Choosing proxy: Free vs. Paid

  • Apr 2, 2023, 11:18 PM
  • 10 minutes

A proxy is a server or an intermediary computer between the user and the website. It has several functions, including unblocking inaccessible content, maintaining anonymity, protecting the traffic, etc.

We can classify proxies as paid and free.

Paid proxies help users maintain anonymity, bypass blocking, and more. When it comes to free proxies, developers often use them to earn money.

This article discusses cons specific to proxy types and proxy tasks.

Why do you need proxies?

To create anonymity.Proxy changes user IP so that website doesn’t know who it interacts with.

This is useful when you visit a website and want to avoid data collection by advertisers.

To ensure safety.Many proxies are based on encryption protocols. Encryption protects against hacker attacks and ensures data confidentiality.

To bypass restrictions. Company servers are located in different countries. Connecting to such a server is like moving temporarily to another country, which helps evade geolocation restrictions.

To test websites and ads.Imagine a developer who implemented a new website feature and wants to know what it looks like for customers. He/she connects to a proxy → changes his IP address → opens the website — now he can look at the resource from the customer’s perspective.

Ads are similar: a proxy helps you track ads' location and the users they are delivered to. This is helpful when you want to target only desirable platforms and narrow the audience.

To collect data.When you work with traffic and content, gathering loads of data online and making hundreds of queries is essential. Some websites respond to this by restricting access to users or banning them. However, if you use a proxy, the probability of falling under the filters decreases.

To find more about other common proxy purposes, read Proxy and how it works.

Free Proxy: Pros

✔️You don’t need to pay for what you use. You only need to find a free proxy server and connect to it — your IP address will be modified automatically.

✔️You can connect to any proxy server. If a service has proxies that failed, you can move to another resource and try using its servers. You won’t have to pay anything, contact support and ask them to return your money.

✔️New proxy server can work as well as a paid one. If you are lucky enough to find a newly-created proxy with few users, it may not differ from a paid one. You’ll get the same high-speed Internet and low ping.

However, it isn't easy to find such a server. To do that, you need to constantly monitor specialized resources, e.g.,, or  FilterByPass

✔️You can build a chain of connected servers. Since all these proxies are free, you can connect to several proxies simultaneously and change your IP address more than once. This ensures increased anonymity and online safety. However, this will decrease connection speed.

Free proxy: cons

❌There are very few proxies that work. As hundreds and even thousands of users try to connect to free servers, finding an available and working one is quite challenging. Every free proxy has either low fault tolerance or low connection speed, which makes using it impossible.

Sometimes services provide non-working proxies — they exist on the website but don’t work when the user tries to connect.

❌They can compromise PC security. The first risk is viruses. For example, a proxy provider can infect your device with malware through ads containing malicious code. They may also use other malware to steal your cookies.

The second risk is ads. You often have to watch ads to start using free proxies, and proxy providers may also show you pop-up ads while using their servers.

The third risk is making money from your traffic. It works like this: you connect to a free proxy, and after that, its owner starts selling your IP address to other users. Therefore, your PC becomes a proxy, and you won’t even know about it.

The last risk is JS injections and content spoofing. Once a cybersecurity expert created a fake proxy and injected it with an infected JavaScript file. In a couple of days, the proxy was used by 5000 people. Here’s what could’ve happened to them due to an infected JS file:

  • Their computer could’ve turned into a botnet listening to commands from a remote hub and performing DDoS attacks.
  • Spyware could enter the computer and start registering keystrokes, camera position, and even mouse movement.
  • Hackers could’ve stolen confidential information, e.g., login, banking data, or credit card details, from authorization forms or browser cookies.

And if a proxy doesn’t use encryption, its provider can modify your content. While transferring data over an HTTP session, the proxy owner can see all the content. Unscrupulous owners may swap content on websites. If we talk about ads, it’s one thing, but inserting malware code directly into web pages is a different story.

Here is some statistics gathered by an ethical hacker who tested 25,443 free proxies in 2015 and made a conclusion about their safety.

Number of safe and unsafe free proxies: a comparison. Source
Free proxies: statistics for 2015. Source

❌They use weak protocols. Free proxies generally transfer traffic over an HTTP protocol that doesn’t use encryption. That’s why hackers can easily break into and intercept information when the user makes a request to the server or gets data from it.

For example, if you use an unprotected proxy and enter credit card details or banking credentials, a hacker can see and steal this information after they break into an Internet connection. This form of hacking is called man-in-the-middle (MITM).

Man-in-the-middle attack (MITM)

Also, free proxy providers often gather information transferred over unprotected HTTP protocol to sell it to advertisers.

Some proxies use HTTPS and SOCKS protocols. However, it is hard to find them, and they are usually occupied with connected users.

❌It can significantly lower bandwidth and increase ping. The final bandwidth is determined by proxy quality and type. If the proxy is not monitored and there are too many users connected, the load becomes higher, and the final bandwidth can be low while the ping can be high.

❌High risk of IP blocking. Hundreds of people can use the same proxy for different purposes. So, there’s always a risk of a “bad neighbor” effect, e.g., if one user is aggressively parsing socials, the proxy ’s IP address can get into the blacklist of websites and search engines.

