Every computer connected to the internet has a unique Internet Protocol (IP) address used to identify it. However, sometimes you may want to access data from restricted websites and servers without showing your identity, and this is where proxy servers come in.
Proxy servers provide various levels of privacy, functionality, and security to suit your needs. But what exactly are they? If you’d like to know more about proxy servers, you’re in the right place. Here, we are going to cover everything you need to know about them.
What is a Proxy Server?
A proxy server is a gateway between a user and the internet. Simply put, it is an intermediary server that accepts incoming requests and retrieves the data from a webpage or site on behalf of the user. They also act as additional data security, protecting users from malicious activity on the internet.
Types of Proxy Servers
Proxy servers don’t all work the same way. They have different uses depending on their configuration and type. Here is a classification of some of the different types of proxy servers categorized by;
- Anonymity Level
High Anonymity Proxy
This is the most secure type of proxy you can use to read and extract data from the web. They conceal their identity and don’t identify themselves as proxies for web servers. They also change their IP addresses routinely, which allows a high level of privacy as the web servers cannot determine different users’ traffic.
- Anonymous Proxy Servers
This is the second level of anonymity that conceals a user’s real IP address when they are visiting a website. They are the most common proxy servers used to hide geographical locations, avoid targeted marketing, and access sites that are location-censored. Unlike high anonymity servers, they identify themselves as proxies in web requests, though they distort their own IP addresses.
- Transparent Proxy Servers
As its name suggests, a transparent proxy doesn’t conceal any information about the user. When they send a data request to a web server, it shows as coming directly from the user. These proxy servers are usually set up by the website, and not the user.
- Public Proxy Servers
A public proxy is also called an open proxy, meaning it’s available for use by any internet user for free. It provides access to its IP address for users to browse the internet anonymously. However, they are prone to lagging, as many users are attracted to their free service.
- Private Proxy Servers
Private proxy servers provide individual users with exclusive access to a unique provided IP address. A private proxy server is ideal for you if you value privacy and are concerned about speed and security.
- Residential Proxy Servers
Residential proxies assign users real IP addresses from a real physical location to facilitate anonymous activity on the web. Often, those IPs come from different countries and locations, letting the customers choose which country to target.
- Mobile Proxy Server
Mobile devices that use mobile data also have IP addresses. A mobile proxy uses these addresses to make desktop devices look like mobile devices in web server requests. These proxies come in handy to help with mobile app and ad testing.
How Do Proxy Servers Work?
As we mentioned earlier, proxy servers facilitate web requests and responses between a user and a web server. Typically, the process is usually simple. The user accesses the website and sends their request directly to its web server, and then the response containing the website’s data is sent back to the user. However, with a proxy server, the process is more advanced.
Your computer knows the IP address of the proxy server. Therefore, when you send a web request, it is routed to the proxy first, and then it sends the request to the web server on your behalf. The web server sends the response back to the proxy, which forwards it to you so you can see the data in your browser.
A proxy server is able to change the form of your request and still get you the data you need, or it can edit the response to a more meaningful format that you can easily understand. Moreover, it can encrypt your data during transit so that it is unreadable and can’t be hacked.
Why Should You Use a Proxy Server?
Proxy servers offer several benefits to users. These benefits are, of course, dependent on the type of proxy server you use. Here are some of the benefits.
- Anonymous Browsing
Anonymous proxy servers allow users to browse the web and extract information without revealing their IP addresses to websites.
- Web Filtering
Organizations and schools use transparent proxies to restrict employees and students from accessing certain websites. These proxy servers also record user activity, enabling supervisors to monitor internet use at work and in schools.
- Web Acceleration
Proxy servers are able to cache websites that you visit often. This enables them to speed up data transfer and conserve bandwidth. When you request data, the proxy server checks if there is a cached copy in its database. This reduces the amount of data that it transmits to the web servers and makes retrieval much easier.
- Improved Security
You can configure some proxy servers, such as HTTPS proxies, to provide safe connections through encryption. Transparent proxies are also useful for blocking certain websites that are flagged as malware. This protects your computer against data that can intentionally cause harm.
The safety of a proxy for use comes down to the type and configuration. They may offer you privacy, but depending on the type, this data could be forwarded to external parties and cause a data breach. You must therefore understand how your preferred proxy server operates before using it on the web.