Overview of Proxies: Workings & Importance for Web Scraping

Proxies are well-known for their rich functionality, suitable for both individuals and companies. In this article, we explore how they can be used effectively.

Overview of Proxies: Workings & Importance for Web Scraping
John Garfield
John Garfield 6 min read
Article content
  1. What are proxies?
  2. What are some types of proxies?
  3. What are SOCKS5 proxies?
  4. What are proxies used for?
  5. Frequently Asked Questions

It seems like proxies have become an ultimate tool that can solve lots of issues internet users face every day. Chances are, you can remember a moment in your daily routine when proxies could come in handy. Well, let’s talk about them in detail to understand what proxies are, how they work, the difference between various proxy types, and the ways you could use them.

What are proxies?

A proxy is a server or a device which you can connect to, which allows you to reroute your traffic through it. As you do that, you will acquire the IP address of a proxy and mask your true address with it. Thus, you can fake your location and remain anonymous online since it will be virtually impossible to track your real IP address down.

Here's a visual explanation of how they work:

Proxies act as an intermediary between the user and the server

As we can see, proxy servers acts as an intermediary between the user and the web server: Their communication is more secure because the user's identity is concealed by the proxy.

What are some types of proxies?

There are 3 primary kinds of proxies: datacenter, residential, and mobile. Let’s take a closer look at each type to understand the differences.

Datacenter proxies

Datacenter proxies superimposed on a world map

These are the cheapest ones. They are servers in a data center — hence the name — which you can connect to. Each of them equals one IP address, and several users can connect to a single server simultaneously, which forces them to share the same IP and location.

Datacenter proxies provide users with decent coverage, yet they’re not flexible enough for certain tasks. If you need to change your IP quite often — when you’re gathering data from websites, for example — datacenter proxies will drag you down since they can’t provide you with as many IP addresses as you need. They’re optimal when you only need to fake your location or become anonymous online. If you need more flexibility and better coverage, you should opt for residential proxies.

🚁Further reading: What Are Datacenter Proxies and When You Should Use Them

Residential proxies

Residential proxies superimposed on a world map

These are devices with IP addresses issued by an internet service provider. Such proxies are more expensive but they provide you with better coverage, and they allow you to appear to a destination server as a real user — a resident of a particular country. Therefore, the risk of triggering anti-spam measures is very low.

Residential proxies are often used for more complex tasks such as data gathering, software and security testing, and so on. They’re more expensive than their datacenter counterparts, but the price is worth the service since you’ll be flawlessly anonymous and safe.

🛫 Further reading: Residential Proxies: A Complete Guide to Using Them Effectively

Mobile proxies

Mobile proxies superimposed on a world map

They are almost the same as residential proxies with the only difference — their IP addresses belong to mobile devices and are only issued by a mobile network operator. It means that when you’re connected to a mobile proxy, you appear to a destination server as a resident of a specific country who’s using the internet via mobile data.

Mobile proxies are a specific service that is useful in a limited number of situations. For instance, mobile proxies will come in handy when a developer wants to test the capability of an app. Also, marketing managers might use this service to verify mobile ads and view the ads of competitors.

🚀Further reading: All You Need to Know about Mobile Proxies: How They Work & How to Use Them

SOCKS5 proxies

You may have seen even non-technical people mention VPNs and "What are SOCKS5 proxies?" SOCKS — which stands for SOCKet Secure — is a network protocol that routes traffic through an intermediary server before transferring it to the destination one. As a result, the destination server can see the IP address of an intermediary one instead of the user’s real one. Thus, the SOCKS network protocol creates a firewall between a destination server and a user to protect the latter from any kind of surveillance.

SOCKS5 is the latest version of this protocol that supports IPv6, TCP, and UDP proxies, so it’s a universal one. The previous version — SOCKS4 — could support only TCP. Also, SOCKS5 supports all the authentication methods.

In general, the SOCKS protocol is meant for security-focused operations — regular users and small businesses wouldn't need it.

What are proxies used for?

Proxies are used in various industries, by various companies

There is a huge variety of use cases for proxies. Let’s take a closer look at the most popular ones.

To access geo-restricted content

Obviously, since proxies allow users to fake their locations, they can use this service to pretend to be located in another country if they can’t access any content because of their residence. In this case, one just needs to know which countries have access to the content to choose the correct proxy.

To stay anonymous

There are different reasons why one would want to remain anonymous online. Perhaps, they want to avoid the prying eyes of their government. Or maybe, they just want to stay safe when connected to a public WiFi — proxies make it significantly harder for hackers to intercept data in an unprotected network.

To scrape data

Most websites are protected from data gathering. To bypass this restriction, data scientists use residential proxies to change IP addresses with each request and hide the fact that they’re scraping information from pages. The uses of data gathering are unlimited — it’s a valuable tool for price aggregators, researchers, and any business that wants to obtain competitive intelligence.

To protect corporate data

If employees of a business often work from public places where they are connected to unreliable WiFi networks, they should use proxies to not let malefactors steal sensitive corporate data. By masking their IP addresses employees will become invisible to hackers thus making sure no one crawls into their gadgets and, consequently, corporate databases.

For security and system testing

Specialists can use proxies to generate high volumes of fake traffic to test their security systems or the capacity of servers. Also, proxies will let developers make sure that an app works properly for users from different locations. Proxies make performance and uptime testing much easier and more effortless.

🧭 Client profile: How cybersecurity firms can benefit from residential proxies

To protect a brand

Using proxies, businesses can search the internet for unauthorized usage of their corporate identity to eliminate infringement and not let malefactors jeopardize the loyalty of customers to their brands. By changing countries, a business owner can quickly detect if someone is trying to make a profit off a copyrighted brand.

👀 Further reading: How to Protect Your Brand with Web Scraping and Proxies

To improve the marketing strategy

Marketing managers can use proxies to perform better research of a target audience, keep an eye on the activity of competitors, and verify the ads online. Also, proxies help social media managers to prevent their accounts from getting blocked by social media platforms.

To improve SEO metrics

Search engine optimization is based on data. Proxies let SEO specialists perform better research to obtain more information. Also, professionals will find proxies useful for checking if they’ve targeted the ad campaigns properly.

The bottom line

Proxies are versatile and extremely useful. Moreover, they’re quite affordable. Check out our pricing plans to pick the one that will fit both your needs and budget. And if you need a tailored solution, simply drop us a line so that we can create one for you. Additionally, we’re ready to provide you with any guidance on proxies you might need.

Frequently Asked Questions

To allow proxies generally means to give someone the authority to act on your behalf. In computer terms, it means to give someone access to the internet through your device or network. When you allow a proxy, that network tool can use your internet connection to browse the web, access blocked websites, or avoid surveillance.

Yes, proxies are safe to use. They provide a way to surf the web anonymously and protect your personal information. When you use a proxy, your IP address is hidden from the websites you visit. This makes it more difficult for people to track your online activity or hack into your computers.

In general, proxy settings should be turned on if you want to remain anonymous online and hide your true IP address. This has the effect of masking your real IP address and making it difficult for others to track or trace your online activity.

A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is a type of proxy server that encrypts and tunnels Internet traffic through an intermediate server. A VPN can be used to mask your IP address and location, making it more difficult for third parties to track your online activity.

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