Let’s be honest, as much as you use the internet in your daily life, you’re probably doing it wrong. Well, not wrong per say, but you likely aren’t taking advantage of everything the internet has to offer or browsing as efficiently as you could be. Why? One word: proxies.
You might already have a vague idea of what a proxy is as you’ve searched the internet or even heard your shoe-fanatic friend talk about how great they are for snagging some new footwear. However, you still might be uncertain why you need to use proxies in the first place or how they can benefit you and your business in today’s online environment. Let us assure you, they aren’t just for helping you rock the latest fashion statement.
In this article, we’ll discuss what proxy servers are and the reasons why you should start using them. We’ll also note why it’s so important to pay for them instead of utilizing the free public ones out there. Be sure to use our table of contents to navigate through the article, otherwise, read on to start using proxies today.
Table of Contents
What Is a Proxy Server Used For?
Proxy servers, or just simply proxies, are an intermediary server that separates end users from the websites they browse. Normally, when browsing online without a proxy server, your requests will be sent directly between you and the website you’re after. Using a proxy, however, creates a middle-man connection between the two. This means your request will first flow through the proxy server, which will then take your request, retrieve your desired information, and return the data from the website back through the proxy and forward it to you. As it does so, the proxy masks your home IP address from appearing on the websites you’re browsing, instead showing the proxy IP. In this way, proxies act as a ‘gateway’ through which your personal home computer can access and search the internet anonymously.
Of course, anonymous browsing isn’t the only thing a proxy server can do these days, nor the only reason you should use proxies, as we’ll illustrate shortly.
Reasons to Use Proxies
The reasons to use proxies are numerous and expectedly specific to each individual or business’s ultimate end goals. Here are just eight of the many ways you and your business can benefit from a proxy server today:
1. Improve security
As we detailed above, one of the foremost and important reasons why you’d use proxies in the first place is security. This is especially important for businesses that deal with massive amounts of sensitive materials, such as financial institutions or insurance companies, which present enticing caches of valuable information for hackers and cyber thieves in today’s data-driven world. Like a moat or outer walls surrounding castles of old, proxies act as a front-line (and hopefully deterring) defense against would-be intruders, creating an additional layer of fortification these cyber criminals must work hard to bypass even before they can try breaking into where the data is actually stored on your home server.
Even for the casual browser worried about their personal information—such as those accessing a public Wi-Fi connection—proxies provide protections like data encryption, web filtering, and an added firewall against viruses and malware. Together this makes your data harder to access, and therefore less vulnerable.
2. Promote anonymity
Next to security, the second reason many people use proxies is privacy. As a proxy shares its designated IP address in place of your own, it allows you to remain anonymous when using the internet. So whether you’re trying to perform some sensitive competitor analysis or simply want some added identity protection while browsing, a proxy will keep your identity hidden from websites and other users.
Not only does anonymous browsing through a proxy help protect your personal info, but it also hides your browsing habits. Hiding your browsing history is this important if you (like us) hate those targeted advertisements that pop up whenever you’re online. These ads are generated through data collection from your previous browsing activity and inform website advertisers of what promotions or deals you might be interested in. Since site advertisers cannot trace your browsing activity and online transactions back to you directly, they cannot send you ads. Awesome, right?
3. Build and bypass restrictions
Because of the sensitive nature of their business and client information, no company wants their employees to access unsecure or inappropriate websites on company networks. Proxies can help solve this dilemma by allowing administrators to set up restrictions on which devices can access the network and which sites those sites can visit in order to help mitigate risks involved with working online unprotected. Beyond the added protection from viruses, malware, and potential data breaches, network administrators can even log which sites are being accessed and adjust the amount of times a user can visit certain sites (such as YouTube, Facebook, ESPN, etc.) to manage employee downtime.
On the other hand, proxies can also help you bypass restrictions such as geo-blocked content. Many countries and governments have geo-restrictions in place to control the nature of the content viewable to the public. If you’re trying to stream content, game with a friend across the globe, or are traveling for business, you may not be able to access certain websites as long as you have an IP address from that location. Proxies allow you to get past these restrictions since you can choose where the proxy you’re connecting to is located. So, while you may be in Asia on business, your internet connection appears as if you’re in the United States and allows you to access any content you desire for work or pleasure.
4. Balance web traffic
Nothing is more frustrating to a company or consumer than a crashed website. For high-traffic sites and companies with a large network to maintain, however, server crashes can be a recurring issue. All we can say is you should’ve used proxies.
By using proxy servers and their cloud-based data storage abilities, you can disperse your network load across multiple server locations. Not only will the proxy prioritize all requests that happen simultaneously to help manage greater traffic, but it will also reduce the load any one server has to carry alone and prevent overloading the network, ergo, crashing. In the end, you have a much more stable, balanced network that can serve you and your customers faster and more efficiently.
