VPN alternatives, like ZPA Zscaler, seedboxes, VPS, and other technologies can make VPNs and proxy-usage obsolete.
VPN servers can be useful for your privacy, but there are times when they’re not so ideal. What are some good VPN alternatives, and where does each one shine?
Let’s explore each alternative and find one perfect for your needs.
1. Use a Proxy Server to Hide Your Location
Proxy servers work similarly to VPN servers. And while a proxy can hide your activity on an HTTPS website, it still can reveal what websites you visit and leak your IP address. In fact, the owners of the proxy server could theoretically monitor everything you do if the site doesn’t offer HTTPS.
So, why would you use a proxy? Simple. When you’re not worried about someone seeing what you’re doing. If you want to unblock a region-restricted video on YouTube or a website won’t let you view it due to geo-blocking, a proxy server is a quick fix for that.
Of course, you should never transfer sensitive information over a proxy server. Who knows what kind of monitoring the server performs on your traffic? As such, keep it only to the browsing you’d feel safe doing with someone watching over your shoulder.
Unfortunately, if you pick a public proxy server, you suffer from the problems of a shared public resource. The more users on your proxy, the slower the performance.
2. Use a Virtual Private Server (VPS) for a Personalized Experience
If you like the idea of a proxy server, but don’t like sharing resources with other people, try a VPS. They work the same way, except a VPS gives you a little more personal room.
When you use a VPS, you’re not getting a whole server per se. Instead, the server gives you a dedicated part of itself that only you can use. This is a virtual server that’s private to you; hence, virtual private server.
Like proxy servers, you still need to trust that a VPS provider won’t monitor your actions while you use it. Unlike a proxy server, you won’t have to deal with other users on the same server. You’re using your own virtualized system which nobody else can use.
3. Use a Seedboxes to Replace a VPN
To illustrate how seed boxes work, imagine this: you want to download a file, but don’t want to reveal an IP address, location, or other private details. Fortunately, you have a good friend who will download the file for you. Once they’re done, the friend then makes the file available to download from their own computer.
Now let’s get away from the friend metaphor. The seedbox is your good friend.
People know that downloading files without protection leaves behind a breadcrumb trail that leads directly to their computer. Seedboxes solve this problem by acting as the middle man and doing the downloading for you. Anyone trying to track the download source will see the seedbox’s information, not yours.
The seedbox can then host the file for download. Some seedboxes offer an additional VPN layer to further hide your identity. On top of that, the majority of seedbox technologies are compatible with third-party VPN services. For those seeking greater security, we highly recommend combining privacy technologies with one another. While a seedbox by itself offers a single layer of protection, a seedbox combined with a VPN is on another level.
4. Use a Zscaler Private Access (ZPA) Server
These days, businesses put their applications on the cloud. This makes it easier to access the apps you need, no matter your location.
One problem with this is that businesses tend to give their employees a VPN to connect to. This then allows employees to use the apps but also gives them access to the server. This can be dangerous if other services use the VPN, as employees could find their way through the system to the private data.
A Zscaler ZPA server fixes that by giving the users only the apps they need. They achieve this by using “microtunnels” which focuses on each specific app that the user requests. The user never logs onto a server, or “resides” in one; everything is tunneled through the ZPA.
5. Perform SSH Tunneling
SSH Tunneling is similar to VPNs, but with some limitations. While both of them encrypt data in a “tunnel”, SSH requires a little more work to set up.
For one, people typically SSH tunnel to their routers at home. This means you can’t use it to skirt around country restrictions like you can with a VPN server.
Also, SSH tunnels need some setting up on your end to work. VPNs usually have one piece of software you install, and you’re good to go; SSH tunnels, however, need to be set up with the software you want to tunnel individually.
Despite this, SSH tunnels are pretty easy to set up, and don’t cost you anything. They’re especially useful for skirting around blocked ports on firewalls, as an SSH tunnel can redirect the traffic through an unblocked one.
It also encrypts all the data being sent, so no snoopers can see what you’re sending. This makes it an efficient, cheap alternative to a VPN tunnel for using public Wi-Fi without being spied on.
6. Surf With the Tor Browser For Anonymity
The Tor browser is a simple and effective way to hide yourself on the internet. If you’re considering using a VPN to preserve your anonymity, you might be better off using the Tor browser instead.
The Tor browser works by routing all of your traffic through the Tor network. The Tor network is designed specifically to maintain the privacy of all the people that use it. It achieves this by passing all traffic through three individual nodes before reaching your destination.
To prevent one company from owning all the nodes and using them to peer into people’s data, the Tor network is run by volunteers. Individuals and organizations can run the Tor hosting software on their servers to support anonymization on the internet.
If this is true, however, what’s stopping an intelligence organization from volunteering a node? The answer is “nothing”; but the beauty of the Tor network’s design means that it doesn’t matter if a spying node does sneak in. No one node in the network is entrusted with all the data; they’re all treated as if each one is trying to spy on the packets.
It achieves this by triple-encrypting your traffic, then giving the nodes a key for each layer. This triple-encryption acts like three layers around your data, like an onion—which explains Tor’s logo.
Each node knows where the information came from, and where to send it to, but no one node knows the whole route the connection took through the Tor network. This means it’s extremely difficult to find out that Person A sent data to Person B over the Tor network.
Because the nodes you use are selected randomly, Tor is a poor choice if you want to get past geo-blocking. You may be in one country one day, and another one entirely by tomorrow! Despite this, Tor is great for anonymity and is completely free to download and use, so it’s perfect for anyone looking to browse privately.
Best of all, the Tor project is open-source. If you’re looking for an alternative to OpenVPN and want something that’s open to the public, the Tor browser is a solid choice.