What Is a Proxy? When Is It Useful?

A proxy server has many uses from using connections and accessing files from a different server. Essentially, a proxy is useful in making indirect network connections. This means websites can be accessed with a certain degree of anonymity.

There are two ways or protocols proxy servers use to communicate with the internet: HTTP and SOCKS protocol. As long as a user accesses HTTP websites, the HTTP protocol is enough. It can conceal the original IP address from the necessary checks. However, if a user requires more than accessing websites, the SOCKS protocol may be more useful as it is capable of handling all kinds of internet traffic such as torrents.

There are plenty of free HTTP proxies available on the internet. The essential pieces of information to obtain are the IP address and port number in use by the proxy.

Configuring Internet Explorer to Use HTTP Proxy

  • Step 1: Open Internet Options and click on the CONNECTIONS TAB.
  • Step 2: Choose LAN SETTINGS and select the option to Use a Proxy Server for Your LAN under Proxy Server.
  • Step 3: Key in the IP address and PORT number of the proxy server in the respective boxes.
  • Step 4: Check on the option to Bypass Proxy Server for Local Addresses. It can help with a faster connection.
  • Step 5: Click OK to close the windows.

Configuring Mozilla Firefox to Use HTTP Proxy

  • Step 1: Open the TOOLS Menu.
  • Step 2: Choose OPTIONS and click on the ADVANCED icon on the left side.
  • Step 3: Choose the NETWORK tab and click on SETTINGS under CONNECTION.
  • Step 4: On the CONNECTION SETTINGS window, check on the option Manual Proxy Configuration.
  • Step 5: Key in the IP address and PORT number of the proxy. Click OK to close. Alternatively, the option to Auto-detect Proxy Settings for this Network may also be used.

Paid versus Free Proxies

There are risks to using proxy servers, especially the free or public ones. Data that travel through proxy are in an unencrypted form. This makes it easier for hackers to intercept the data.

When using free proxies, an average user also risks encountering malicious proxy servers. These proxies do more harm than good. Some of these proxies are used to put malicious programs on the system as well as bombard users with ads. The worst part is that these malicious proxy servers are also capable of recording every piece of information sent through them, such as log-ins and other personal data. Besides, public proxy servers are often unstable.

The downside of using paid proxies is the fee. However, it may be more secure and safer than free ones. They are not only useful in accessing websites anonymously. They can also manage any kind of internet traffic and provide support for user convenience. Paid proxy servers work at varying speeds.

Before using a proxy server, a user must concern himself not only with being anonymous but also with the reputation of the company running the proxy. Otherwise, the user is at more risk online.