When you read about online safety, you often see proxy this, proxy that. What is that “proxy,” and what does it do to your Internet connection? The most common answer is that if you use, for example, a Canada proxy, you appear online as if you were in Canada. Here we shed a little light on how it works and how you can use a proxy in your everyday life.
How Does a Proxy Work?
A proxy is a special server that stands between you as an Internet user and the sites and other resources you visit. It substitutes your IP address with its own, so the resources you connect obtain the proxy’s IP and related data (location, time zone, etc.) The server receives the results (pages, files, etc.) and redirects them back to the user. There are both free and paid proxies.
How Do You Benefit from a Proxy?
With the right proxy, you can pretend you are from another country or region. Thus, you can:
- Access sites that are locked by your country or your corporation
- Access sites that only allow visitors from certain countries
- Hide the sites you visit from your ISP
- Access content that’s exclusive to certain countries
- See how your ad campaign or site interface looks from abroad
This makes a proxy a great way to visit places without moving physically.
When Not to Use a Proxy?
While proxies are great when you want anonymity, sometimes it’s not recommended to use them. In general, you better not use proxies when you need to be identified correctly. It’s sites and apps that need your location (maps, navigators, search apps) and those that need your digital fingerprint to function correctly. They include, for example, banks, payment systems, local news, and so on.
How to Connect a Proxy?
Usually, a proxy server has no name but only an IP address and a port. This address has to be entered in your Internet connection settings, so all your traffic goes through a proxy. For example, in Windows 10, it’s done like this:
- Launch Settings
- Choose “Network and Internet” and then “Proxy”
- Go to the “Manual Proxy Setup” section and toggle it on
- Enter the IP address and the port into the fields
- Enter your login and password if required.
On Mac, do the following:
- Run Settings
- Choose “Network”
- On the tab, click the “Advanced” button in the right lower corner
- Go to the “Proxies” tab
- Choose the class of the proxy (provided by the server)
- Enter the IP address and the port
- Enter the login and the password if required
If you only need to use a proxy for web pages (but not for messengers or, for example, torrents), choose a browser that has its own proxy settings. We recommend Firefox, one of the few browsers that still use its own engine.
Free or Paid?
For most of these needs, a free proxy is enough. Anyway, free proxies usually offer limited speed, a limited set of locations, plus they may hold no responsibility for your privacy. Paid ones are free of these drawbacks. It’s up to you, though, which to choose.