A proxy server or proxy is a computer on the internet that provides an intermediate connection point between an end-user and the internet. It acts as a gateway between the user and the web pages they visit. That allows a user to access web pages with a different IP address. With a proxy, your browsing and network can be kept secure and private. Let us delve into everything you need to know about a proxy server.
- How does a proxy server work?
For starters, when any computer connects to the internet, it does so with a unique IP address. Think of an IP address like you see a street address that instructs the incoming data on its destination. It also marks any outgoing data with a return address that other devices can utilize to authenticate.
A proxy has its IP address. When you use a proxy server, your web requests are forwarded to the proxy server. The proxy server then encrypts your information like the IP address before sending your request to the web resource.
The website will send data responses back to the proxy, and the proxy then processes the data before sending the information your way. It is worth noting that with a proxy server if the data or page that a client requested is present in its local cache, it will provide the retrieval by itself.
If the data or page is not in its local cache, the proxy will forward the request to the destination server. Thus, it essentially plays the intermediary role between a user and websites or servers.
- Why do you need a Proxy Server?
- To hide your identity (IP Address)
- To control traffic and hence prevent clashes
- To minimize the possibilities of data breaches and protect from hackers
- To have an additional security layer between the server and any outside traffic
- To help save bandwidth, seeing that it caches files and compresses any incoming traffic
- To allow you to access restricted content
- To improve browser performance
- Types of Proxy Servers
There are several kinds of proxy servers, but the most common ones are forward and reverse proxy servers:
- Forward Proxy Servers
A forward proxy server works on the side of the web user. These kinds of proxies receive requests from web users to connect to specific websites. A forward proxy will first sort through the request to ascertain if the client can access the website. If permitted, the forward proxy server then allows the request to reach the external server. The external server will only see the connection request but not the client’s IP address. A forward proxy allows for administrative control.
It makes it possible for an administrator to restrict access by internal network clients to some web resources. Some clients may request a secure HTTPS connection to the server through the proxy. The proxy initiates a link with a secure server and copies data in both directions without compromising the secure connection.
Now, HTTPS can only be implemented using an SSL certificate, and it encrypts and secures the data exchanged between the web browser and the client-server. If you are looking for a premium yet cheap cert, RapidSSL, AlphaSSL, or comodo positive ssl certificate are excellent options since they allow for high-level 256-bit encryption at affordable prices. They also have high mobile and web browser compatibility.
- Reverse Proxy Server
A reverse proxy server, on the other hand, works on the website side. It helps to hide IP addresses in an internal network from other external users. A reverse proxy determines whether a web user can see information from a website or not. Reverse proxies are excellent for protecting internal servers from malicious hackers.
- Other types of proxy servers
- Split proxy server
- Transparent Proxy
- Non-transparent proxy
- Anonymous Proxy
- Hostile Proxy
- Socks Proxy
- Rotating Proxy
- Shared Proxy
- Are Proxy Servers different from VPNs?
Proxy servers have several similarities with VPN (Virtual Private Network). They both make it possible for users to hide their IP addresses, location and can allow them to access restricted websites. That said, the two have their differences.
Differences between VPNs and Proxy Servers
- VPNs encrypt traffic, but proxy servers do not. A VPN is excellent for protecting against hacking or tracking. Be careful when using proxies to handle sensitive information.
- Proxy servers operate on the application level. They help reroute traffic of specific browsers and apps. On the other hand, VPNs work on the operating system level, and they can therefore reroute all traffic.
- Proxy servers are faster than VPNs because they do not need to encrypt data.
- While you can find a few free proxy servers, most VPNs services are usually paid. Be wary of free VPN services because they could have limitations, and some may mine your data.
- Common risks associated with Proxy Servers
Proxies are no doubt beneficial. However, some risks may end up negating most of the potential benefits you derive from proxy servers. Here are some proxy server risks:
With most free proxy servers, the services usually do not have the best backend hardware or encryption. With that, you may experience performance issues and even some security issues. Be careful with the free proxy servers.
A proxy server may save locally your original IP address and your unencrypted web request information. Ensure that you check whether the proxy server you are using retains the logs. Find out what retention or which law enforcement cooperation policies they adhere to before using their services. If your aim for using a proxy server is mostly privacy, but the service you have is logging and selling your data, it may kill the purpose of using the proxy server. You will not be getting the value you expected from the service.
When you use a proxy server that does not have full encryption capability, you send your requests in plain text. Anyone may be in a position to intercept the transmission and acquire usernames and passwords, among other account information. Ensure that any proxy server service you use has proper encryption to protect your data and privacy.
If you had no idea or perhaps had a vague understanding of what a proxy server is, we hope you now know a thing or two before you can use it! Remember to protect your data as you use free web proxies.