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What is a Proxy Server? A Clear Explanation of How it Works

What Is A Proxy Server?

A proxy server is either a system or a router that acts as an extra layer of cushioning between users and the internet. In doing so it serves as a layer that provides anonymity and security to the user and helps prevent digital attacks. In the case that an attacker wants to attack, they will not be able to directly target the user and instead will also have to deal with the proxy server.

All devices have an IP address when they access the internet. The IP address is like a unique ID that identifies the computer on the internet and serves as a recognition system for other systems that the user is interacting with. All traffic that is transmitted through the internet is directed to a certain IP address. When you are using a proxy, as a user your identity is masked with a secondary IP address as the proxy server itself also has its own IP address.

Network Security

Proxy servers are a great form of security on their own. They can be set up either as firewalls or they can take the form of web filters. You can take security a step further by combining it with a secure web gateway or different email security services and protect yourself from things like malware, spyware, and even Ransomware.

While for some tasks, such as viewing region-locked content, simply changing your identity through a proxy server can be enough, these servers can be used for many other tasks. Especially for business clients, a proxy server can help reduce operational costs by saving bandwidth for incoming data, they can control employee behavior by managing internet access and they can even reduce system crashed by equally distributing the workload.

How It Works

When you are doing anything on the internet, for instance searching for blue cardboard boxes on Google, you are essentially sending a query from your system to Google and getting an answer in response. In the case of a proxy server, you do not contact Google with your query, rather, you forward the query to the proxy, and the proxy relays this information to Google. Similarly, when a response is received from Google, the proxy server will relay this information back to you. It acts as a messenger between you and internet services.

How To Get A Proxy

A proxy server can either be a physical device or software. Physical proxy servers are located on-site and connect the users with the internet. Digital proxy solutions serve the same task but they are hosted by a different service provider and they are usually cloud-based solutions. To access these you will typically need to download an application that will allow you to connect with the proxy servers and create an anonymous connection. Hardware proxy servers need to be purchased and they can be slightly complicated to maintain for a novice user whereas cloud-based solutions can be used for free.

Of course, if you are looking for higher quality service and superior functionality you will have to opt for paid proxy services as the free ones only offer very limited capabilities. Also, free proxy solutions will be limited in the number of devices that they can use. For commercial purposes, it is best to have a high-quality paid proxy service that can be customized to your needs.

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