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December 5, 2018
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Proxy Basics 101: What is the Definition of a Proxy Server?

What is a Proxy Server?

Proxy servers provide an increased level of security and performance by providing a private, anonymous gateway between your local network and the vast wide and sometimes wild world of the internet, with all of its inherent unknowns and risks. The proxy server acts as the middleman between the sender of digital communications and the receiver. Incoming data comes in through one port of the proxy and is relayed to the internet via another outgoing port. The user’s original IP (Internet Protocol) address is masked behind the IP address of the proxy, providing a very effective layer of security for the proxy user.

 

Computer users ranging from the casual internet browser to advanced Big Data corporate professionals are turning to proxy servers as the best solution for increased security and performance in today’s Wild West world of the internet. Cloud-based SaaS technology, Software as a Service, has opened the door to nearly unlimited digital resources never before available to the public at large. As we’ll see, this is a two-edged sword which cuts both ways, and proxy servers are the shield.

The cloud-based digital age is a welcome trend for SMBs, entrepreneurs, and traditional brick and mortar businesses now in the process of digital transformation, but browsing with an easily identifiable IP address is analogous to leaving the front door of the office safe wide open. Hackers hone in on the most vulnerable targets, and those are the unprotected internet users who browse and transact business under their own static IP address. A compromised IP address can leave you and your business wide open to:

  • Denial of service and ransomware attacks
  • Data breaches of credit and banking information
  • Theft and distribution of confidential customer contact information
  • Identity theft
  • IP spoofing used to gain network access and mine for sensitive data
  • Web history and browsing behavior tracking by following your unchanging IP address

Protection From The Dark Side of the Cloud With Proxy Servers

Cloud-based technology quickly levels the business playing field, allowing enterprises to enter and compete effectively and profitably in global markets without the need to fork out huge amounts of investment capital for onsite IT hardware and network resources. But there is a dark side to the resource advantages of the Cloud.

Just as SaaS has its numerous benefits, these same digital resources can be exploited for CaaS, Crime as a Service. The weak link so frequently exploited by those bad actors on the dark side of the internet is direct access to your IP address. Proxy servers act as the first line of defense as a component of the network firewall and as a web filter between your computer and the dark side of the internet, providing defensive tools including:

  • Encrypted web requests to protect web transactions
  • Preventing access from known malware sites.
  • Anonymous requests to protect personal browsing and information privacy
  • Restricting access to specific websites by business personnel or children in the household
  • Monitoring use of outside resources
  • Providing shared network connections

The proxy blocks vital direct access which hackers could use to access your internal addresses and other digital details of your home or business network. The anonymity which proxies provide makes it much more difficult for malicious actors to target, access, and exploit critical personal or business data from the computers in your network. This level of difficulty for hackers is a very effective deterrent by itself. They will be much more likely to move on to the lower hanging fruit, targeting those numerous sites which they see as so ripe for the plucking, those which aren’t shielded from their sight by a proxy server.

Web Proxy Server Definition

The term “proxy” is most generally used interchangeably with “web proxy”, “proxy server”, or “web proxy server”. All of these various monikers refer to the same middleman function performed between the sender and the receiver known technically as an “application level gateway”. IP, or internet protocol, is the fundamental application level on which the entire internet functions today, and has functioned since its development way back in the 1980s. IP vulnerabilities are therefore very well-known.

In order to make orderly connections, every internet user has an assigned public IP address. A proxy server employs a network addressing strategy which makes one or more organization-wide IP addresses visible on the internet while masking the actual originating IP address.

The proxy, or proxy server, can actually be comprised of a single computer, a group of applications, or distributed physical servers which act as a funnel for all back and forth transmissions of user requests for common internet services. These include HTTP, HTTPS, for website access requests, SMTP for email handling, and SOCKS for back and forth TCP transmissions between clients behind firewalls.

What Does it Mean to Use a Proxy Server?

The proxy server can be a dedicated computer or a software system functioning as the funnel or central hub, providing the important middleman intermediary between your computer and the internet. The proxy can exist in the same machine as the firewall or as a separate server which forwards outside requests through the firewall. Proxy servers provide significant advantages for those who use them above and beyond the security and privacy layers we’ve already discussed above.

Proxy Servers Improve Performance

Proxy servers provide a significant performance advantage for frequently requested websites. Anytime websites are requested repeatedly the proxy server caches those specific web pages for easy access by all users in your network which significantly reduces user response time. In many cases, the web page requested can be forwarded to the user without the need to make another outside internet request. This provides bandwidth savings when multiple users are sending the same request from the same proxy server simultaneously and the proxy server can forward the most recent copy of the page from its cache. The proxy can also log all network interactions which are helpful for troubleshooting as well as employee performance monitoring.

How Does a Proxy Server Work?

