentially a network of IP addresses provided by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) belonging to real devices at real residential locations.

A residential proxy service routes your traffic through a bunch of real IPs procured from real users at real geographic locations, ensuring that your actual IP address stays hidden while you’re browsing the internet.

When your traffic is routed through an IP address from a specific location, any website you visit will consider your device to be from that very location. This means you’d also be able to access content from that location if it’s otherwise region-locked.

Besides accessing geo-restricted content, if you’re an enterprise or a developer working with web data collection, a robust residential proxy solution can make your data scraping process seamless by taking care of website blocks like CAPTCHAs and rate limits.

While residential proxies are useful, one factor you need to consider is the ethical sourcing and legal compliance of your residential proxies. Hence, it’s advisable to avoid free or cheap proxies, as they are often unreliable and might land you in legal trouble.

Industry heavyweights like Bright Data provide ethically procured residential proxies that are compliant with major data protection laws and also come with an almost perfect uptime of 99.9%.

Hence, it’s important that you choose a known and trusted service without compromising on cost.

The Pros and Cons of Residential Proxies


  • Enhanced Anonymity: Residential proxies leverage real residential IP addresses, making it challenging for websites to recognize you as a bot or a proxy user, thereby bolstering your anonymity.
  • Improved Success Rate: Residential proxies have a lower likelihood of getting detected and blocked by websites, as they emulate genuine user behavior. This allows you to deploy various automation tools to seamlessly get about your task without the constant concern of being detected as a bot and banned.
  • Location-Specific Content Access: Residential proxies, having IPs from real locations, enable you to access content that is limited to those specific locations.
  • Heightened Security: Utilizing rotating residential proxies adds an extra layer of security by concealing your actual IP address and safeguarding your personal information.


  • Doesn’t provide data encryption
  • Requires technical know-how for setting up and is difficult for regular users

What Are VPNs?

VPNs, or Virtual Private Networks, are services that provide a secure and private internet connection. VPNs create a virtual connection tunnel between your device and a VPN service provider. The virtual tunnel masks your real IP address and matches it to the VPN server you have been connected to, therefore making your internet footprint nearly untraceable. VPNs provide a secure means to protect your connection on public Wi-Fi networks, encrypt network traffic, and can even help overcome geographical restrictions.

The Pros and Cons of VPNs


  • Masks your IP address, keeping your internet connection private
  • Encrypts your internet traffic and presence
  • Helps bypass geographical restrictions and censorship
  • Doesn’t require technical know-how to set up


  • Uses shared IP addresses and provides encryption, which tends to slow your internet speed
  • Websites that track traffic can block VPNs as they use shared IPs

The Key Differences Between Residential Proxies and VPNs

Security and data encryption:

  • VPNs route connections from your device to the internet through an encrypted tunnel, ensuring you don’t get tracked by ISPs and preventing any kind of data leaks or hacks.
  • Residential proxies act as intermediary devices through which the user’s traffic from a specific browser is routed, thereby masking the actual IP of the user but not providing any extra layer of encryption.

Traceability and anonymity:

  • VPNs provide shared IP addresses to users, which makes your IP susceptible to bans if websites you visit track their traffic.
  • Residential proxy services, on the other hand, assign unique IPs belonging to actual locations and employ techniques that mimic an actual device, ensuring your activity doesn’t get detected by websites.


  • VPNs tend to be slower than residential proxies since they generally assign shared IPs to users. Moreover, data encryption further lowers the network speed. However, premium VPN solutions tend to come with a nominal speed penalty.
  • Residential proxies provide dedicated IP addresses to users and thus are usually faster in comparison to VPNs. Plus, the absence of an encryption process removes the speed penalty that comes with VPNs.


  • VPNs work at the network level, encrypting the connection from your device to the internet, including traffic from any application that may run in the background.
  • Residential proxies are limited to the application layer or a single browser, routing traffic from that specific browser through the assigned IP.


  • VPNs generally, don’t have a learning curve associated with them. Once you install them on your device, they can take care of the rest. Hence, these can be used by regular users.
  • Residential proxies involve a level of technical knowledge. They generally, come with documentation containing information regarding its integration into your projects. Hence, these are difficult for regular users and require technical expertise.

As seen above, VPNs and residential proxies have different functionalities and operate at different levels. While there may be slight overlaps between the two, depending on the use case, the two are ideally meant for different domains.

Where VPNs excel at securing your connection and preventing data leaks or hacks, residential proxies provide a great deal of anonymity, helping you avoid getting detected by websites and ensuring you can automate tasks like data collection and social media management and access region-restricted content.

When to Use Residential Proxies or VPNs?

In the following lines, we’ll see the best use cases for each service.

