When it comes to Internet-browsing redundancies, knowing *how* to use private proxies with a VPN simultaneously is a piece of cake compared to understanding *when* to apply that knowledge. Hint: not that often, at least not if you value some convenience to any degree and aren’t a 1337 hackerman.
Because a VPN and proxy combo is usually an overkill that comes with a performance cost. On the other hand, VPNs and proxies are both similar and different, but ultimately serve specific purposes – start with those by asking yourself if pairing them together really is an absolute priority for you.
The next step is to abandon any semblance of an idea of getting by with a public proxy. Free services on the Internet tend to suck and/or come with many hidden costs attached, usually at the expense of your privacy, aka the very thing you’re presumably keen on protecting if you’re paranoid enough to even consider using a proxy and VPN simultaneously.
So, just like a free VPN isn’t worth the hassle, neither should you waste your time with free proxies. You’ll need a private one with a dedicated IP if you’re hoping to have anything close to an unobstructive Internet browsing experience.
Never forget: VPNs first
Proxy subscriptions can, naturally, be purchased individually, but they’re a dime a dozen and usually sold in bulk at discounted prices. Still, given how a single proxy would do for your use case and assuming you still haven’t decided on a VPN provider or are willing to switch services, try to find a company that offers private proxies as an added bonus to a VPN subscription.
There’s a surprising number of those that do, especially once the concept of a smart DNS proxy is on your radar. Once you have access to both a VPN service and at least one private proxy, make sure your setup goes from the former to the latter, in that order. A VPN connection takes precedence because it works on a system-wide level, i.e. it will encrypt all of the data you’re sending and receiving via your computer, smartphone, etc.
On the other hand, a proxy is essentially just a browser extension and won’t be able to process traffic outside of the app/program in which it operates. Even if it could, it’s not exactly protecting your data flow, it’s just protecting *you* as its origin.
Since it doesn’t have to encrypt packets and only worries about a single stream instance instead of OS-level connectivity, it doesn’t encumber your upload/download rates (nearly) as much as a VPN. Which is pretty much what makes the 2020/21 experience of running a private proxy over a VPN connection somewhat bearable for power users.
Whether that alone means this exotic setup makes sense to use is up to you. Realistically, it probably doesn’t, but a healthy dose of paranoia on the World Wide Web is nothing to laugh at nowadays – better safe than sorry.
Finally, remember that double VPNs exist
Ultimately, there’s another alternative to adding largely redundant precautions to your Internet habits. That would be running a double VPN. While proxies are faster than VPNs in principle, proxies tend to be inconsistent in practice due to traffic congestion. Yes, even a private proxy is susceptible to popular demand because you aren’t renting a computer, just one of many IP addresses.
At the same time, many providers are offering native support for double VPN connections these days. In fact, some like the feature-rich NordVPN are doing so at no extra cost, even if you’re only paying a couple of bucks a month for their basic service tiers.
Naturally, being able to establish an Internet connection that reroutes your traffic twice is both easier and tends to yield much better results if you go with a specialized, purpose-build service over tinkering with a VPN combo of your own. Or, say, trying to use proxies – private or not – simultaneously with a VPN. The same line of reasoning also applies to the aforementioned smart DNS solutions.
And before you ask, no, you absolutely do *not* need a triple VPN just because you managed to load a page over a double-tunneled connection. If your IT guy legitimately goes through two layers of anonymization and one layer of encryption, you’re pretty much doomed no matter what because apparently, you’re being supervised by Mr. Robot himself, so spare yourself the trouble of slowing down your connection speed even further by adding a third VPN, proxy, or carrier pigeon to the equation.