Ever hit a wall trying to access that perfect article for your project, only to find it’s blocked in your country? Super annoying, right? But don’t worry, there are clever ways to get around these barriers and get the info you need for your studies. A VPN will come to many people’s minds first, but are proxies equally effective?
This brief article explores why tackling geo-restrictions is important for academic pursuits and why you should consider proxies when doing so.
Why Should You Use a Proxy or VPN for Study and Research Anyway?
There are several reasons students & scholars would want to bypass geographical restrictions. Some journals and learning institutions limit access to their materials to specific countries or regions. Being unable to reach them possibly leaves interested parties without crucial data they need to study or do research effectively.
On the other hand, geographical restrictions may arise from government censorship. Less-than-democratic regimes believe certain sites and services present a moral & societal danger or help organize dissent.
China is notable for its “great firewall”, a complex system that blocks access to the rest of the global internet. Students and academics in such regimes need unrestricted access if they want more complete and objective resources to base their work on.
Do They Bypass Geographical Restrictions Differently?
While there are differences between proxies and VPNs on a fundamental level, they’re comparably capable tools for accessing content unrestrictedly.
Proxy servers introduce an intermediary between your original connection and a source you’re trying to reach. They work by intercepting your requests and passing them along while using their IP address instead of yours.
Let’s say you’re in country A and want to access content from country B that you normally couldn’t. The right proxy provider will have servers operating inside country B and can assign you a local IP address. You may then download learning resources, view articles, etc., without issues.
Residential proxies are best for this since they use genuine IP addresses. That makes it much harder to identify connection requests as coming through a proxy server. A different IP address already affords a high degree of anonymity. However, some websites block repeated access. That’s when you might want a rotating proxy that periodically uses different addresses.
What about VPNs?
VPNs are similar to proxies since they also rely on remote servers to bypass geo-restrictions. They’re more comprehensive than proxies since they encrypt your entire internet connection and traffic, not just the activity of a single app or browser.
These distinctions make them safer cybersecurity tools, but a reliable proxy will open the gates just as easily. The added encryption layer may lead to slower load times when accessing sites via VPN. Conversely, proxies can cache sites, meaning the ones you visit frequently will load faster.
How to Choose a Suitable Proxy?
Since you’re dealing with restricted content, you’ll want to be careful what kind of proxy you use. Free ones abound, but they might not have the needed coverage. Worse yet, some may not use trusted protocols like HTTPS or will even sell your data.
A good proxy provider should have positive reviews from real customers. Its servers need to be stable, meaning their uptimes should be high. Most importantly, the provider needs to have a global server presence so students and researchers can benefit from it whether they’re looking for restricted content or being repressed themselves.
Arbitrary restrictions and authoritative regimes shouldn’t be obstacles to achieving academic freedom. With tools like proxies and VPNs, they no longer need to be. Just remember to choose trusted providers instead of suspicious or free ones.