Best Use Cases of Residential Proxies

  • Web Scraping: Residential proxies, once integrated into your scraping script, route requests from your device through an intermediary server consisting of real IP addresses from real locations, which also receives the response from the destination website and sends it back to your device. This intermediary server masks your actual IP address, preventing websites from detecting and blocking you; lets you access region-restricted content; and also employs unblocking technology that lets you access dynamic content and avoid blocks like CAPTCHAs and rate limits.

This ensures a seamless collection of data over a desired period of time. Residential proxy services are thus ideal for users like digital marketers or businesses that use scrapers to collect publicly available data.

  • Social Media Marketing: Social media platforms often have strict rules when it comes to the number of accounts you can create from a single IP address. Residential proxies can easily help you overcome this by letting you assign unique IPs to each account, thereby increasing your reach and letting you target different categories of audiences. You could also easily bypass IP-based restrictions on posting and promoting by rotating IPs from a set pool of IPs.
  • Bypassing Region-Based Restrictions: If you’re simply trying to access region-locked content such as games, video streaming, and media, you can easily do so using a residential proxy service. Although it might be too expensive for this purpose.

If you’re a marketer, however, you can leverage residential proxies to successfully engage with audiences from specific locations in the world. You could create an account with an IP from a specific area and run ad campaigns, post content, and create exclusive deals for that very area. This would considerably increase the reach of the brand you’re promoting.

A Reliable Residential Proxy Solution

Now that you’ve seen the typical use cases of residential proxies, it’s important that you opt for a service that is reliable and legally compliant so you can accomplish your tasks without interruptions and avoid legal hassles.

As mentioned before, one such residential proxy solution is Bright Data’s. This is a service that ranks first in the G2 Proxy Network category and has a Trustpilot rating of 4.5, proving its reliability in the industry. Bright Data has a huge pool of over 72 million IPs sourced from over 195 countries, covering almost every major city in the world.

Additionally, Bright Data is fully committed to complying with all relevant data protection legal requirements, including the EU data protection regulatory framework, GDPR, and the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 (CCPA). Bright Data’s proxies are acquired with the full consent of their peers, and a dedicated compliance officer thoroughly vets each IP provider.

Besides the huge and diverse pool of IPs, Bright Data’s residential proxies come with added features like automated IP rotation and IP targeting at the ZIP code level. The company also provides flexible pricing plans and unlimited sub-users, especially beneficial for enterprise users. Users are also given a single dashboard for tracking the usage of their proxies, enabling them to gauge their expenses.

Bright Data also provides extensive documentation, videos, and blog posts in order to help you, and their dedicated support team is available round the clock to cater to all your queries.

If you’re an enterprise that prioritizes smoothness of operation, security, and reliability, then Bright Data would be an ideal option for you. While Bright Data’s proxy service has plenty of features, it can get a bit pricey. However, at present, their residential proxies are available at a 40% discount, so if you wish to give them a try, go ahead and take the free trial.

Start Your Free Trial - Bright Data Residential Proxies

Best Use Cases of VPNs

  • Enhances security: Since VPNs route your connection through an end-to-end encrypted tunnel, they make it nearly impossible for ISPs and third parties to track your online activity. This protects you from advertisers who track your activity and send targeted ads to your online feed, snoopers, and malicious software. VPNs are especially useful for activities like online shopping, online banking, and web browsing. Also, if your device is regularly connected to a public network, like in a restaurant, hotel, airport, etc. then for your online security, you definitely need a VPN service.
  • Grants Remote Access: A VPN is a valuable tool for securely connecting to private networks, whether it’s your company’s network or your home network, especially when working remotely or accessing resources like files and home media.

Generally, the term “VPN” often refers to commercial VPN services that grant users access to their servers through VPN tunnels.

However, for remote network access, a different type of VPN, known as a VPN bridge, is employed. Unlike commercial VPN services, VPN bridges are typically owned by organizations and utilize a bridging mechanism to establish a secure connection to the targeted files.


After considering both services and seeing their best use cases, we can come to the conclusion that a VPN service is best if your primary concern is online security and preventing your online presence from being tracked by third parties and hackers.

If, however, you’re a digital marketer or a developer tasked with data collection, whether for personal use or enterprise use, then a robust and reliable residential proxy solution like Bright Data is ideal for you.

Also, it’s important to note that your decision should hinge on the use case rather than cost because these services operate at different levels and differ in functionalities; they can’t really be compared in terms of cost. Both services come with free and paid plans, and both might end up being costlier depending on the add-ons you pick.

In the case of VPNs, if you opt for additional features like password management, ad-blocking, and general data security, the service might become expensive.

Similarly, for residential proxies, several functionality add-ons like IP rotations, automated delays in requests, etc. can increase their base price tremendously.

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