What Exactly Are Proxies?


Whether you’re an average Joe or Jane just trying to browse their social media in peace or a business owner collecting competitor insights through web scraping, you’ll find it challenging to ensure your privacy and security online. Every site you visit and page you open collects your information, using it to determine what (if any) content it will give you access to. 

Therefore, if you want a better, safer browsing experience, you’ll need a bit of help in the form of proxies. 

Public, shared, and private proxies are powerful applications that can unlock secure access to virtually everything the internet has to offer. Learn what they are, how they work, and how you can use them to your benefit. 

Proxies and their features 

First thing’s first – what exactly are proxies? In a nutshell, they are a bridge between you and the web. 

Traditionally, your computer (smartphone, tablet, etc.) would need to communicate directly with a website you’re trying to visit to access its content. In the process, the website would “read” your computer’s information, including the IP address, software configuration, operating system, location, and more. It could even leave tracking and marketing cookies that follow you around the web. 

The process is different when you use proxies. 

Proxies are servers that stand between you and the rest of the web. When you’re using them, every search query you make goes through them – you make a request for information, the proxy takes over the request, sends it to a website on your behalf, receives the response from the website, and sends it back to you. 

In this process, the website reads the proxy’s information, not yours, allowing you to stay largely anonymous. 

Of course, the process is automatic – you don’t have to take any additional steps when browsing. Just turn on the proxy and continue as normal. 

Depending on the proxy you’re using, you can enjoy access to various unique features, including data caching, firewalls, network data filtering, and more. 

Main types of proxies 

Although the mechanics behind all proxies remain pretty much the same, there are still many different kinds of proxies. Depending on your needs, some might be better than others. 

If you want to block certain types of online content for your household members, students in a school, or employees in the workplace, you could use transparent proxies. They don’t hide the user’s identity or increase privacy. They simply give you a form of parental control. 

If you want to browse the web under a layer of anonymity, you could use anonymous and elite proxies, which do increase your privacy. 

If you need a proxy for certain types of protocols, you could use SOCKS5, DNS, HTTPS, TOR Onion, and other protocol-based proxies. 

Still, you’ll most commonly encounter proxies categorized based on the service they provide, so you’ll find the distinction between public, shared, private, and dedicated proxies. Take a closer look at them below. 

Public proxy 

Public, otherwise known as open proxies, initially seem like the best option since they are frequently free. Any user can access them without paying a dime. 

While they can be effective at times, they’re generally best avoided. They’re unreliable and could easily leak your information to the servers (they could even be sending your information to third parties). Moreover, they tend to be slow as many consumers use them simultaneously. 

Shared proxy 

Shared proxies are a step up from public ones. They are a paid service, so they are generally much more reliable. You’ll still be sharing the proxy’s servers with other users, but the traffic is distributed more evenly, so you can expect higher speeds. 

They’re most commonly used for hiding your IP, bypassing geo-restricted content, and using P2P platforms. 

Both public and shared proxies have one common issue –you’re at risk of getting banned. If some of the users on either of these proxy types abuse the proxy-provided IP, you’ll encounter IP blocks and could be blacklisted by websites. 

Private proxy 

Dedicated or private proxies are the best of the bunch. You won’t have to share the server and your given IP with any other user. All the server resources are reserved only for you, so your bandwidth and processing speed will be excellent. 

Additionally, you won’t be at risk of getting blacklisted because of other users, and you’ll enjoy unique perks like dedicated customer support, special features, and more. 

Private proxies are ideal for more complicated processes like web scraping, conducting competitor research, unlocking access to restricted content, and more. 

While private proxies are the most expensive, they’re the most reliable solution you could choose. 

Final thoughts 

Proxies are your solution to online privacy and anonymity. They can shield your personal information, protect you from prying eyes that might be snooping on your online activity, and improve your overall cybersecurity. Make sure that you’re using reliable private proxies if you want to stay protected at all times. 

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