Various organizations, such as educational institutions and companies, often tend to use web proxy servers of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) for browsing the internet. But do you know what web proxy servers are and what is their usage?
Fret not if your answer is ‘no’ because this article will talk about all the necessary information about the web proxy server along with its types, usage, and advantages. So, without further ado, let’s begin.
What is a Web Proxy Server?
A web proxy server bridges the gap between the users and the internet. Typically, users connect with the websites they surf directly over the internet, but this can result in a lot of security and other privacy concerns. But the proxies act as a firewall that connects with websites on the behalf of users.
Consider it as a gateway situated in the middle of users and the internet. For this reason, they are often referred to as “intermediaries” and also implement the use of an IP address for connecting devices with the internet. They help organizations in the following ways:
- Enhances security against all online threats and malicious activities.
- Keep the internet activity of individuals completely anonymous.
- It maintains all the traffic coming through the internet for preventing site crashes.
- Restricts the access to certain people of an organization only.
- Timely caching the files for saving bandwidths and maintaining the incoming traffic.
The functioning of proxies is extremely simple. First, the browser you are using will connect to the proxy, and then you will be redirected to the website that you want to visit. This is the reason why they’re often known as “forward proxies”.
Following are some of the terms associated with a web proxy server that you should know:
- Proxy server – It is a server that acts as an intermediary and is situated between users and the internet. A proxy server helps in keeping valuable information such as IP address and geographic location completely anonymous by connecting you first with it and then provides you access to a specific website.
- Web proxy – It is simply a tool that helps setting up the server. There are various websites over the internet that offer this service for free and let you browse anonymously.
- Web proxy browser extension – It is also a tool just like a web proxy, but it is conveniently situated in the browser as an extension. Therefore, it allows users to access a web proxy server easily and quickly.
How Does a Proxy Server Work?
Every software or hardware device connected with the internet is majorly classified into the following two categories:
Clients are users that connect with the servers by sending requests to access data stored on the servers. These requests are usually sent through a browser or other relevant web applications when users perform a task that involves accessing certain web resources, such as visiting a website on the browser.
Servers receive and respond to client requests and then revert the data asked through the requests. Every website has a server or a group of servers that facilitate the transfer of data or web resources to the browser.
In the absence of proxies, your computer communicates directly with web servers. Therefore, the websites that get connected with your browser communicate with each other directly, which usually results in exposing information such as IP address and other crucial details of the client.
Therefore, to protect the details associated with clients, web proxy servers stand in between clients and web servers to handle all the data transmission on the behalf of users. A proxy server itself is a physical computer that can be situated anywhere and connects you with the internet using its own IP address. This will result in your computer communicating only with the proxy server and the proxy server will make requests to web servers on your behalf.
After getting the required information from a web server, the proxy reverts the data to your computer and completes the cycle. Getting connected to proxies will keep you anonymous and can also change your geographical location details.
Types of Proxy Servers
Based on usage and features, there are various types of web proxy servers available on the web. Also, one key thing that differentiates different types of proxy servers is the degree of privacy that they provide.
Below are some of the most common types of proxy servers:
1. Transparent proxy
They come with less or no privacy and security and also allow web servers to track your IP address. In addition, they’ll let web servers know that you’re accessing them through a proxy server. For these reasons, they’re majorly used for operations like content filtering or caching instead of securing your internet connection.
It gives an experience similar to what users get while operating a local computer and can be “forced” on users without letting them know that they’re connected to one. However, they offer an extremely fast and seamless user experience.
2. Anonymous proxy
An anonymous proxy is committed to offering robust security and privacy for IP addresses and other crucial information from various web browsers. Often referred to as distorting proxies, they keep the users anonymous by treating all the visits with fake IP addresses instead of the actual ones. However, these proxies also don’t hide the fact that you’re entering through a proxy server. This results in blocking users from visiting websites that deny the use of proxy servers.
Since they don’t leak your IP address, most of the users choose to opt for them for controlling online privacy. In addition, they also make internet activity untraceable by surfing the internet on behalf of the users. They’re used by individuals who are looking for full anonymity while accessing websites.
3. High anonymity proxy
High anonymity proxy or elite proxy is basically a level-up version of regular anonymous proxy. Most of their fundamentals and functionalities are similar. But the only thing that makes high anonymity proxy different from an anonymous proxy is that it keeps itself anonymous too. This means that no web server or website will be able to know that users are entering through a web proxy server.
High anonymity proxy servers are able to perform this by manipulating your IP address after certain cycles and removing all the clues that are left for browsers to know that a proxy is used. Currently, they’re the most advanced type of proxy that offers the best security and privacy to users while surfing the web. There are various free high-anonymity proxies available over the internet but they come with a drawback; they access the personal information or data of the users.
How Web Proxy Servers Help Users?
Following are a few of the most important ways in which proxy servers come in handy for users:
1. Creating firewalls
By creating a strong firewall among the internet and users, proxies allow users to visit websites and access other web resources anonymously and securely. They’re also used for blocking unwanted access just like any anti-malware or anti-hacking countermeasure.
2. Content filters
Just like controlling the incoming requests through the firewall, proxies can also work as content filters by blocking the outgoing traffic on specific spots. Organizations use this feature to stop their workers from opening certain websites while being at work.
3. Bypassing content filters
Workers within an organization can easily overlook the existing web proxy with another proxy for accessing the websites that are blocked by the organization.
Caching is the process of storing frequently accessed data to make it readily available. Proxies efficiently cache the websites to load quickly, saving tons of time used in sending the data back to the client’s device from the website’s server.
Along with robust firewalls, proxies help in increasing security by accessing on the behalf of the users. It makes various IP addresses go anonymous and hide behind the internet proxy’s IP address. This also increases the protection from various hackers who want to access a specific device on a network.
6. Sharing internet connection
Organizations can make use of the proxy servers for allowing various devices to access and share a single internet connection.
Proxy Server Use Cases
1. Controlling internet usage
Organizations and parents can utilize the proxies for controlling and monitoring the activities of their workers and kids on the web. This can be achieved by configuring servers to deny access to certain websites.
2. Increasing speed and saving bandwidth
A good proxy server will provide better network performance and makes use of cache to fetch the most recent copy of the website and send you the saved copy. This also ends up saving bandwidth and thus enhancing network performance.
3. Privacy and security
Proxies are majorly used for getting end-to-end privacy and security while on the web. Proxy servers change the IP address of the clients so that the web servers are unable to identify the actual IP address of the client.
Moreover, users can also configure proxy servers for encrypting all the requests made from a browser. Businesses are also enabled to use their proxy servers with Virtual Private Networks or VPNs for remote users to access the internet via companies’ proxy.
4. Accessing blocked resources
With the help of web proxy servers, users can easily access the data that is blocked in a specific country or area.
Web proxy servers allow users to surf the internet with greater security and privacy options along with hiding crucial information such as IP addresses from hackers and malicious websites.
The three most used web proxy types include transparent proxy, anonymous proxy, and high anonymity proxy. These web proxy types are differentiated based on the level of security that they provide to users. The transparent proxy comes with the least security, whereas the high anonymity proxy is the best in terms of assuring high security and privacy of user data and information.
There are various ways in which web proxy servers can be used, such as building firewalls, configuring content filters, caching, etc., which are discussed in detail within the blog. Also, we discussed some use cases of web proxy servers such as controlling internet usage, increasing speed, and blocking various resources that will help you develop a better understanding of how they can be useful in real-world situations.
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