As businesses continually seek to stay ahead of the competition, they are increasingly turning to data collection and analysis.
At the same time, and with the emergence of new cyber threats, these companies are also embracing security measures that protect not only the data collected but also their internal computer networks. Indeed, there are multiple solutions, each suited to achieve a specific function sought by the businesses. However, products such as proxy servers can single-handedly accomplish most of these functions.
What is a Proxy?
A proxy or proxy server is any hardware or software-based intermediary that sits midway, at least figuratively, between a user’s computer or local network and a web server. Thus, it routes all internet traffic through itself and, in some cases, goes the extra mile by masking the requests’ IP address and, in its place, assigning a different address.
The latter function enables users of proxy servers to browse anonymously. Furthermore, it prevents web servers from displaying CAPTCHA codes or, in extreme cases, blocking the IP address. This is crucial for businesses using customer data or online payments. One such example is the cyber security threats in hospitality businesses. Not only for hospitality and tourism businesses, but the same is true for the banking and finance sector and a lot of other industries.
Types of Proxy Servers
There are multiple types of proxy servers, categorized based on the following criteria:
- Traffic routing: examples of proxies in this category include reverse proxies and forward proxies
- Type of IP address assigned: examples of proxy servers in this category include residential proxies, data center proxies, and mobile proxies. Residential proxies assign residential IP addresses, which are affiliated with home internet service providers (ISPs). Datacenter proxies assign datacenter IPs and route traffic through powerful data center computers. Finally, mobile proxies pass the traffic through mobile devices, which are connected to the internet via mobile data. Mobile proxies assign mobile IP addresses.
- Protocol used to route communication: HTTP or HTTPS proxies and SOCKS5 proxies fall into this category
- How they assign the IP address: This category includes the likes of rotating proxies, sticky proxies, private proxies, and shared proxies
Benefits of Proxy Servers
Proxies offer a number of advantages that make them an integral part of any business. These benefits include:
- Preventing IP blocks and CAPTCHA
Proxies such as residential and mobile proxies are associated with real users. As a result, they are not easily blacklisted, as all internet traffic routed via these intermediaries is deemed to have been sent by a real user rather than a bot.
At the same time, rotating proxies, which either assign each request a unique IP address or periodically change the allotted address, further reduce the chances of blocks. Specifically, the rotating proxies limit the number of requests that can be associated with any given IP. The result is that web servers will not detect unusual network activity nor activate anti-bot measures such as CAPTCHA codes. As a result, proxies are usually used together with web scrapers to collect data from websites.
- Facilitating access to geo-blocked content
Some websites usually display content in particular jurisdictions, while others show different content to different audiences based on their location. This is known as geo-blocking and can prevent businesses or individuals from accessing data about a market. Moreover, it blocks businesses from establishing what consumers in a particular country say about their brand. Fortunately, proxy servers enable users to bypass geo-restrictions.
For instance, if you want to access content that is only viewable in Germany, you can use German proxies. These proxies will assign Germany-based IP addresses, making it appear as though you are located in the country. For location-based proxies, find more info here.
- Increasing privacy and online anonymity
By masking your real IP address, proxies essentially hide information that could be used to identify you or your location. This way, they provide online privacy and anonymity.
- Boosting cybersecurity
Proxies such as HTTP and datacenter proxies scan content and email for links containing malware and viruses, as well as those that may be linked to phishing.
- Preventing server crashes
Reverse proxies are used to balance internet traffic among multiple servers in what is known as load balancing. These solutions ensure that the visitor is connected to the nearest server (which reduces the loading time). Additionally, reverse proxies prevent server crashes by limiting the number of requests that a single server can handle. This way, reverse proxies reduce the chances of a successful Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack.
- Freeing up bandwidth and increasing server performance
Reverse proxies cache frequently accessed files. Thus, whenever requests require the web server to send these files, the reverse proxy kicks into action and sends them on the server’s behalf. This frees up vital server resources, boosting server performance. It also reduces the loading time.
Uses of Proxy Servers
The benefits listed above make proxies ideal for the following use cases:
- Web scraping
- Bypassing geo-restrictions, as is the case with German proxies
- Ad verification and brand protection
- Social media management
- Cybersecurity initiatives
Proxy servers can significantly benefit your business. They facilitate data collection through a process known as web scraping. They also enable you to bypass geo-restrictions, allowing you to assess new markets or verify whether your ad partners in other countries conform to the agreed-upon terms of service. Reverse proxies can also boost your server’s performance and prevent cyberattacks.