Because of that, all the users will have to search for other proxies that are not restricted.

❌Little choice of geolocations. Free proxies generally offer only a few regions you can connect to, for example, the USA, the Netherlands, and the UK. This is inconvenient when you want to connect to a proxy in a specific country.

Olga Popova, product manager at OnlineSim, speaks about the advantages of free proxies,

'Free proxies usually have no password protection and are available for use to lots of people; therefore, there will always be other people using the proxy besides you. The quality of these proxies is rather doubtful, and these proxies are often unstable and have low bandwidth. If you use these proxies to access search engines, you can get a ban or deal with lots of captchas.'

Choosing a free proxy

It’s not always necessary to buy a proxy, especially if you need it only once. In this case, a free proxy will also be suitable.

Olga Popova, product manager at OnlineSim, talks about choosing a high-quality service, 

'It’s recommended to choose a free proxy on trusted sites. Otherwise, use proxies that have good customer feedback. 

When choosing a proxy, you should check its popularity on the Internet. To do that, type its name into a search engine. 

If the proxy appears on many websites, it means there are many users, which can adversely affect stability and bandwidth. 

Overall, it is recommended to have several free proxies for your needs so that you can switch between them in case of any problems.'

✔️Safety. Paid proxies generally use HTTPS and SOCKS protocols. HTTPS is HTTP with SSL encryption. Encryption forms a secure tunnel to transfer traffic from client to server and the other way around.

SOCKS guarantees even greater security compared to HTTPS. It doesn’t show your IP address and conceals from the network that you are making a request through a proxy.

✔️Confidentiality. Paid proxies can be anonymous and transparent.

Transparent proxies do not hide your IP address and help you avoid restrictions. Anonymous proxies change your IP address and hide your data, so it’s impossible to determine your true location.

Drawback: anonymous proxies tell the website that the request is made through an intermediary.

To solve this problem, you can use high anonymity proxies that identify themselves as a regular user.

✔️Stability. Paid server performance is constantly monitored. Therefore, it is unlikely that the proxy suddenly fails and the Internet stops working. And if it does happen, the company promptly provides a replacement.

✔️You can choose a proxy type. When buying a proxy, you can select a datacenter, residential, or mobile one. Every type has its own features and speed.

For example, you can choose a datacenter proxy to bypass restrictions and a mobile proxy to parse social networks. The first one isn’t suitable for parsing as it can be blocked rapidly, and it also makes no sense to pay for a mobile proxy to evade restrictions.

As for free proxies, there’s no choice. More often, they offer only datacenter proxies.

✔️You can choose a location. The final speed is affected not only by proxy type but also by server location. For example, if you live in Germany, you can buy a European server and get high bandwidth.

✔️ Time-saving. Searching for a high-quality free proxy takes a lot of time. And in any case, it will stop working at some point, and you’ll have to search for a new one. It’s easier to buy a proxy once and use it regularly, and this saves you the time you can spend on making more money than you pay for your proxy.

✔️Customer care. If there are problems with the server, you can contact technical support, and they’ll rapidly resolve any issue.

✔️You can build a reliable chain of proxies. This chain is a consistent connection of several servers. The chain can contain proxies of one type — as in the case of free proxies — or proxies of different types. To build the chain, you’ll need specialized software.

Olga Popova, product manager at OnlineSim says, 

'You get a stable connection and higher bandwidth if you buy paid proxies.

In addition, paid proxies allow only a small number of people to connect simultaneously; sometimes, they are designed only for one person. It depends on your subscription. This ensures the minimization of bans and prevents access restrictions from popular Internet services.

Also, paid proxies always have technical support that helps to fix issues and promptly replaces the server if the current proxy experiences some problems.'

❌You have to pay for it. The price is different for different proxy types. For example, you can buy datacenter proxies for 50 cents and residential proxies for $20 and more. The proxy location also affects the price.

As for residential proxies, you have to pay not only for the IP address lease but also for the traffic you use.

❌It’s also vulnerable to the “bad neighbor” effect. Some paid proxies are also used simultaneously by several people. It all depends on the subscription you choose. Therefore, if an IP address is blocked because of one user, it affects all the users who purchased the subscription.

On the other hand, paid services always offer a replacement if the server stops working. Also, you may buy a private proxy that will belong only to you. So, it’s up to you to decide whether you’ll share an IP address with others or use it alone. As for free proxies, you have no such choice.

Olga Popova, product manager at OnlineSim adds,

'On the one hand, paid proxies are pretty expensive. On the other hand, stability and quality are critical, so such costs are justified.'

A comparison: choosing the best proxy




Low. High probability of hacking the connection.

High. Operating under the protection of HTTPS and SOCKS protocols.



High. However, there are transparent proxies that don’t hide user identity.


Greatly decreases.

Remains almost unchanged. A lot depends on the server location and type.




Helps to test ads on the website



Helps to gather information

Yes, however, there is a higher probability of getting banned.


Probability of ban

High. There is a risk of the “bad neighbor” effect. The company won’t provide a new proxy.

Low. However, it depends on the proxy type. There’s also a risk of the “bad neighbor” effect, but the company will promptly provide a new server.




Opportunity to customize the server for your own needs



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