Also known as a proxy server, a proxy is any hardware or software that acts as an intermediary through which web requests and HTML requests pass before being forwarded to a web server or a browser. There are two broad categories of proxies, namely forward and reverse proxies. They independently offer several benefits and characteristics. And in this article, we will focus on what characteristics you should consider before getting a proxy.
Benefits of Proxy Servers
Proxies offer numerous benefits, including:
- Preventing IP blocking
- Facilitate web scraping
- Bypassing geo-restricted content
- Blocking access to certain websites
- Facilitating anonymous browsing
- Caching regularly accessed files in order to speed up websites’ loading speeds and reduce bandwidth usage (reverse proxies)
- Content filtering to protect the browser or server against cyberattacks or phishing attacks
- Brand monitoring: unscrupulous individuals who have impersonated a brand may have blocked its real IP address in order to prevent detection, but a proxy enables brands to go around these blocks
- Load balancing: reverse proxies distribute incoming traffic among different servers, thus avoiding a situation whereby the main server gets overloaded
Types of Proxy Servers
There are different types of proxies, namely:
A forward proxy intercepts all web requests from a browser, hides their real IP address, and assigns them a new one before sending them to a web server. This proxy type is used to anonymize browsing, bypass geo-blocked content, and facilitate web data extraction.
Reverse proxies are integrated into web servers. They receive web requests on behalf of the servers adding an extra layer of security. Reverse proxies help balance internet traffic, cache regularly accessed files, and filter and block malicious requests.
A residential proxy assigns IP addresses that are provided by Internet Service Providers (ISPs). These identifiers are linked to real devices of the ISPs’ customers. This arrangement ensures they are not easily blocked. For this reason, residential proxies are used for large-scale web scraping, an application that increases the likelihood of IP blocking. This proxy type exists in several forms, including static residential proxies and rotating/dynamic datacenter proxies.
A datacenter proxy assigns a datacenter IP address. Notably, there are two types of datacenter proxies: those that assign virtual datacenter IP addresses, which are not linked to or anchored into real operating devices, and those that assign real datacenter IP addresses provided by ISPs. The former category is less reliable but powerful, while the latter is both powerful and reliable because the assigned IP addresses are not easily blocked. Datacenter proxies are used for light/small-scale web data harvesting.
A static proxy does not change the assigned IP address throughout the usage period. This proxy type is mainly used to anonymize the browsing experience, enable access to geo-restricted content, and brand monitoring. There are several types of static proxies, including static residential proxies.
Dynamic or rotating proxies
A dynamic or rotating proxy periodically changes the assigned IP address throughout its service life. It draws new IP addresses from a pool that the provider supplies the user with once they sign up for the service. Dynamic proxies are used for large-scale web scraping.
A shared or public proxy, which is available for free, assigns the same IP address to multiple users. This means that users get to share the available bandwidth, which slows down the connection speed. Additionally, this free proxy assigns IP addresses that have already been banned. As such, it is unreliable as it cannot access some, if not a majority, websites. Another problem is the fact that public proxies expose users to potential cyberattacks.
Dedicated or private proxies
A dedicated or private proxy assigns one IP address to only one user. For this reason, this proxy type, while expensive, is fast, secure, and reliable.
A transparent proxy does not notify users that they are connected to the internet via an intermediary. It is used in schools and workplaces to block access to certain websites.
An HTTP/HTTPS proxy can either be configured on the client’s side or the server’s side of a connection. Client-side proxies filter incoming requests in order to prevent phishing attacks, while server-side HTTP proxies balance the load and cache files.
SOCKS proxies use the socket secure protocol to send traffic between a browser and server and vice versa. They are mainly used to facilitate peer-to-peer downloads and connections, bypassing firewalls, web browsing, and emailing.
An anonymous proxy identifies itself to a server as a proxy.
High anonymity proxies
A high anonymity does not identify itself to a server as a proxy. It, therefore, offers a higher level of anonymity.
Given there are multiple types of proxies, choosing the right one for the task at hand can be challenging. Fortunately, there are different elements you can consider, including the purpose for which you intend to use it, cost, level of security, reliability, and speed. Using these criteria eliminates free or public proxies, which are unreliable, slow, and expose you to potential security risks.