What is a Proxy Server and Its Characteristics

A proxy server is an intermediary that secures your computer network in addition to adding privacy and anonymity. It does this by sending web requests on a user’s behalf. But prior to the actual sending, this proxy server first stops all web requests originating from any computer within a network and assigns them a new unique IP address. This process hides the real IP address. 

An IP address identifies any internet-connected device. It also contains location information. A combination of these two elements implies that it is very easy to track you using your computer. Thus, using a proxy prevents this from happening, thereby guaranteeing your security and privacy. Additionally, by assigning you a new IP address, the proxy server provides anonymity. 

Importance of proxy servers

Proxy servers are significant in the following ways:

  • They promote anonymity, privacy, and security.
  • They filter content reaching a computer or web server via HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol), thereby acting as a buffer that protects against cyberattacks (HTTP proxies)
  • They monitor emails to identify attachments containing harmful links or malware.
  • They balance traffic by distributing it across multiple servers around the world. In so doing, they protect web servers against crashes and Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.
  • They increase connection speeds by saving bandwidth. Proxy servers achieve this by caching frequently accessed files. Thus, whenever users request the files, the proxies generate them, freeing the webserver and bandwidth for other essential functions.
  • They facilitate web scraping because of the anonymity aspect.
  • They restrict access to specific websites. 
  • They bypass geo-restrictions, again due to the anonymity they provide.

Notably, there are many types of proxies, each of which has its significance – the list above is only a broad overview of the importance of proxy servers. For instance, if you wish to use a proxy that filters content sent via HTTP, you have to choose an HTTP proxy. Similarly, only residential and datacenter proxies monitor emails, with the former being more efficient than the latter.

With that being said, the first step to realizing all the benefits attached to a particular type of proxy is by choosing the right proxy service provider. Not every proxy service provider is worth believing or spending your money on merely due to their marketing web copies and taglines. Instead, you should dig deeper and find out whether their products meet the requirements below.

Characteristics of a good proxy service provider

A good proxy service provider has the following characteristics:

  • A wide IP address network pool
  • Paid service
  • Prices of the proxy
  • Legitimate business
  • Available features

Choosing the right proxy service provider entails checking whether they meet these requirements. You should also consider what you intend to use the proxy for since some providers provide the best services with regards to one type of proxy but lag when it comes to another one. 

Expansive IP address network pool

A good proxy service provider (e.g., oxylabs.io) has a vast pool of IP addresses from various locations. This is important in instances where you want to access geo-blocked content from different countries. Furthermore, it also helps when you are web scraping as the IP addresses can be rotated as required. It would be best if you also kept in mind that some proxy service providers do not allow users to choose a proxy’s location – they curtail the freedom of choice.

Paid service

Though free proxies will still offer some privacy and anonymity, they are not full-proof, as is the case with paid proxies. In most cases, free proxies assign IP addresses that multiple websites have already blocked. They are also shared among several users, thus compromising security since tech-savvy users can find ways to access your computer network. In this regard, a good proxy is more often than not one that you pay for.

Prices of the proxy

We used the ‘more often than not’ phrase in the paragraph above because not all paid proxies are ideal for your task. Some shared proxies are not free, but that does not mean that they are any good, especially because using them compromises your security and privacy. In this regard, you should go for the highly-priced proxy providers since you will be assured of quality.

Legitimate business

The internet is fraught with fraudsters and scammers. Therefore, you should deal with legitimate businesses to avoid losing money to scams. With legitimate proxy service providers, you are guaranteed that they will take responsibility if anything were to go wrong. We cannot say the same about scammers.

Available features

The right proxy service provider offers features that enhance the user experience. For instance, they include a dashboard, the ability to update your information, and a section that tracks your usage, to mention a few. They should also offer good customer support. 

When choosing a proxy service provider, it is advisable to perform a background check to establish whether they meet these requirements. 

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