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A Proxy Server is an online middleman computer that allows a client computer to make indirect, anonymous, private connections with another computer on the web thereby allowing the client computer to remain hidden and protected behind the veil of the proxy server.

The way a Proxy Server works is the client computer, instead of making a direct connection with a web site or other internet resource, connects with a Proxy Server first and the Proxy Server routes the users connection to the intended destination online site or resource. A Proxy Server intercepts connections between sender and receiver.

Diagram of How Proxy Server Works

In the simple graphic below computer A wants to connect with computer C. Let’s pretend, in this example, you are computer A and you want to go to a website which is at computer C.

Without Proxy Server

Computer A would make a direct connection with computer C to request the files and pages necessary to display the web page on computer A. This direct connection of computer A with computer C allows computer C to see lots of information about computer A including:

  • Its IP address (which reveals computer A location)
  • The operating system of computer A.
  • The web browser computer A is using.
  • Other private details about computer A.

A – – – > C
A < – – – C

With Proxy Server

Computer A makes a connection with computer B (the proxy computer) which tells computer B it wants the web page found at computer C. Computer B makes the direct connection with computer C, gets the required files and pages and then forwards them to computer A. In this scenario computer A’s identity is completely hidden behind and protected by computer B.

A – – – > B – – – > C
A < – – – B < – – – C

Proxy Server Benefits

  • Privacy and Anonymity: As discussed above, the middleman computer acts as a privacy bodyguard protecting computers from having to make a direct connection to internet resources.
  • Resource Caching: because lots of people are making numerous internet requests through the proxy computer, these computers cache frequently used internet resources and files. This can speed up web activity for the user of a Proxy Server because instead of having to wait for a resource from the destination computer every time, quite often the resource already resides at the proxy so it can be delivered much more quickly than without the proxy computer.
  • Unblock Websites: websites often block clients from connecting with them for a variety of reasons such as:
    1. A person is abusing a websites resources in some manner such as a spammer abusing comment forms for advertising.
    2. Some websites only want traffic to come from specific countries or block traffic from specific countries.
    3. Sometimes people on the client end wish to block a computer from accessing certain online resources such as school computers wanting to block Facebook or parents want to block access to adult sites.
  • Increased Security: since the client computers machine information is masked by the Proxy Server, hacking attempts are thwarted because the identifying information required for a hacker to connect with a computer (such as IP address) are blocked.
  • Multiple Accounts: many websites don’t permit the creation of more than one user account at a time. This can easily be circumvented with a Proxy Server where the apparent location and IP address of the computer can be changed, at will, by changing Proxy Servers.

Free Proxy Server

The biggest downside to the free ones is they are often overwhelmed with high visitor volume which can mean a very slow, unreliable internet connection. One of the reasons most of them are free is their middleman connection is injected with advertising and webspam.

Commercial Proxy Server

These types most often are offered at a reasonable monthly fee. The number of connections permitted to a single IP Address is usually monitored and limited as well to prevent bandwidth bottlenecks and connection slowdowns. These middleman connections are usually advertisement free and more secure than their free counterpart.

Two Proxy Server Connection Types

  1. IP internet Based: this type provides IP addresses and port number the client user would enter into the web browser or other web based software and the indirect proxy connection is made in the background.
  2. Web based or CGI: these are websites the user would visit that has a textbox where the user entered the web address of the website they wish to visit anonymously and options to allows or block certain resource types such as Javascript, cookies and referrer information.

Proxy Server Anonymity Types

In the realm of how secure, invisible and private the connection is to internet resources there are multiple Proxy Server Types referred to as proxy based upon anonymity level.

  1. Transparent Proxy: IP is forwarded and destination computer can see your real IP and knows that you are using proxy. This type is usually used for resource caching only.
  2. Anonymous Proxy: your IP is hidden but target server could still know that you are using a proxy.
  3. High Anonymous or Elite Proxy: connection looks like a regular client (browser) and the target computer doesn’t know that you are using proxy or changed your IP. This is the ultimate choice for privacy and security online.