As online anonymity, privacy, and security become paramount for businesses and individuals alike, tools that promise to offer this bundle of properties are becoming ever more important. One such tool, the proxy server, goes beyond offering anonymity, privacy, and security. It can facilitate important business operations such as data collection and ad verification. Users can also deploy it when they intend to access geo-blocked content. With that in mind, should you set up your own proxy server? Let’s find out.
What is a Proxy Server?
A proxy server or proxy is a computer or dedicated program that acts as an intermediary between a web server and a web client (browser). It intercepts all communication between the server and the browser. Thus, outgoing HTTP and HTTPS requests from the web client first go through the proxy before being channeled to the target website. Similarly, HTML responses from the server are routed through the proxy on their way to the browser.
As an intermediary, proxies prevent direct communication between a browser and server, a factor that comes in handy when it comes to online security and anonymity. To understand how proxies provide anonymity and security, let’s analyze them through the lens of a US proxy.
If you connect to the internet via a US proxy, several things happen. The first is that your real IP address is hidden. In its place, this proxy assigns a new, US-affiliated IP address. It is this new online identifier that enables you to access geo-blocked content that would ordinarily only be accessible to US citizens. But beyond enabling users to view geo-restricted websites, the US proxy prevents entities such as government agencies, hackers, or advertisers, from tracking a user’s browsing activity. This, therefore, promotes online anonymity and security.
Types of Proxy Servers
It is worth pointing out that there are different types of proxies, each of which offers distinct benefits to businesses and individual users. These proxy types include:
- Forward proxies
- Reverse proxies
- Residential proxies
- Datacenter proxies
- Dedicated proxies
- Shared proxies
- Rotating proxies
- Static proxies
- HTTP/HTTPS proxies
- SOCKS proxies
- Anonymous and high anonymous proxies
Benefits of Proxy Servers
The benefits of proxies include:
1. Web scraping
Proxies such as residential proxies and datacenter proxies are used in web scraping, the automated process of collecting data from websites. Web scraping is crucial for businesses as it helps inform search engine optimization (SEO) strategies as well as product and price optimization. At the same time, web scraping is crucial to market research, i.e., identifying who your competitors are; plus, it is also instrumental in review and reputation monitoring.
HTTP/HTTPS proxies act as a content filter. When configured on the client side, they help prevent phishing attempts or other forms of cyberattacks. Similarly, they prevent harmful requests from reaching the server. On the other hand, reverse proxies, which are installed on the server side, help in load balancing (which prevents downtime or DDoS – distributed denial of service – attacks) and securing the web server by filtering out harmful requests.
3. Bypassing geo-restrictions
Proxies such as residential, datacenter, anonymous, and high anonymous proxies assign a new IP address, hiding a user’s real IP address. This arrangement ensures that a user can access content from the country associated with the assigned address. For instance, a US proxy, which assigns a US-based address, enables users to access content that only US residents could view.
4. Increasing productivity
Usually, companies use transparent proxies to block access to specific websites in order to increase the productivity of their employees.
5. Social media management
Residential proxies are used in social media management. They enable account managers to create and log into multiple social media accounts without being banned or blacklisted.
6. Online anonymity
By masking a user’s real IP address, proxies effectively anonymize the browsing experience. The anonymity prevents would-be trackers from establishing the websites that the user visits. Anonymous browsing promotes security.
7. Improving loading speeds
Reverse proxies increase websites’ loading speeds by caching frequently used files. This way, they save the bandwidth and free up resources that would have otherwise been used when retrieving the frequently used files. The freed resources can instead be allocated to functions such as server-side rendering, improving a website’s loading speed even further and boosting its ranking on search engines.
Given the various benefits of proxy servers, should you set up your own proxy server? Yes. If you want to anonymize your browsing, for instance, because you intend to undertake web scraping, a proxy is a useful tool that enables you to achieve this function. At the same time, if you are looking to boost your business’s website’s loading speed and security, a reverse proxy is designed to enhance the server’s security as well as boost the loading speed. Proxies are also instrumental in social media management.