Proxy servers are frequently used by individuals and companies alike. While they require some technical expertise to utilize, the benefits a proxy server provides are immense, ranging from increased privacy to the enablement of revenue generating activities.
We’ll go through both benefits a proxy server brings to individuals and companies while outlining the best choices for both without overloading you with highly technical information. It will make picking the right proxy server easier than ever.
What is a proxy server?
A proxy server is a machine that’s used to connect to the internet as an intermediary. It can range from being a device just like one you own at home to a supercomputer-like server with significantly more computing power and better internet connectivity.
Since it’s a device connected to the internet, it has its own IP address. A proxy server can be completely transparent (although, these are rare) or anonymous. Mostly, proper proxy servers are considered the latter and forward connection requests to web pages without revealing the true IP address of the originator.
On the face of it, proxy servers are just that – machines that accept connection requests from an approved user. They then forward anything the original machine has intended to do such as access websites. After their actions are completed, they forward the response back to the originator.
Additionally, proxy servers may serve as security tools. They may be set up to only accept encrypted connections or act as content filtering gateways. Since they act primarily as a layer between the originator of a connection request and the intended destination, their use cases are wide and varied.
Finally, it’s important to note that a proxy server requires high maintenance. Many users might be wanting to connect through it, therefore providers must use many different methods to maintain connection and performance quality. Due to these reasons, most proxy servers are paid services.
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What do proxy servers do?
Every feature of a proxy server rests on two factors. First, it’s an independent machine with its own IP address. Second, it forwards web requests to the intended destination and returns the response to the originator.
Out of these two factors, several important features emerge. IP addresses are the primary tracking tool for websites as these are generally static. Additionally, they carry with them geo-location data of the machine.
However, since a proxy server usually doesn’t reveal its true nature, web pages think that the former are the true source of the request. As such, they think the proxy server is just a regular user connecting to them.
Therefore, proxy servers primarily function as secret layers for internet connections. They may be used to get to websites, create secure connections, or trick pages and servers into thinking someone else is attempting to retrieve the content.
What are the different types of proxy servers?
Every proxy server can be categorized in several ways. Most commonly they are separated into different categories by their origin. There are, however, differences in connection types, security levels, and number of concurrent users.
Primarily, you’ll need to know about the two origins – residential and datacenter proxies. Each type has its own proxy server advantages. The former originate from regular household devices. They are a bit slower and less reliable, however, they are much harder to detect. Additionally, a pool of residential proxies has tons of different locations.
As a result, they’re best used for accessing geo restricted sites as you can get an IP from any corner of the world. Additionally, they are often used for botting as they reduce the likelihood of such software getting banned.
A datacenter proxy server, on the other hand, is much faster, more reliable and, often, cheaper. They are created on a server through virtual machine software, allowing IP addresses to be created in bulk. Unfortunately, that means they inherit the subnet, which allows websites to have an easier time detecting that a proxy is being used.
Outside of these two types, there are HTTP(S) and SOCKS5 proxies. The former use the regular HTTP connection and, usually, establish a secure connection if SSL is enabled. They have the added bonus of being able to be used as an additional layer against security threats as they can detect and filter out suspicious packets. Finally, they can cache data, which can potentially improve performance in some cases.
SOCKS5 proxies use the SOCKS protocol for connections. They are generally much faster than HTTP, but do not have any inbuilt security features as they have no encryption. Additionally, a SOCKS5 proxy server can function over a multitude of protocols, making them more flexible.
Finally, the last important difference is between a shared and dedicated (private) proxy server. Any number of users can connect to the same server in the former case while only a single one can connect to a proxy in the latter case. Shared proxies are usually cheaper, but less reliable and slower.
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5 benefits of using a proxy server
Bypasses geo restrictions
As long as you have access to a significant amount of proxies from a multitude of locations, any geo-restriction online can be bypassed. Proxies will send their own IP address and location as if it was the original request, allowing you to view content you usually wouldn’t be able to.
Allows automated data collection
Many businesses around the world use bots and automation software for data collection purposes. Website administrators, however, aren’t happy about letting automation software run freely and frequently ban offending IP addresses. Residential and datacenter proxies let businesses completely bypass these issues.
A lot of tracking online happens through the use of IP addresses. Since proxies let you change it on a whim, much of that data gathering power is lost. While a proxy can’t protect you from digital crime such as identity theft, it’ll at least keep your online fingerprint a little more safe.
Sneaker copping, social media management, and web scraping are just a few examples of botting online. Most of these activities can be seen with suspicion by some websites and cause administrators to ban bots, even if they’re not breaking any rules. Proxies, however, allow users to circumvent any type of IP ban, allowing them to continue using their bots.
Can improve speeds
In some cases, a proxy server might improve your connection speeds. As long as the proxy stands close to the server hosting your intended target (e.g. website), the ping will be significantly lower. There are cases, such as sneaker copping, where saving a second or two might be immensely beneficial.
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