What are proxies and proxy-servers and why do you need them?

What are proxies and why do you need them?
Proxies are an important, useful and trusted tool for affiliate marketers, SMM, marketing, and e-commerce specialists. Here we have put together all the essential information about proxies: the technologies behind them, their use cases, and their advantages.

What are proxies?

Every device connected to the Internet has a public IP address, using which it is possible to identify the connection provider and the country where requests from a user are coming from. Naturally, this IP address can be used to identify visitors of a website.

A proxy server acts as an intermediary between your device and websites. If you are connected to a proxy server, all incoming and outgoing data will pass through it, and your IP address will be substituted with the proxy server address.
Сonnecting to a proxy server

Сonnecting to a proxy server

Originally user-agent was meant to give websites information about the browser, OS, and other info for better content rendering, but unfortunately it was abused by browser and search engine competition practices that broke the rendering or simply blocked content from their competitors on purpose. That’s why many smaller and niche browsers practice header spoofing. For example, Vivaldi has to pretend to be Chrome.

What are proxy servers for?

Your IP address is itself a part of your digital fingerprint (you can learn more about it in our blog post Your digital fingerprint: what it is and how it is used to deanonymize you). Thus, the main task of a proxy is to hide the real IP address and geolocation of a user, using a proxy IP instead. Web surfers turn to proxies for reasons of anonymity and privacy, while web professionals use them in affiliate marketing, for promotion of social media accounts, data parsing, and for many other professional tasks.

The main reasons for using a proxy server are:

  • Bypassing IP-based bans, or lifting regional restrictions for certain websites.
  • Strengthening your anonymity and protecting your privacy when browsing online content.
  • Strengthening your online security. You can protect your network and your devices from online attacks and scammers on a fundamental level by hiding your IP address.
  • Accessing the Internet from several devices using the same IP address.
What are possible risks of using a proxy server?

Free proxy safety.
Lists of free proxies are built on publicly accessible information. These addresses are easily found, and so in most cases are already preventively banned by antifraud systems. We recommend that you do not use such proxies for work because you will be risking potential account bans.

No security guarantees.
As your requests pass through proxy servers, they will know where you are going on the Web. Unscrupulous providers can collect and sell you data, or even steal your private information.

Proxy server protocols

There are several proxy protocols:

HTTP proxy
An HTTP proxy is a proxy server that uses the HTTP protocol for connection to a web server and the client (browser). HTTP is the most common Internet data transfer protocol.

HTTPS proxy
HTTPS proxies employ the cryptographic TLS protocol (Transport Layer Security), which is used for end-to-end traffic encryption, and to prevent data interception during transmission. This is an improved and more secure version of HTTP proxy.

SOCKS proxy
Compared to HTTP, SOCKS proxies use a lower-layer protocol for traffic routing. This means that even the proxy server itself cannot intercept your data without altering it, and thus transmits it as is.

SOCKS5 supports the UDP communication protocol, and can be used with frameworks with strong authentication. However, not all SOCKS5 proxy providers guarantee high-quality UDP support on their servers.

Which protocol do I need for anonymous web surfing?
An HTTP connection is easier than SOCKS, and parsers and bots can establish a connection faster using an HTTP/HTTPS proxy.
SOCKS5 is a more secure and universal tool to bypass bans and visit online platforms anonymously.
Proxy access to popular sites

Proxy access to popular sites

Proxy IP address version differences

There are two IP address versions: IPv4 and IPv6.

IPv4 is an Internet protocol with 32-bit address space length, containing approximately 4.3 billion addresses. Today this IP address version is considered standard, and is supported by all web resources. However, due to free address exhaustion, this version is becoming outdated and gradually replaced by IPv6.

IPv6 is the newer version of this protocol, with the address itself 4 times longer. The amount of IPv6 addresses is 1028 bigger than that of IPv4, and IPv6 addresses are more secure due to authentication and encryption mechanisms. IPv6 is most commonly used for mobile access.

You can see the IPv6 adoption growth rate using this Google service.

Proxy providers offer both IP address formats, and your choice depends on your proxy usage aims. It is harder to find free IPv4 addresses due to general shortage, and this is why renting an IPv6 address usually costs less. However, not all web resources support IPv6, and some proxy servers might work with the newer IP version incorrectly.

