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What is a Proxy Server and How Does it Work?

Put simply, a proxy is an intermediary server between two devices on a network. It’s like a lofty viaduct connecting you to the wilderness of the internet.

The word “proxy” has been floating around the internet for quite a while. Though it might be hard to believe, you don’t need to be that tech-savvy to start using proxies. 

Let’s take a look at what’s it all about and why folks plump for proxy servers.

Using IP addresses from all around the world with the help of proxies

What is a proxy?

How proxies work

Let’s learn right off the bat that a proxy is a server that acts as a gateway or intermediary between any device and the rest of the internet. A proxy accepts connection requests, forwards them to other servers, and then returns data for those requests. Sure, that’s pretty basic as there are dozens of proxy types with their distinct configurations. Yet, this definition serves well as a starting point.

Say, your device is a house on a particular street with a certain number (or an IP address). You wouldn’t want a stranger laying their hands on your property, would you? That’s where a proxy server comes in. A mailman, if you wish. A trusty mailman who hides your number.

When using a proxy, the information that you send and receive doesn’t go from your home (your real IP) address, but through the proxy server instead.

A proxy forwards your connection requests to websites without revealing your data but still gathers the information you need. This way your details remain secure and unattainable. How does the other side see it? The website you’re accessing will see the IP address of a proxy, not yours.

What are the most popular types of proxies?

most popular types of proxies

There’s quite a good slew of proxy types out there. If you’re looking for an extensive analysis of all possible kinds of proxies, take a gander at this blog post. Below, we’re gonna put the three most common proxy types under the microscope.

Residential proxy network

Residential proxies

Residential proxies maintain the highest quality because they look like real mobile or desktop devices. In fact, they ARE real devices. Each residential IP is an actual device that acts like a proxy server. So to any site, traffic coming from residential proxies looks like a request from an ordinary person, just like you and me.

And listen to this piece of mind-blowing news – even if you “abuse” a residential proxy and the server blocks it, you can use another residential proxy from the same server without any issues. Residential proxies are immune to blocks and are the safest and most reliable ones. Period.

Datacenter proxy network

Datacenter proxies

Datacenter proxies are virtual IP addresses created in powerful server hubs. A single server can host oceans of datacenter proxies, but they’ll all share the IP subnetwork of that server. For example, the number 14 in these IP addresses indicates a C class subnetwork: 65.78.14.1, 65.78.14.50.

This is why they aren’t used in large numbers – any server can block the whole subnetwork. Datacenter proxies are more prone to cloaking or a ban as their connections look like fake internet traffic.

I guess you’re kinda on the edge of lost, asking yourself why people even use these proxies? Well, calm down. Datacenter proxies do have their strengths if compared with residential IPs. One redeeming quality of datacenter proxies is that they’re a lot faster than other proxies.

Exceptional speed and freedom with dedicated datacenter proxies

Dedicated datacenter proxies

Datacenter proxy pools are composed of shared proxies – several people can use them simultaneously. The problem is that you’ll be more likely to get blocked (together with all the folks sharing the same pool) when targeting data that everyone scrapes at the same time.

But hey, there’s no need to feel low-spirited. Choose private datacenter proxies, get more privacy, and give unexpected blocks a wide berth.

Other types of proxies

Other types of proxies

The classification above gives proxies their names depending on where the servers get their IP addresses from. If we classify proxies based on how personal identification information is shared (treated), we’d batch proxies in anonymous and transparent.

All of the above – residential, datacenter, and private datacenter proxies – can be anonymous or transparent. Let us shed some light on both types.

Anonymous proxies

Anonymous proxies

An anonymous proxy doesn’t send your identification information to a target server. It pretends to be an actual user, as opposed to a non-anonymous proxy, which notifies servers that it’s a proxy. If truth be told, anonymous proxies are the most typical standard for proxies these days as more and more people are expressing concerns over data security.

Transparent proxies

Transparent proxies

On the other side of the ring, we have transparent proxies. Unlike anonymous proxies, these don’t change a client’s IP address and pass it directly to the websites accessed. Such proxies often act as gatekeepers that authenticate users and give them access to the network.

Transparent proxies usually sit between devices in a public Wi-Fi network and the internet. Public places like airports, libraries, and shopping centers use transparent proxy servers for content monitoring.

No surprise, transparent proxies face some criticism due to serious security vulnerabilities and susceptibility to man-in-the-middle attacks.

Got one, now what? Why proxies?

Why proxies

Okay, so now you’re armed with knowledge about what proxies are and how they work, but why the hell do people use them? With plenty of websites to choose from, proxies have become a handy tool to access their content.

The main purpose of using a proxy server is to stay anonymous, whether it would be for personal or professional use. What exactly do we have in mind? See below!

Proxies help avoid geo-blocks

Avoid geo-restrictions

True, many websites limit access to some geographic regions. They detect locations by checking the IP addresses of every device that tries to connect to their servers.   

To avoid geo-blocks and access region-specific information, people asked for help from proxy servers. These will hide your IP address and change it to the proxy IP.

You can be in Sri Lanka and still access US-only content. You may work in the Dominican Republic and still view German adverts. Dude, really! With proxies, any location is at your disposal!