Proxy servers are usually put into three categories. Forward – a standard in which a proxy functions as an intermediary between a device and a larger network. Reverse – a group in which proxies are intermediaries between a smaller group of servers and the internet. And the third – open proxies that are usually available to the public for free.
Here is a good example to get a better understanding of how proxies function. Say you want to access a particular site on the internet. The proxy receives the request and will search its local cache file to see whether the said website is there. If the cache is there, you can access the page just like you would use the internet regularly.
However, if the proxy cannot find the location in its cache, it will send the request to the web using an IP address different from yours. Once the proxy acquires the information, you get access to the website.
In some instances, you will find that a simple proxy is not enough. For example, if you are looking to scrap a lot of data from the same source and do it quickly, a dynamic IP that changes frequently is necessary. For that, rotating proxies are the best option (Proxyway blog has a great guide on choosing the best proxies) as they prevent websites from recognizing you.
Hidden IP Address
The first benefit of using proxies is how they hide your IP address. To be more precise, the website sees the IP of a proxy. The method prevents access to those who are looking to track you. If they do try to locate you or find information, they will only get redirected to the proxy.
Sure, there are people who do not care about remaining anonymous on the internet. But that is because they are not aware of all the threats that are out there. And when someone gets hold of the personal information and uses it for malicious intent, salvaging the situation can be impossible.
Some people go as far as investing more into their security on the internet. Virtual private networks and the best available anti-malware tool are also something worth considering.
Filtering of Malicious Websites
It may be that you are quite aware of the dangers of the internet, but another person who is using the same device as you might not be as knowledgeable. After all, some people are not that great with technology and could end up clicking on a website that attracts unwanted danger.
Proxies can be used to filter unwanted pages and prevent potentially accessing them by someone unaware that the website poses a threat.
Access to Geo-Restricted Content
You have probably heard how China blocks certain websites to prevent its citizens from reading news from the west. While the example is a bit extreme, there are plenty of countries that have restrictions when it comes to using the world wide web.
Since proxies come with their IP addresses, you are going to connect from a location other than the country which has content blocked. Of course, it is not just governments who implement restrictions. ISP providers or the websites themselves might be looking to limit who can browse the site.
Improvements to Loading Speed
Proxy servers do not offer as much as a well-optimized internet browser or a great ISP provider, but they can still improve the overall browsing experience.
Proxy servers cache data. In other words, data from any website that they access gets stored and saved for later. So the next time you visit the same page, it will load faster thanks to the stored cache files.
Drawbacks of Proxies
Proxies are not without their faults, either. When it comes to total privacy and security on the internet, one can never be certain whether the proxy provider is not collecting information about you.
People who have never used proxies before might find that it is challenging to choose the right provider. There is a lot of misinformation online, such as fake reviews that could mislead unsuspecting users towards selecting the wrong proxy providers.
There have also been reports about how the NSA has managed to intercept and break SSL proxies, meaning that even the safest proxies are still susceptible if someone with enough resources is looking to get a hold of user information.
You will find that there are a lot of providers who offer proxies for free. The question is whether free proxies are worth using in the first place.
For starters, not having to pay for something sounds like an attractive suggestion, but overall, free proxies have more drawbacks.
A lot of free proxy services are run by volunteers. Volunteer work introduces instability, and there will be times when the proxies are not accessible. According to the research by Christian Haschek, about 80 percent of free proxies do not come with HTTPS. Finally, free services attract big crowds, and you are likely to experience a slow connection to the internet with such proxies.