What is a Proxy Server? How does it work?
- Sep 21, 2022, 4:54 PM
- 7 minutes
A proxy server is a computer that acts as an intermediary between the user and the website. When a person uses a proxy, the request is first routed through the proxy server, which is then forwarded to the web server.
In this article, we will tell you why you should use proxies, how they work and what types of proxies exist.
Why Do You Need a Proxy Server?
A proxy changes your IP, so the web server doesn't know who is making a request. This is useful if you want to avoid ad tracking.
Proxy speeds up the access to site contents as it compresses images and videos.
Some proxies have encryption. It prevents hackers from breaching your network and stealing your confidential information.
Access to location-specific content
There is geo-blocked content inaccessible in specific geographic locations. You can access that content by using an online proxy server located in another country.
Website and ad testing
For example, a developer sets up a new feature in the website and wants to check how clients see it. Connects proxy → changes IP → visits the site and sees how it looks for the client.
The situation is similar to advertising. A proxy helps you track where ads appear and who sees them. It helps to remove irrelevant websites and narrow down the audience.
To work with traffic and content, you have to collect a lot of information on the Internet and make hundreds of queries. Some websites can restrict access or ban you for this. A proxy can reduce this risk.
How Does a Proxy Server Work?
A person or a company creates a server with a specific IP address. This address is then made available for other people to use.
When a person connects to a web proxy server, a real IP address changes to that of the proxy server and the traffic goes through a filter rather than directly from the computer to the web page.
Types of Proxy Servers
Proxy servers may be classified by: IP-address, the level of anonymity, and protocols.
Based on the IP source
They are fast and cheap. The weakness of a data center proxy is that anti-bot services can detect and block data center proxies. For example, data center proxies are not a good choice for copping sneakers because web servers block them.
But datacenter proxies can handle geo-blocking and increase website speed.
These are the real IP addresses that the Internet service provider assigns to the clients. So the sites you visit recognize you as a regular user. Residential proxies are more expensive than data center proxies. Sometimes they are slower, but they carry out more tasks.
They are similar to residential proxies, but instead of a computer's IP address, they assign a device mobile IP. Mobile proxies are the most expensive.
They are best for social media promotion. The thing is that social networks check users' IP addresses and quickly block datacenter proxies.
Based on the level of anonymity
Transparent proxies do not hide your real IP address. They filter content and improve website load times. For example, a boss can block Twitter access to promote employee productivity.
An anonymous proxy changes the user's real IP, so it is impossible to detect your location. It also secures your personal data. They are best for data protection or avoid targeted advertising.
Another advantage of using an anonymous proxy is rotation. It means that the IP address changes to a different one every 3, 5, or 10 minutes or after a certain number of requests.
A distorting proxy works similarly to an anonymous proxy, except it passes a false IP and sites cannot recognize it as a proxy. With a distorting proxy, users can bypass blocked content.
A private proxy is used solely by one specific person. It's not shared with anyone else. They are used to do activities on the Internet under a certain IP address.
Shared proxies are cheap and available for use by several clients. It means that several people work on the same IP address simultaneously.
Public proxies are free, but their security tends to be weak. You can find them by searching for "list of public proxies."
Drawbacks: unstable, vulnerable to hacking. Some proxies collect user data and sell it to companies.
Shared and public proxies are used for faster load times and to compress data and sometimes to get around geo-blocking.
Based on protocols
HTTP proxy is the most common type of proxy. It can change your IP address. HTTP proxy does not provide extra privacy and safety. All your activity is visible as if you are not using a proxy.
HTTPS proxies are similar to the previous but with encryption. They help to establish a secure connection.
SOCKS proxies offer better security and privacy than HTTPS proxies. A SOCKS proxy hides the user's IP address along with the fact that a person is making a request through a proxy.
How to Choose a Proxy?
Determine what you need a proxy for. For example, if you want to access the Internet under a certain IP, a private proxy will do. If you need to collect data for SEO analysis, a residential proxy is your choice.
Find out the location of a server
Web pages may take longer to load if a server is located far from you.
It will help you to find a reliable proxy. Another option is to test servers if the providers offer free trials.
Free proxies are not always up to the task; paid proxies are not always worth the money. For example, if you need to bypass geo-blocking, use a datacenter proxy. There is no need to buy a residential proxy.
Risks of using
❌Lack of encryption: An HTTP proxy works without encryption so that hackers may access your data.
❌Collecting Data Some proxies store real IP addresses and users' search histories. Later this information can be sold to companies that, for example, set up targeting.
❌Unstable Connection For example, if too many people connect to the same online proxy server, the server may go down, and real IP addresses will be leaked.
Also, if web servers are located far from clients, response time may be slower. Thus, the Internet speed is reduced.
Proxy servers are perfectly legal in most countries. It is just a tool that helps bypass blocked sites, hide data, etc. The legality of using a proxy is dependent on your purposes.
Therefore, you should learn the laws of your country before using a proxy.
Difference Between Proxy and VPN
A proxy is similar to a VPN. But VPNs encrypt all your traffic while proxies encrypt just part of it. Therefore, a VPN provides greater privacy and security.
VPN servers often slow down browsing speeds and cost more.
At the same time, there is no guarantee that a VPN service is not sharing data with law enforcement or selling it to advertisers.
A rotaiting proxy is a good choice if you want to bypass geo-blocking, secure confidential information, speed up your Internet connection or evaluate the effectiveness of an advertising campaign.
Remember: different needs require different proxies. Data center proxies offer quick internet access, while residential or mobile proxies are best in terms of security.
And don't forget to check protocols. HTTP — not secure, SOCKS — secure.
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