How anonymous and private is a proxy?

Transparent proxies are used for access control, compressing and caching traffic, but they do not affect privacy. Websites get the real IP address.

Anonymous proxies hide your device IP providing minimal anonymity, but websites may detect that you are, in fact, using a proxy for connection.

Elite proxies change your IP and at the same time hide the fact that you’re using a proxy from web servers. However, large services can still analyze data packets using Netfilter, and detect a proxy connection.

Proxies by type

Datacenter proxies
As a rule, datacenter proxies use servers of large companies with high-speed broadband. These can provide thousands of IP addresses located within one datacenter, and this is why datacenter proxies are the fastest with the lowest ping.

However, these proxies run a high risk of IP address substitution detection. As they provide the ASN type (ISP / hosting / business / education / government), which all large subnets of the Internet have, websites and search engines can easily determine if a proxy is used when a connection is made.

Residential proxies
Residential proxies are real devices of real people connected to the Internet through their residential connection, which has an exact geolocation. A residential proxy supplier does not own the proxies, but rents IP addresses and transmits traffic through them. Websites see these proxies as real people, and thus seldom ban them. However, it is important for such proxies to be dynamic and automatically offer a new IP address if a residential device is disconnected.

Mobile proxies
Mobile proxies are real smartphones, tablets, and laptops connected to mobile Internet. As residential proxies, mobile proxies are used for remote access.

Mobile operators provide their users with dynamically changing IP addresses for access to mobile Internet. However, the pool of such addresses is limited, and tens of thousands of users can use the same IP address. This is why websites generally avoid banning mobile proxies.

What is the difference between private and shared proxies?

A shared proxy is a proxy address that is available to several users simultaneously. The only advantage of such proxies is their lower costs. For work-related tasks you should use private servers. While they are more expensive, they are also more secure, faster, and more reliable, which are what most professional users look for in a proxy server.

Choosing a proxy means finding the right balance between quality and price. When choosing the right option for yourself, you need to understand what you are looking for in a proxy.

Choosing a proxy: what to look for?

  • The country, especially if you’ll need to bypass regional restrictions.
  • Passive OS Fingerprint (TCP/IP Fingerprint): does the proxy provider allow OS fingerprint spoofing?
  • Connection speed: the faster, the better.
  • Uptime (the time of continuous operation). Do not settle for anything less than 99%, ideally 100%.
  • Geolocation. The further a server is from you, the longer data transfer takes.
  • Anonymity. If this is an important concern, choose only elite proxies.
Checking the proxy health
We recommend that you check the proxy health and performance using dedicated online services and free proxy checkers.

What else should you check?

  • ASN Lookup and type: being blacklisted on ASN identifiers and IP bans.
  • TCP/IP fingerprinting: server-side check o basedf MSS and IP fragmentation. Hops amount and delay.
  • WebRTC leaks.
  • Open ports.
  • DNS leaks.
  • HTTP headers.

Popular proxy providers

  • Brightdata — offers datacenter, residential, and mobile proxies. Protocols: HTTP/HTTPS, SOCKS5.
  • Oxylabs — offers datacenter, residential, and mobile proxies. Protocols: HTTP/HTTPS, SOCKS5. Access: Shared-proxy. IP addresses: IPv4, IPv6.
  • Astroproxy — offers datacenter, residential, and mobile proxies. Protocols: HTTP/HTTPS, SOCKS5. Access: Shared-proxy. IP addresses: IPv4.
  • Netnut — offers datacenter, residential, and mobile proxies. Protocols: HTTP/HTTPS, SOCKS5. Access: private and shared proxies.
  • Proxyempire — offers datacenter, residential, and mobile proxies. Protocols: HTTP/HTTPS, SOCKS5. Anonymity: elite. Access: private.
  • Smartproxy — offers datacenter and residential proxies. Protocols: HTTP/HTTPS. Access: Private and shared proxies. IP addresses: IPv4 and IPv6.
  • Soax — offers residential and mobile proxies. Protocols: HTTP/HTTPS. Access: Private. IP addresses: IPv4.

The list is based on proxy providers popularity as of December 2022 and is not a recommendation.

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