What is a proxy server?

If you’ve ever used a device in a school, company, or any other organization, chances are high that you used a proxy server. But what is a proxy server? In this blog we define what they are, explain how they work, and show you what you can expect.

What is a proxy server and how does it work?

The word “proxy” refers to someone who is authorized to do something on your behalf. In everyday use, this can be attending an important meeting that you won’t be able to attend or vote for you. A proxy server does the same thing, however, online.

A proxy server acts as a bridge between your devices and the internet. Normally, when you use a device to use the internet, your device is directly connected to the internet. When you use a proxy server, it will communicate with the internet on your behalf. It’s basically an intermediary server that separates you from the websites you visit. 

When you use a proxy server, your browser will connect to the proxy before connecting to the internet. In other words, your internet traffic flows through the proxy server to the website you requested. After this, the proxy server will receive the website’s response and sent it back to you. 

What does a proxy server do?

Modern proxy servers do a lot more than forwarding web requests. Here are some other things proxy servers do:

  • Firewalls: proxy servers act as a firewall, which is a type of network security system. Firewalls are used to block unwanted incoming traffic.
  • Web filters: proxy servers can block undesired outgoing traffic. An example: schools can prevent students from accessing social media through school computers.
  • Caching: proxy servers can cache data to speed up common requests. This reduces latency.
  • Provide shared network connections: homes and businesses with one internet connection can use a proxy server to allow all of their devices to funnel through that connection.
  • Protect users: when using a proxy server, you are anonymous. This makes it a lot harder for hackers to find a specific device or network.

Types of proxy servers

Each proxy server has different functionalities. Therefore, it’s important to ensure that the proxy server you choose meets your needs. These are the types of proxy servers available:

  • Transparent proxy: with transparent proxies there is no added privacy of security. Web servers will receive your IP address and will see that you are connecting via a proxy server. Therefore, transparent proxies are often used for caching purposes or content filtering and not for security reasons.
  • Anonymous proxy or distorting proxy: anonymous proxies do not share your IP addresses to web servers. However, just like transparent proxies, they don’t hide that you are using a proxy server. 
  • High anonymity proxy: these are also known as elite proxies because they hide your IP address whilst also hiding that you’re using a proxy server.

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