What a proxy server is and how it works

To understand what a residential proxy is, we first need to understand what a rotating residential proxy is in general. A proxy is a server that works between a client and the Internet. All information which is requested and received by a client first goes through a proxy server, and then comes to the final recipient. If it is a request from a client, the information is passed through the proxy to the requested resource and vice versa, if the requested resource passes information to the user, it passes through the proxy to the client. Thus the requested resource on the network has no direct connection with the client and receives no information about the real client, his location and other parameters which influence anonymity.

What is a proxy server

A proxy server, proxy is an intermediate server between a user of the Internet and the servers where the information is requested from. In essence, a proxy is an intermediary, a filter or a gateway that stands between a person and the enormous (and not always secure) data on the web.

Proxy servers are encountered by almost all Internet users, even if they are unaware of it. Do you work for hire? Theoretically, your online activities could be monitored by management. Shopping at online stores? Most website owners use proxies to protect themselves from scammers. Regularly visit major web portals? Their owners use proxies to distribute traffic.

What does a proxy server do?

Proxy server functions depend on its type and kind. A proxy works for encryption, caching, or as a web filter. A modern and properly configured proxy server can perform different tasks.

  • Information tracking. For example, large companies can keep track of employee requests.
  • Speed increase. By caching files, they load faster.
  • Privacy. A proxy changes your IP address and location, making it difficult to track who’s making the request.
  • Access to blocked sites. The proxy server can tell you that you’re in another country, so you’ll have access to resources that are blocked in your territory.
  • Block unwanted sites. You can set up a proxy so that the user will not receive information from some resources.

How a proxy works

Algorithms on the web store outgoing information and build up a user’s “profile”: for example, their query history and typical behavior. This knowledge can be used in various ways, the most innocuous being to set up targeted advertising.

When using a proxy, traffic does not go directly from the computer to the servers, but through a filter or gateway. It is the proxy that takes responsibility for making a request to a resource, obtaining information, modifying it if necessary, and issuing it to the user. How exactly the proxy will work and what changes it will make to incoming or outgoing data depends on its type and settings. There are two main proxies:

Forward Proxy

It sits between the user and external resources. A forward proxy handles outgoing requests, transforms them and then calls the network for information. You can use such an intermediary to visit blocked resources, hide your location, cache information – the functionality depends on the proxy server you are using.

Most of today’s proxies used by ordinary Internet users or companies are direct.

Reverse proxy

The majority of websites use several servers for storing information: a reverse proxy accepts users’ requests and decides itself where to request the information from. Therefore such proxies are often used for load balancing. Many users have no idea that a resource is using a reverse proxy.

Types of proxy servers

In order to choose an appropriate proxy server you have to understand what you need it for and what functionality you are waiting for. There are dozens of proxy types: SMTP, POP3, CGI, FTP and others. The most popular ones are:

HTTP proxy

This is the most common type of proxy. They surround users almost everywhere: from offices to data centers, being indispensable network assistants.

The main functions of HTTP proxies are:

  • Compressing file sizes (caching) to increase speed;
  • Blocking resources. For example, you install such a proxy at school and prohibit visiting all non-educational resources;
  • Ads filtering.

HTTPS proxy

Encrypts outgoing traffic so that third-party resources cannot know the personal information that the user transmits. Often used when it is necessary to save passwords, logins, plastic cards numbers. But it is possible to intercept data via HTTPS proxy if you know how to do it.

Socks proxy

These are the most advanced and modern proxy servers. The network protocol was developed by Dave Koblas in 1992. Socks 4 and Socks 5 versions are now used. [5] Socks-proxy doesn’t give any information about the IP-address, and the network doesn’t see that the user is making a request via a proxy.

Most proxies tell the network that they are proxies; resources see that the request comes through an intermediary, not from the local network. A VPN acts as a virtual network; requests passing through it are no different for most programs than a normal user.

The main difference between a VPN and a proxy server is end-to-end encryption. When using a VPN, a secure communication channel is created between your computer and the VPN server, which, in addition to protection, allows you to work anonymously.

To ensure anonymity, it is better to use a VPN. And it is justified if you only need to hide your IP address. And if you want to configure resource restrictions, increase the speed of traffic or distribute the load on the site – without a proxy can not do. To put it simply, for proxies, privacy is only one of the tasks. For a VPN it is the only one.

Why proxy servers are still relevant

From the user side, a proxy server is easier to set up and there is no need to install additional software to bypass blocking, anonymization, and other functions.

In corporate networks proxy-servers are usually used for analyzing and controlling access to external resources. It helps to avoid information leaks and protect your network from external threats.

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