What is a Proxy? What are Proxies Used For?

Proxies, Mar-04-20225 mins read

If you wonder that there are anonymous users accessing your data from somewhere in the world, then there’s a high chance if you’re not using a proxy. Questions like, “What is a proxy?” or “What are proxies used for?” can come into mind. When you want to hide your information from peering eyes all over

If you wonder that there are anonymous users accessing your data from somewhere in the world, then there’s a high chance if you’re not using a proxy. Questions like, “What is a proxy?” or “What are proxies used for?” can come into mind. When you want to hide your information from peering eyes all over the internet, then a proxy server is the answer to your problem.

But what is a proxy server and how do proxies work? A proxy server acts as an intermediary server between the web server and your computer.  This article covers several situations where proxies are of use.

What is a Proxy?

Proxy, by definition, is synonymous to substitute. The proxy server acts as a substitute server to hide your IP address. As an intermediary, it filters all data crossing through it and increases your privacy.

However, a proxy server is not limited to that because it also has other functions that make it highly useful for web scraping.

When you visit a website, it will track down your location (IP address) for certain personalization settings. The main use of a proxy server is to hide your IP address and improve cybersecurity. It acts as a substitute IP address that the website will pick up.

How do proxies work?

Your computer has a unique address that serves as an identifier. Think of it as a personal address, only not that specific. The IP address of your computer is unique to each device: the IP address on your phone is different from your computer even when you’re using the same internet connection.

Whenever you access a website, the host website will need your IP address. If you’re using a proxy server, the proxy’s IP address will be submitted instead of your own IP address. Then, proxies intercept web requests and transfer them back to your actual IP address.

Imagine the web requests that you send as data packets. These “packets” have your original IP address, but proxies change that to the proxy IP address it provides. All of these happen before your data packets reach the webserver and then the web server responds to the proxy’s IP instead of yours.

Proxy users will have better IP address security because they’re not using theirs. In this case, their original IP address is masked by the proxy IP address, but this is only the general use of a proxy server.

There are several types of proxy servers according to the role they participate in improving your online security. Some of them are data center proxies and residential proxies. Now that you know more about web proxies, it’s time to discuss the different types of proxies.

Different Uses of Proxy Servers

You may use proxy servers in different ways based on different situations. It can be used to track employees’ progress, gain more internet traffic, protect your site, or get competitor data.

It can also be used for personal benefits. If you want to watch a movie that’s not available in your region, then you can use a proxy server to mask your location and appear as a resident in that area. Proxy providers offer different kinds of proxies, depending on your need.

We’ll now discuss the different uses of proxy servers along with the appropriate proxy provider to use.

1. For General Cybersecurity

The primary function of a proxy server is to hide your location when you establish an internet connection. When the host website cannot see the IP addresses of your devices, then it can’t locate you.

Therefore, the proxy server will intercept all requests from that website, whether malicious or not. This content filtering function of a proxy server is useful if you want to increase the general cybersecurity of your devices. A malicious web request won’t make its way into your device if you implement proper cybersecurity measures.

However, it’s important to note that your IP address won’t be hidden from your internet service providers (ISP) and the level of security provided by a proxy server depends on the proxy provider. Here are the types of proxy servers you can use for this purpose.

Distorting Proxy

Distorting proxies offer a high level of security since it gives a false IP address. It makes your location look like you’re in another country, allowing you unrestricted access to their content. It will also be hard to track your location, further improving your security.

High Anonymity Proxy

Based on its name alone, you can be sure that these proxies will keep your identity hidden. Anonymous proxies aim to hide your identity by erasing your data before the data packets reach the web server. This one-step-ahead security protocol of an anonymous proxy ensures general cybersecurity for your devices.

HTTP Proxies

The Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) proxy is a configuration where you’ll choose the IP address you’re using for browsing. You can set up the proxy’s IP and change it from what the operating system gives your device. HTTP proxies can also access HTTPS websites, thanks to its two-way communication that enables access to the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL).

An HTTP proxy examines requests coming from both HTTP and HTTPS source websites and can contribute to content filtering. If the request comes from a potentially malicious website, the request will be denied, like how a firewall works in system units. The standards for HTTP proxies are based on a specific set of rules that guide the proxy to block access from sketchy websites.

2. Accessing Geo-restricted Content

Since proxies mask your location, it can also change your location and bypass web filters according to your preference. When you want to watch a movie that’s not yet released in your region, you can watch it from the comfort of your home.

It can also be used to scout content from different parts of the world. If you’re looking for new content opportunities in other parts of the world, you can use these proxies to change your location.

Shared proxies

A shared proxy is used by multiple users at once, so you can expect very little security offered by these services. The website loading speed can be affected since this service is used by different users from around the world.

 If another user that shares the same proxy IP address gets banned from a website, you won’t be able to access it as well, which is a major issue. But this type of proxy is inexpensive compared to other proxy providers. If speed and versatility are not an issue for you, then a shared proxy can provide some level of security when accessing geo-restricted content.

