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Shadowsocks or VPNs – Which is Best for You and Why

Sarah Barnes
Last Updated by Sarah Barnes on June 19, 2022

With some authorities cracking down on VPNs, they’re becoming increasingly difficult to use. As a result, more people are relying on different technologies to access restricted content.

Many confuse Shadowsocks and VPN services, but while some of their functions are similar, they are two different tools. Read on to find out more about the difference between the two technologies and the pros and cons of each.

What Is Shadowsocks?

Shadowsocks uses a technique called proxying which is a method useful for bypassing censorship restrictions. Usually, proxying involves rerouting traffic via an alternative server.

Shadowsocks has become an integral tool for accessing restricted content in censorship-heavy nations like China.

A firewall can identify if you’re requesting data using a different route and block censored web traffic. Shadowsocks uses SOCKS5, an open-source internet protocol, to add a layer of encryption between your local computer and the proxy server to which you connect.

The Difference Between Shadowsocks and a VPN

The critical difference between the two is that a VPN is a fully encrypted network while Shadowsocks is encrypted only between you and the proxy server and doesn’t offer you online anonymity.

Shadowsocks uses TCP and HTTPS which doesn’t have the same level of security as with a VPN but allows Shadowsocks to bypass restrictions with better connection speeds.

network cyberspace

The Advantages of Shadowsocks

  • Ease of installation and use – One of the most significant advantages of Shadowsocks is its ease of setting up and use.
  • Selective disguising – Choose the data you want to go undetected.
  • Difficult to detect and block – Shadowsocks is challenging to identify and prevent because it masks traffic to make it look like HTTPS and authorities can’t recognize it.

The Downsides to Shadowsocks

Limited functionality- Shadowsocks is only useful if you want to access restricted content. It won’t offer you a considerable amount of privacy or encryption. With it, you’re not hiding your online identity.

geo web

The Advantages of Using a VPN

  • Bypass geo-blocks – A VPN can bypass geo-blocks in every part of the world if you use the right service. The best providers have thousands of worldwide servers to connect to, allowing you to bypass government blocks from anywhere in the world, and are ideal for streaming services like Netflix.
  • Online privacy and safety – The best VPN services offer multiple layers of encryption. Many ISPs keep logs of your online browsing and sell the data to third parties for targeted ads, etc., A VPN encrypts your data protecting you from data theft, malware, and other threats.
  • Save money – A VPN can save you money. E-commerce websites, airlines, and hotels display different prices depending on where you are in the world. By switching to a server in a different country, you could save money on your next transaction.

The Downsides to Using a VPN

  1. Slower internet connections – Data encryption can have an impact on your internet connection speeds. When choosing a VPN, you should identify one with many servers to avoid heavy traffic.
  2. VPN blockers are getting stronger – Unfortunately, major streaming services like Netflix use VPN blockers. While this does limit your choice of VPN, services like ExpressVPN and NordVPN can still bypass these blocks. VPN networks are continually developing to ensure you can always find available and working servers.

Not All VPNs Are the Same

For concealing your digital footprint and improving your online privacy, a VPN is your best choice, although not all VPN services are the same. While there are free VPNs available to choose from, many of these won’t bypass firewalls or provide the same security protocols as with paid subscriptions.

When choosing a VPN, make sure you look for the following features:

  • An extensive network of global servers
  • Multiple security protocols
  • Applications for different operating systems
  • High speeds
  • Unlimited bandwidth

While Shadowsocks is difficult to detect, it only serves to access blocked content. A VPN allows you to access geo-restricted content while adding a layer of encryption, protecting you from potential threats.

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Sarah Barnes
Sarah is a security writer who believes that people are entitled to a high level of online privacy. She specializes in managing digital projects for small to medium businesses from various industries.