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.

Pros of Proxy Servers

Browsing the web is usually reasonably direct. When you input the URL for a website, your device connects to it. Content is downloaded so that you can view it.

With proxies, however, your device will direct traffic to the proxy before sending it to you. Why do people use proxies? They offer several benefits, such as:

Anonymous browsing: When you use a proxy, traffic will come from the server rather than your device

Content restrictions can be avoided: Content is often restricted based on location. For example, you may not have access to a streaming service because of where you are. Using a proxy allows you to get around that.

Proxies can remove ads: When you're using a proxy, you may be able to remove all ads from a site before you visit it. Since many websites can now detect ad-blocking plugins, a proxy can provide a better browsing experience.

Proxies can be very beneficial, and they are highly effective. With that said, there are a few issues you should be aware of:

Limited anonymity: People often use proxies for anonymity. However, it's important to remember that the proxy server owner can still see the sites you visit. If you want to be completely anonymous, you won't get that from a proxy.

Unencrypted traffic: The traffic between a proxy server, a site, and your device is not encrypted. This is something that cybercriminals can exploit. If you send sensitive data through a proxy, it is possible for it to be stolen.

Performance decline: Using a proxy will usually cause a noticeable performance decline. Although these issues are more pronounced with free proxy servers, this is still a common problem.

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Different Types of Proxies:

It should also be noted that not all proxies are the same.

HTTP Proxies

These proxies are used to view web content. They are an excellent way to view browser content that is location restricted, such as certain YouTube videos. You'll be accessing the site via a proxy server, which means the site will see the server's IP address rather than yours.

SOCKS5 Proxies

These proxies can be used to access websites, but they can also access streaming services, online games, and more. However, it may take much longer to connect when using a SOCKS5 proxy. Configuration options are often limited.

Transparent proxies

If you've ever browse the web through a filter, you may have used a transparent proxy. These proxies can be used to block users from accessing certain websites. Parents, schools, and employers often use them.

How to Configure Proxy Settings in a Web Browser?

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.

Read more: VPN as an Alternative to Proxy Server

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