July 24, 2024

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What is a Proxy?



From protecting your computer against malware attacks directed through your real IP address to enable you to access restricted content on the web, proxy servers make for essential additions to your home’s or company’s computing infrastructure. These are just two of the many applications of proxy servers, mind you.

Harnessing the full benefits of proxy servers for a particular task is anchored on selecting the best type of proxy for that specific task. This is because proxy servers are available in many forms. Nonetheless, before going deeper into that, it is crucial to answering the question ‘What is a proxy?’

What is a Proxy?

A proxy is a computer or internet-connected device, e.g., a mobile phone or router that acts as a gateway between your computer and the internet. Whenever you’re browsing the internet, your browser generates web requests with every click on a new link. If you’re using a proxy server, it will ‘intercept’ these requests – intercept is in quotes because the proxy has your permission – assign them a new IP address and subsequently routing them to the target website.

By assigning your web requests a new, unique IP address, you gain a new online identity that makes it hard for any snooping eye to get to your computer. Through this operating principle, proxy servers open users up to a world of new possibilities.

For instance, Netflix Australia has shows which are limited to that specific continent. To access such content, you can succeed by using Australian proxy. Similarly, perhaps you work in a multinational firm’s marketing department and want to establish how your company’s ads are being shown in Australia from your headquarters in, say, London or New York. You can use an Australian proxy.

Types of Proxies

Residential Proxies

Residential proxy routes web requests through existing consumer devices, such as phones or laptops, and assigns them residential IP addresses. Residential IP addresses belong to internet service providers (ISPs). Thus, whenever you use a residential proxy, your traffic is channeled through an ISPs’ customer’s computer or phone.

In this regard, if the ISP is located in Australia, then your service provider assigns you an Australian IP address, making it a residential Australian proxy. Notably, residential proxies and the assigned IP addresses are hardly flagged as bots since websites perceive them as genuine users.

However, channeling web requests through unsuspecting users’ computers raises ethical concerns. Furthermore, it implies that residential proxies are slow.

Residential proxies are used for email monitoring, accessing geo-locked content, and scraping large websites.

Datacenter Proxies

Datacenter proxies are virtual computers supported by powerful datacenter servers. These datacenter servers create virtual IP addresses that the datacenter proxy service providers assign to users.

Although datacenter proxies are fast owing to the datacenter servers that back them, websites easily flag them. This is often the case when they generate huge volumes of traffic or when used to carry out operations that would ordinarily be done by people using home networks but not datacenter infrastructure.

Nonetheless, datacenter proxies are fast and can support multiple computers using a single IP address. They are suitable for web scraping small websites, accessing geo-restricted content, balancing traffic, email monitoring, and providing online anonymity.

Transparent Proxies

A transparent proxy routes traffic and web requests without making any alterations. Thus, it offers an experience similar to what a person would typically get in an office or home setup. Transparent proxies are used by organizations that want to restrict employees’ access to specific sites without making it known that a proxy server is present.

Private Proxies

A private proxy assigns every user a unique IP address.

Shared Proxies

In shared proxies, a single IP address is assigned to multiple users.

Anonymous Proxies

An anonymous proxy hides the user’s information but still identifies itself to the target website as a proxy server.

High Anonymity Proxies

A high anonymity proxy hides both the users’ identity and its own identity. It does not identify itself to the web server as a proxy.

What to look for when choosing a proxy?

You should check these aspects in a proxy server whenever you are looking for a proxy server for your personal use or business.

  • Check whether it is a paid proxy and the pricing – a good proxy server is not free, and neither is it cheap.
  • The IP Network Pool – a good proxy server should have a wide network of IP addresses from different locations.
  • The purpose for which you intend to use the proxy. Different types of proxy servers are suitable for specific purposes only.
  • Customer support and documentation – you could check this by reading reviews.

Indeed, you can only realize a proxy server’s full benefits if you’re using it for the purpose for which it was designed. Further, a proxy with the characteristics listed above would be the best option for you or your business.