5. Faster network speeds
Another key reason to use proxies is the added speed they can provide to your network. This is especially true when comparing free, public proxies to private, paid ones. Public proxies allow anyone to access them, meaning you’re almost guaranteed to share the server with one or more people. Sharing server resources reduces the amount you can readily access, and ultimately your bandwidth and speed will suffer as a result. Just another reason to buy proxies.
Additionally, because a proxy server works as a sort of behind-the-scenes web filter each time you make a request online, it optimizes web activity by compressing traffic, caching files and web pages previously requested, and removing ads from the websites. Caching files is particularly helpful since the proxy can remember a request and store the file locally the next time you want to revisit a specific site. This makes connecting to these sites a lot faster since the proxy doesn’t need to request for the same exact file again and again. Faster speeds also mean more bandwidth is available for users, giving you a more efficient network overall.
6. Scrape website data
The internet is a virtual diamond mine of valuable data, but extracting that data from websites—and doing so on the down low—can be tricky. Scraping tools like ScrapeBox handle the dirty work for you, scraping keywords, comments, site traffic, SEO info, popular domain names, and more from websites and compiling it in clear, easy to understand analytical data. They can even run multiple threads customized to your preferences so that you extract the most information possible.
Here’s the catch, though: ScrapeBox and other scraping tools like it are useless without proxies.
You see, websites have systems in place to protect their data and detect potential scraping bot activity. When the site identifies bot activity, it will shut down the IP address associated with it. If you use your primary IP address, you’re dead in the water. Buying multiple dedicated proxies, however, keeps the website from being any the wiser to what’s going on so you can continue to gather the valuable data you need.
7. Conduct competitor research
Knowing what your competitors are up to is important to ensure success in any industry. Visiting a competitor’s website to check their latest prices, product offerings, and promotions is necessary to give you a leg up over the competition, but you certainly don’t want them to know what you’re up to. Using a proxy will hide your identity and make it seem as if you’re just another ordinary customer looking to make a potential sale. This allows you to regularly monitor what your competitor is up to so you can better compete with them whenever changes to pricing or promotions occur.
8. Social networking
Outside your actual website, social media accounts may be the greatest tools to promote your business. However, most social media platforms won’t let you create multiple accounts. This is fine if you manage a single social account for a one small private business, but larger companies with multiple retail divisions or social media managers with several accounts to oversee can run into trouble when using one IP address. Multiple accounts associated to a single IP address will seem suspicious to a websites network, leading to your accounts being flagged, blocked, outright shut down. That means all your hard work marketing will be for nothing.
You can use proxies to avoid this problem. Using a different proxy for each social network account that you set up or manage allows you to then create as many accounts as you want and use each account to market your business. This is a quick and easy way to grow your online presence, gain followers, and bring in more revenue.
Reasons to Buy Proxies
Having shared some of the reasons when using a proxy might be appropriate, we want to touch on the reasons you should buy proxies versus using a free or public one.
When you use a proxy server, you share your home IP address with the proxy for the privilege of using the proxy’s IP instead to surf the internet and perform other online transactions. Although this makes you anonymous to the websites you’re visiting, it doesn’t make you unknown to the proxy. Sort of like having a friend go to the store to buy something you’re too embarrassed to buy yourself—the store will only ever assume it’s for your friend, but your friend will always know the truth (and hopefully keep your secret). Unfortunately, not all proxy users/providers use proxies for honorable activity.
Since free proxies often offer the most basic protections, they provide the best opportunity for criminally minded individuals to intercept your unencrypted data—such as usernames and passwords, bank and credit card info, or your home IP address—as it’s sent between you and the websites you’re accessing. Hackers, scam artists, and identity thieves cannot only use this information themselves, but they can also sell it to others without your consent. This additionally opens you up to viruses, malware, and an avalanche of pop-up advertisements you may unintentionally open when browsing, creating further network headaches and data breaches.
Buying proxies is the only reliable option to ensure you receive trusted data securities like data encryption and server support that you need to protect your information. Though it will cost you (albeit, not much), the investment is worth it. The personal security benefits are just that important.
Start Using Proxies Today
While the above list includes only some of the reasons why using proxies is a great idea, regardless of your reason, it’s never too early to start taking advantage of the benefits of using proxies. The important thing to remember is buying proxies is always better than pursuing the free option. As we noted above, though tempting and readily available, free proxies often come attached with more than you bargained for and can open the door to issues you aren’t expecting or equipped to handle.
Paid proxies from a reputable provider ensure you are getting the reliable speed and reputable security you expect and prevent you from unintentionally opening a door to nefarious activity that’ll put you and your business at risk.
The reasons to use proxies, as you’ve seen, are numerous and varied. Yet, using proxies is simple and the advantages in using them—whether you’re the owner of a massive company or a web-conscious browser—far outweigh the minimal costs necessary to acquire them. Whether you desire greater security or privacy, faster speeds and network stability, stronger network restrictions or a competitive edge over your competition, use proxies to get you where you want to be—or at least where you want to appear to be.
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