Public Proxies

A public proxy, also known as a free proxy, can be used by anyone who has access to it. This type of proxy lends its IP address to the user for free. That’s why a lot of people simultaneously connect to these proxies, making it slower than usual.

If speed is not an issue for you, then public proxies can be used for this function. However, it’s not safe to use public proxies for other web activity that requires higher security protocols.

Transparent Proxies

A transparent proxy is transparent to the target website and will show your originating IP address. It doesn’t hide your information, but you can change your location. A transparent proxy will still serve as a layer of protection for your data when accessing different websites.

3. Web Scraping

Perhaps one of the most sought-after features of a proxy is its effectiveness in web scraping and competitor analysis. Because proxies hide your information, your competitors will never know that you’re gathering their data and will be unable to block you.

What is Web Scraping?

Web scraping is the term used for gathering market data, eCommerce data, and other competitor data and knowing their performance so you can compare the gathered data and your data for market analysis.

Digital marketers use private proxies to scout leads, news, price fluctuations, and other important market data without exposing your identity and ensuring they don’t get blocked. Here are the types of proxies that are useful for web scraping:

Data center Proxies

Datacenter proxies are physical servers hosted in a data center. When you use this proxy, your requests are sent to the data center before it reaches the webserver.

However, this proxy is limited to small-scale web scraping only. You can use this to harvest competitor data swiftly and analyze it for short-term plans. It is also an affordable solution if you want a one-time analysis of your competitor’s status.

Anonymous Proxy

An anonymous proxy makes your web activities untraceable to peering eyes. When doing web scraping, anonymous proxies hide your activity to make it look like you’re a regular browser. This capability is comparable even to a transparent proxy.

Experienced Hackers can trace the main server, But the connection from the proxy server to your device is untraceable. Although hackers can spot it, the degree of anonymity from the user-end is still reputable.

Rotating Proxies

Rotating proxies generate a new IP for every new connection the user makes to the proxy service. It rotates from one IP to another, making it hard to catch a proxy server in this list.

A rotating proxy is useful when you want to do high-volume web scraping. It allows you to access the same website multiple times because you’ll have a unique rotating proxy address each time.

Residential and Rotating Residential Proxies

Residential proxies are complicated in comparison to other proxy providers, but their benefits in web scraping are incomparable. A residential proxy server comes from a legitimate address somewhere in the world and the internet service providers will issue this proxy IP to regular users of their services.

Because it comes from a legitimate neighborhood, a residential proxy makes a clean visit log that looks like a human user and the website won’t see you as a proxy server trying to scrape data from them. It will only see an ordinary IP address trying to access their website.

4. Playing Games Without Server Lag

MMORPG players are avid users of these kinds of proxies. Players from all over the world use a proxy server to access geo-restricted games. They use a high-speed proxy server to access the game content without experiencing server lag or packet loss.

Datacenter Proxies

Datacenter proxies come from a physical server that outsources IP addresses from corporate centers. Since they are outsourced, they are the fastest of the previously mentioned proxy types. However, datacenter proxies are prone to server denials, and server blocks 

Transparent Proxies

Transparent proxies are made by websites to protect their system. It filters users without letting them know that they’re using the transparent proxy. These proxies can cache websites, enabling them to load faster every time you access them. You may have come across this proxy at least once when accessing a guide or a playthrough.

Dedicated Proxies and Semi-dedicated Proxies

These proxy servers work on a small scale, focusing on performance. It’s your choice whether to go for a dedicated proxy or a semi-dedicated proxy. A dedicated proxy will cost you more, but the proxy IP addresses you are going to use are exclusive and give you more performance value.

Mobile Proxies

When you’re playing on the phone, mobile proxies are useful if you want high-speed connection in different parts of the world. Unlike virtual private networks (VPNs), you may set mobile proxies manually. You can manipulate the proxy settings to enhance your gaming performance and reduce server lag.

Some Proxy Risks to Note:

1. “Free” comes with a price

When proxy providers say that they are offering proxy server access for free, then you should expect that there is a major drawback. Free proxies are not well-regulated and maintained compared to private proxies and dedicated proxies.

2. “You get what you pay for”

In terms of proxies, this saying is true. If you pay top-dollar for the best proxies in the market, then you are certain in your expectations. However, if your budget is limited, you can still go for cheap proxy providers but you must keep an eye out for shady proxy providers and don’t inquire about their services.

Closing Thoughts

What is a proxy? Now that we’ve discussed web proxies and the different types, you have an idea of what proxy to use in specific situations. But you’re not limited to using a singular proxy server to address all your problems. You can combine the use of different proxy servers to make sure that you get the most out of them.

You can use a forward proxy along with anonymous proxies to secure your internet usage. You can also use a rotating residential proxy with a high anonymity proxy to hide all your web activities from your competitors. The combination will depend on what functions you need for your business.