11 Mar What is a Proxy Server?
With each new day, the internet is developing as much in positive as in negative ways. Therefore, users are forced to find new solutions to get the most out of the world wide web. And while users are looking for better data access, higher levels of security, and ever-increasing connection speeds – competition among internet service providers is only getting fiercer.
Apparently, there is a great need for solutions that can manipulate internet connection in one way or another. But is there a key to all the mentioned user requirements, a solution that caters to all (or at least most) of users’ needs?
If you encounter any limitations in accessing online resources, be it by censorship, filtering, geo-blocking or any other reason – a proxy server is most likely what you have been looking for all this time.
So what is a proxy?
There is an apparent reason why there is a word ‘proxy’ in the phrase ‘proxy server’.
A proxy is a person who is authorized to act on behalf of another person, usually representing them in a legal or voting process.
Similarly, a proxy server is a dedicated computer or software system acting as an intermediary between an endpoint computing device (e.g. a computer or a mobile phone) and the server from which a user wants to collect data.
How does a proxy work?
A proxy server is a gateway application which is used to route web access from within a network.
Proxy servers accept users’ requests and forward them to other servers, including other proxy servers and source servers. In addition, they can even respond to requests from their own cache memory.
To describe it more clearly, this is how a proxy server works, explained in four steps:
- A proxy receives a request from a user inside the network
- Then, it sends the request to a remote server outside of the network
- Next, it reads the data that it receives from the remote server
- Finally, the proxy server sends the data back to the user who made the request
Proxy server uses
Proxy servers are used for multiple purposes, including the following:
- Anonymous internet access
If a user wants to hide their identity from the destination server for a certain reason, they are able to do it by using a proxy server. This is possible because the destination server can only recognize the server it has immediate contact with.
- Online marketing
A number of expert online marketers use proxy servers on a daily basis to remain competitive in this industry. The two most common examples of using rotational proxies for online marketing are in search engine optimization and social media management.
SEO & social media campaigns require highly-accurate performance tracking, since they often encompass users widely ranging in attributes like location, language, browser type, operating system, device format, etc. Designated proxy servers emulate user sessions with the ability to control those parameters and provide invaluable insight to digital marketers running such campaigns.
In addition to the campaign types mentioned above, digital marketers often pay their publishers based on number of impressions the ad creates (most frequently relevant in media campaigns). Proxies allow marketers to verify that their ads are displayed as intended for neutral browsing sessions rather than their own marketing network.
Some online operations require data mining on a major scale. Companies who provide sales leads, price comparisons, social media metrics, and other content extractors, crawl millions of web pages on a monthly basis. Though this activity is completely legitimate (as the data being scraped is publicly accessible), repeated requests coming from a limited pool of IPs will inevitably get blocked at some point – and this is another problem proxy servers are here to solve.
- Secondary markets
Given the fact that a proxy is normally a ‘hidden’ server or a P2P private peer, it is highly convenient for secondary market brokers. Residential proxies are often used for purchasing limited-edition footwear and apparel because they complement the use of online shopping bots.
Types of proxies
There are two main types of proxies: open and reverse.
Open proxies are also known as forward proxies or tunneling proxies, and they are used to retrieve data from a wide range of sources on the web. They are described as internet-facing because they are mostly used by those who want to improve or modify their access to the web in a certain way.
Open proxies are mostly used to ensure users’ anonymity. For this reason, we can divide open proxies into anonymous and transparent.
- Anonymous proxies reveal their identity but do not disclose the user’s IP address. They are used for accessing various types of web content by users who want to remain anonymous.
- Unlike anonymous proxies, transparent proxy servers reveal their identity as well as the initial IP address. However, even though it does not protect users’ anonymity, there is a great advantage to this type of proxy – its ability to cache retrieved data.
Reverse proxies or back connect proxies
On the other hand, a reverse proxy is used by private networks and websites. Described as internal-facing, reverse proxies are used as a front-end to control and protect access to a server, as well as to handle requests.
Reverse proxy servers are installed close to one or more destination web servers. All requests directed at those destination servers are managed by a reverse proxy server just as if they were handled directly by the destination server.
You can read more about proxy security protocols and other proxy-related topics in our blog.