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What Is the Purpose of a Proxy Server?

If you ever went online using a corporate or a library PC, you've probably used a proxy server. Their primary objective is to serve as a buffer between your device and the rest of the internet. In other words, a proxy server communicates with other servers on your behalf.

A proxy takes all the requests you make and forwards that traffic to the website or app you're trying to access. They also receive the responses to your requests and send them back to you.

What Does a Proxy Server Do?

As your "representative" on the internet, a proxy server can do many useful things for both home and corporate users. Here are the most common uses for proxy servers:

Enhanced security

Most often, proxies are used to serve as the public face of a whole network. This is particularly useful in enterprise settings. If all company traffic goes through a proxy, it will look like it's coming from a single address, keeping the internal infrastructure and users anonymous and protected. More importantly, it makes things significantly more complicated for hackers. If someone wants to attack a specific device or a user on a network behind a proxy, it's almost impossible to find it.

Content filtering

Proxy servers can control incoming connection requests by acting as a firewall. However, they can also serve as an excellent content filter by blocking all inappropriate outgoing traffic. A proxy server can help a business make sure the employees can't access blocked websites and services from the company network. Being unable to access social media and other "time sinks" like YouTube dramatically improves productivity and efficiency.

Content filtering circumvention

Just as proxies can prevent access to specific websites, they can also help gain access to those inaccessible without a proxy. Many businesses offer the same goods and services at different prices in different parts of the world. Using a proxy can make you indistinguishable from a visitor who's in a completely different part of the world. This enables you to get better deals, book cheaper flights, enjoy your favorite streaming services, etc.

Caching and load balancing

Proxies can also serve as temporary data storage for faster access to frequently used data. This feature is particularly beneficial for businesses and educational institutions. Instead of sending your requests to a website, proxies can cache it and just return the content you need, which significantly reduces latency, speeds up loading, and minimizes bandwidth usage. On the other end, reverse proxies can distribute traffic among different servers offering the same content to reduce overloading and improve efficiency.


Firewall

As you probably know, a firewall serves as a barrier between a network and the rest of the internet that blocks unwanted access. A proxy server offers a great place to host a firewall that can intercept any malicious requests (like viruses, malware, or hackers) before they reach the network.

What Are the Key Benefits of Using Proxy Servers?

Although airtight network protection doesn't exist (besides staying offline), proxies come pretty close to the magic 100%. Here's why:

Privacy

All proxies hide your IP address from the rest of the internet. If you want to keep your IP hidden from the websites, apps, and services you use online, there's no better solution.

Control

The internet is riddled with inappropriate content. If you're a parent looking to put your children's surfing under control and shield them from what they're not supposed to see, content filtering proxies can help.

Unrestricted Access

More and more content is getting geo-blocked for different reasons. Proxies offer an easy way to circumvent these restrictions by replacing your IP address with another one from anywhere in the world.

Are There Downsides to Using Proxy Servers?

You probably know there are a lot of free proxies out there. Most of them are not secure and serve as a front for hackers to steal your personal data, whether by monitoring your traffic or forwarding your requests to scam websites. This can cause countless issues like identity theft, banking information abuse, remote access to your device, etc.

On top of that, free proxies are usually very unreliable and can go offline at any time. Since they're free and available to everyone, you could be using them with an unknown number of other users, causing your speed to plummet.

Not All Proxies Are the Same

The best way to avoid all these issues is to go with a residential proxy service from a provider you can trust with your sensitive personal and corporate data. Premium proxies are versatile, secure, reliable, and affordable. You can learn more about residential proxies at this website.

Featured illustration: Freepik.

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