Using a proxy server can bring numerous advantages to businesses and individual users alike. Although the amount of information surrounding proxies might seem overwhelming to a first-time user, it is easy to master this knowledge in a short amount of time.
In fact, you can begin your journey right now, by learning to discern different types of proxies, how each of them work, and which one you should use for a particular purpose.
And if you want to learn even more, we recommend heading over to Oxylabs where they have a blog with plenty of useful information that’s easily digestible.
What is a Proxy Server & How Does It Work?
The main purpose of a proxy server is to serve as an intermediary between your device and the internet. To understand what this means in practice, let’s say that you want to visit a certain website via a browser that is set to use a proxy.
Your browser will send the request to visit the website to a proxy server, and then it will forward the request to the website’s hosting server. The hosting server will respond by sending the homepage of the website.
However, the proxy will receive this response, and send it back to your device. In this process, the hosting server will register the proxy server as a visitor, and not your device.
What Proxy Servers are Used For?
Using a proxy server has numerous benefits, and these are some examples of its most frequent usages:
- Shared internet within a network. Many business and family households have one internet connection that they need to distribute to multiple computers within the network. With a proxy server, the internet connection can be easily shared between computers that are on the same LAN.
- Internet access control. A proxy server allows for enhanced internet access control options – bandwidth control, content filters, online time control, and authentication for internet connection.
- Speed improvement. Using a caching a proxy can significantly improve the speed of internet surfing. As mentioned before, requests from client computers will reach the proxy server first. It typically has a portion of the local hard drive designated for caching of web resources, so the client devices can get their request answered directly from a proxy server.
- Security and privacy. A proxy hides the IP address of the client computer accessing the Internet, allowing anonymous surfing. Aside from providing privacy protection, this increases security by preventing unauthorized access, and attacks.
- Bypassing censorship and geoblocks. Proxy services are oftentimes used to bypass various filters and restrictions, posed by work offices, and even countries. They are also used to bypass geo-restrictions. Using the appropriate proxies enable users to access the blocked content without problems.
The Different Types of Proxy
The most common types of proxies are designed for browsing the web and getting around various firewalls. Typically, they are used through web browsers and provide different levels of privacy protection.
- Transparent proxy – this type of proxy declares that a client is using a proxy, and doesn’t hide their real IP address. Considering that they don’t provide anonymity, usage of transparent proxies is quite risky.
- Anonymous proxy – also notifies that a client is using a proxy, but doesn’t reveal their real IP address. Anonymous proxy however, cannot guarantee anonymity to the client, because of the notification that a proxy is being used.
- Elite or High Anonymity proxy – doesn’t notify that a client is using a proxy, and hides their real IP address, providing complete anonymity to its users.
- Distorting Proxy – notifies that a client is using a proxy, but reveals incorrect original IP address of the client.
- Reverse Proxy – doesn’t enforce any local policies and is mostly used by a server behind the firewall, regulating client access to it. It can also provide caching for slower back-end servers or balancing load between them.
Depending on the data transfer protocols they are using, proxies can be further divided into:
- Socks Proxy – a newer, versatile protocol, used to establish different types of connections (UDP or TCP) on behalf of the client, typically as a circumvention tool.
- HTTP Proxy – its main purpose is to route HTTP client requests (browser- Internet), and provide caching of the requested data.
- SSL Proxy – similar to http proxy server, but with additional encryption layer that handles encrypted data by decrypting and re-encrypting it. They are typically used to access websites that require login.
- FTP Proxy – performs caching and relays of FTP traffic.
- SMTP, POP3, and IMAP proxy servers – used to send and receive emails.
What is the Difference Between Proxy and VPN?
People often use the terms ‘proxy’ and ‘VPN’ interchangeably, without realizing the difference. The main distinction between the two is that a VPN offers higher privacy and security protection, because it routes encrypted traffic without decrypting it on the server side (like an SSL proxy does).
In addition to this, VPN routes traffic from all ports, while proxy typically routes only a specific type of traffic.
In a nutshell, these are the first things you should know on your journey towards becoming a proxy expert. This knowledge will not make you an expert, but if you remember these things, you will already be ahead of most other internet users.