What is a Proxy Server? Detailed Guide

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Although gaining business intelligence by analyzing competitors’ websites and examining their backlinks seems like a great deal for most of us, the problem with that is the inherent risk of identity revelation. 

Scraping a website is good and all, but you don’t want your IP to get banned. Creating backlinks is useful, but you don’t want to fall prey to security breaches. And the list is endless. 

So, is there an ideal solution out there? Thankfully, there is! 

What is a Proxy Server?

Proxy Server

Proxy Server

A proxy server is a third identity between you and the internet. It is an intermediary server between you and the website you are browsing, that works its magic so that your identity remains hidden. 

When you are accessing the internet through a proxy, the entire internet traffic flows through the proxy server first, to communicate with the destination server, as requested by your browser. The request is then routed through the same proxy server, and the data is passed on to you. 

But not only this, modern proxy servers are way more advanced. In addition to forwarding various web requests, they also enhance data security and network performance. They can act as a firewall and web filter and even speed up the common requests by caching commonly visited sites. Additionally, they also keep your identity hidden, thus providing a high level of privacy. If you want to learn more, check out this great blog article by Oxylabs.

Types of Proxy Servers

Based on a range of factors, a proxy server could be categorized into:

Based on the usage of the proxy

We can categorize proxies based on the number of users that use them:

  • Shared proxy

As the name indicates, a shared proxy is the one that is shared between two or more users. Here, a proxy is rotated between various users. Though this type of proxy server is cheap, it poses inherent risks. It might leak your identity, and your proxy might even get banned due to shady behavior.

  • Dedicated proxy

A dedicated proxy is a private proxy server that is allocated only to a single user. These proxies are known for their great performance. Since they are not shared between other users, they provide better speed. What’s more, they are more secure and are less likely to get banned, flagged, or blocked.

Based on the IP type

We can categorize proxies based on the origin of the IP: 

  • Datacenter proxy

A data center proxy is a proxy server that is provided by data centers. A data center is essentially a setup that houses various servers. The downside associated with these proxies is the fact that they do not look authentic, and get blocked easily.

  • Residential proxy

A residential proxy, although expensive, is the best proxy server. These proxies are provided by your Internet Service Provider (ISP). They are genuine and imitate the usual behavior of a real user, thus they are less likely to get banned. 

Applications of a Proxy Server

There are numerous reasons why organizations and individuals prefer using a proxy server:

  • To control  internet usage of employees

Organizations prefer using proxies to control and monitor how their employees use the internet. Most enterprises do not want their employees to access social media networks during work hours, and other time-wasting websites are often blocked too. In events like these, they often use proxies to restrict access to specific sites. 

Businesses can also choose to monitor and log web requests so that even when they might not block the website, they can keep a close eye on the time that employees spend cyberloafing

  • To access blocked resources

Your business might need to scrape a website but you can’t as the required resources are blocked in your country/region. This is when a proxy server could help you out by hiding your real location, and replacing it with the location of their proxy. This is how you can get uncensored access to blocked websites in your region.

  • To monitor the SEO strategies of competitors

Businesses need to hide their identity to monitor the SEO activities of their competitors. The least you will expect is coming in their radar while scraping their website or analyzing their internal page structure. This is when a proxy server keeps your identity hidden, and helps you out. 

The Wrap Up

As is evident, a proxy server is a highly useful tool that helps you in an array of ways. It hides your IP address, keeps you anonymous, and can also help you access blocked resources. Yet, not all proxies serve the same purpose. It is highly recommended to analyze your requirements pretty well before making a final decision or you might end up facing a severe security threat.

What are your views on this? Let us know in the comments below.

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