When a request is made the proxy server first checks its cache to see if the web page is already available for forwarding to the user. If the requested page or site is not in the cache the proxy uses one of its own IP addresses to request the page from the internet, acting as an independent client on behalf of the user. On the user side, the proxy is invisible. All requests and responses appear to be forwarded as if they’ve come directly from the internet.

On the request side, the website sees access from the various IP addresses of the proxy server and treats each request as if it is coming from separate contact points which appear to the site as numerous individual browsers. This is very important for advanced Big Data applications such as web scraping and web crawling, where the IP address could be blocked for too many requests coming from the Big Data software under the same IP address.

Proxy servers can serve multiple users with simultaneous connections or just a single user per server. Browsers can be configured to use automatically detected proxy servers or manual options for HTTP, HTTPS, and SOCKS proxies. 

What is a Proxy Server Address?

The proxy server address is the IP address presented to the internet on your behalf, maintaining the highest level of anonymity and privacy for you and your computers and devices. Most commonly these are residential IP addresses available through your proxy service provider. The number of available IP addresses from many traditional proxy services may limit you to 5, 10, 15, or 25 proxies which don’t change until the end of the month. At ProxyRack we supply you with access to all of our available IPs which number 100,000 unique addresses daily and more than 1,200,000 monthly. We offer residential IPs, as well as HTTPS IP addresses from US data centers and European data centers for optimized speed and reliability.

What is a Proxy Server For WiFi?

When you are connected to a WiFi network the proxy server acts in its customary role as the intermediary between your device and the rest of the internet. This prevents websites from identifying your specific device since it sees only the IP address of the proxy server. This is a vital tool for smartphones and tablets, especially if business personnel in the field are using these devices to connect with the home office and conduct client transactions. Digital Citizen provides an informative tutorial on how to use a proxy server for WiFi with Android devices at this link.

More Reasons to Use Proxy Servers

In today’s digital business environment decision-makers are quickly realizing that the internet has come to the point that enterprises must go with a proxy server or go home, especially if they want to avail themselves of the Big Data software that allows them to compete in highly contested business environments.  For individual consumers, the proxy server expands internet access in novel ways such as unblocking Netflix programs from other countries and provides more security for browsing on an open WiFi network at Starbucks or MacDonalds.

Avoiding Server Crashes

For online retailers, there is nothing more annoying to customers than a server crash when they require access to the website for product details or more importantly for purchasing. Proxy servers can balance server traffic so this doesn’t happen in the midst of a rush of orders for your red-hot product. A proxy server can store your essential data in a network of servers around the world via the cloud, and distribute the request load so no single server faces an overload.

Proxy Servers Save Bandwidth and Increase Speed

Data center management expert RJ Prego points out in his article “5 Reasons Your Company Should Use a Proxy Server”, that there is a general misconception that proxy servers slow down internet speeds. Actually, proxy servers can save bandwidth and increase speed by caching frequently requested web pages as we mentioned above, as well as compressing traffic and stripping ads from websites.

Proxy Servers For Company Networks

Companies run internal networks on proxy servers to optimize administrative control over internet usage by company personnel. This eliminates the possibility of opening the door to a data breach by employees accessing unsecured websites, and increases productivity by preventing access to sites such as social media which are inappropriate in the workplace. The proxy server even allows network administrators to control which devices can be used to access vital company data.

Proxy Servers For Big Data Applications

Nowhere is a proxy server more essential than for Big Data applications such as web scraping and web crawling. Enterprises of all sizes from SMBs to corporate retail giants such as Amazon and Walmart use these advanced software applications to remain competitive in the continuously changing global market.

Web scraping applications are used to garner important data such as competitors’ pricing, buying trends, customer reviews, and product innovations. SEO marketing strategies employ advanced SaaS to increase search engine visibility and ranking. Contact information can be collected to develop new sales pipelines developed with precisely targeted consumers who are searching for the exact products and services your company offers.

Advanced software such as Scrape Box, X Rumer, Scrape Jet, and Search Engine Ranker can all be run successfully with the private IP addresses available in the Proxy Rack network. Developers can seamlessly integrate Proxy Rack services using standard HTTP and HTTPS protocols as well as SOCKS4 or SOCKS5 using standard RFC guidelines.

About Proxy Rack

At the time of this writing Proxy Rack had more than 600,00 SOCKS proxies online over the past 24 hours and the number increases continuously as businesses and consumers recognize the enormous advantages of using a proxy server for all internet activity. We are one of the largest private proxy services available to the public and our massive proxy network is still growing.

We provide priority technical support 5 days per week and our proprietary system will replace any dead proxies automatically to keep your internet operations up and running reliably. We have over 40 countries in our extensive proxy network and all unique addresses are private to eliminate any risk of your home IP leaking to the public internet. We offer a 14-day money back guarantee on all of our quality proxy services so new customers can buy a proxy now risk-free. 

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