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What is a proxy server?

In the days of firewalls, VPN services and the Tor application, practical methods of masking the IP address and speeding up the Internet, a proxy server is becoming indispensable for actively surfing the Internet. Many users use a proxy without really thinking about what it is, how it works and what functions it can perform.

Below we will analyze what a proxy server is, where to get it and how to start using it. We will also focus on such points as the specifics of choosing a server and the differences between anonymous and regular types.

What is a proxy server

The term proxy comes from the Latin "proxus" and means "next" or "substitute". It is a network communication interface that enables switching between two remote machines.

There are basically two types of proxies: those that run locally on the network - this makes sense in companies, for example, to facilitate transmission over corporate Internet lines. And those provided by the provider.

Although the former mainly serve as a cache, that is, they ensure that data does not need to be reloaded from the Internet every time, the provider's proxy server is especially interesting for everyday private use: it not only speeds up network access, but can also ensure your complete anonymity. This means that the service provider can provide significantly more speed and protection, and is easily configurable.

The main purpose of any proxy server is to accept client requests on behalf of the server and redirect traffic to the target computer with a separate IP identifier.

In this case, there is no direct connection between your computer and the web resource or server. Sometimes the client and the target machine are unaware that they are dealing with a middleman. The server receives the data and then forwards it to the actual recipient. This makes it possible, for example, to establish a communication connection between two devices if they are actually incompatible with each other.

Proxy connections can be implemented in two ways: a forward proxy server is used to protect the client's network from attacks from the Internet. If the target system, such as a web server, needs to be protected by an upstream proxy, this is called a reverse proxy.

It doesn't matter if it's connected between PC or smartphone. The proxy server can perform various filtering and redirection functions. Among other things, it can be connected to provide more anonymous surfing.

All types of proxy servers can usually be classified as follows:

Direct is the default proxy category, in this case it serves as an intermediary between the computer and the wider global network.

Reverse - This type of server acts as an intermediary between the Internet and a small group of similar devices. For example, a reverse proxy can serve as a hub gateway between the Internet and a company's local area network.

Open - Anyone online can access open proxies (also known as "public proxies"). They are usually offered to the public for free and provide fairly broad functionality.

Why use a proxy

Mainly, the services of anonymizers are important for the private user, because they maintain personal anonymity and confidentiality.

In an era where web resources and online services collect a huge amount of private information - be it quantitative data, such as “where my site visitors click most,” or specific, tangible data such as hobbies, preferences, and search statistics - the problem of data protection and privacy is becoming an increasingly relevant topic.

Ensuring confidentiality

Ensuring confidentiality "Hosting Ukraine"

 

This is one of the most significant and noticeable advantages of proxy services: as a result of using the anonymizer, the resource you visit cannot register the actual IP address it has - and instead registers the general IP identifier of the proxy service. This guarantees some anonymity when surfing the web.

Remember - your Online ID can tell a lot about you, such as what country and city you are from. Smart cybercriminals can even go a step further and use your IP address to find out who your ISP is, what your zip code is, and what street you live on.

Accessing geo-blocked or restricted content

Unfortunately, most of the online content is actually hidden behind geographic restrictions - mainly due to web and copyright regulations. Since anonymizers hide your IP address, online resources cannot deny you access to it based on your geographic location.

A good example of such a situation is the use of an anonymizer to connect to television and YouTube outside of Ukraine. It can also be easily used to bypass network blockages at work or school.

Reducing content loading time

This is because proxies can cache data. Once you access certain websites, you save them for future use. When a cached page is requested, it can be displayed to the user faster.

Note, however, that this only happens if the proxy already has Internet pages that you requested from the local cache. If it is not, then it downloads data from the network. Then the download may not be so fast.

Filtering malicious sites

Another significant advantage of a proxy server is that an administrator can deny users access to websites that could be dangerous.

This may seem counterintuitive at first, but keep in mind that in a situation where the administrator realizes that a particular resource contains malicious or phishing links, this may prevent accidental or unconscious users of the server service from visiting and harming themselves.

In addition, there is a possibility of third-party infection. For example, if you go to a malicious resource, then the dangerous software contained in it can infect the proxy server, and not your device at all. This should be borne in mind when you see that a service does not allow you to access a certain resource.

Where to get a proxy server

Most ISPs offer powerful proxy servers, such as the one supported by the hosting service ukraine.com.ua. However, there are many public services, but you need to treat them with caution and check the data every few connections.

You can download server lists from so called proxy lists. These lists are freely available and include switches from the CIS and from the rest of the world. After that, you should manually enter the server address into the browser and the proxy service of your OS, using the instructions below.

How to start using a proxy

Knowing a specific proxy address, you can get started right away. It should be noted that modern operating systems have two places where proxy settings are set: once in the system itself and once in the browser.

Typically the system proxy is used by all programs, including all browsers like Chrome, Edge or Firefox. However, the browser proxy is used only where it is installed. This has several advantages: for example, you can control your browser exclusively with a proxy, but run all other internet applications without a proxy. Or, conversely, you can process all internet traffic through a proxy.

You can also set different proxies for both scenarios. Under Windows 10, the proxy is quickly installed in the system and it is easy to start using it:

Setting up a proxy server in Windows 10

 

Setting up a proxy server in Windows 10 "Hosting Ukraine"

 

Step 1. Enter "Proxy" in the Windows 10 search box. This will take you directly to the proxy settings.

Step 2. Scroll down and enable "Start proxy server".

Step 3. Now enter your ISP's service details and the corresponding port. This information is provided in documents or on the resource of your Internet provider.

Step 4. Click "Save" to save the proxy settings. Your Windows system is now using your ISP's proxy, your internet should load much faster. You can disable the proxy at any time using the “Deactivate proxy server” button.

Step 5. Check if the proxy server is working using the IP checker service. Turn proxy on and off to see the difference: the address should be different when the proxy is activated.

Setting up a proxy server in Windows 7

Setting up a proxy server in Windows 7 "Hosting Ukraine"

Setting up a proxy server in Windows 7 "Hosting Ukraine"

 

Step 1. To configure a proxy server in Windows 7, click the "Control Panel" button in the Windows menu.

Step 2. Select the menu items "Network and Settings" and "Internet Options". The "Internet Properties" window will open.

Step 3. On the "Connections" tab, you will find the "LAN Settings" button. Next, you should open the "Local area network LAN" window.

In this case, three types of configuration can be configured. Windows OS must determine the service data itself, or it will use a script for auto-tuning. You can also enter manual settings.

If these services need to be configured manually, uncheck the box next to Autodetect parameters. Otherwise, errors may occur, since the OS will overlap with autotuning those that you entered manually.

What is a proxy server used for?

Essentially, all services of this type act as intermediaries between the client and a third party server from which the client requests a specific service. He receives the client's request and fulfills it for him.

A simple example. Let's say you want to use a proxy server to access a specific resource. The anonymization service receives your request and does one of the following:

The local cache is analyzed to determine if the desired resource can be found. If the resource is found, the service simply shows it to you and no data is sent to the global network.

If the service does not find the resource in the local cache, it is requested from the Internet. However, your IP ID is not used for all subsequent actions. Instead, the anonymizer acts as a client on your behalf and uses one of the service IP addresses. Once the page is received, it commutes with your original request and the information is redirected ​​to you.

The areas of application of such a server are different, but mainly boil down to four areas - caching, filtering, bandwidth management and security.

Data that is redirected through such a server can also be filtered by parameters, buffered and redistributed to other servers to balance the load. In addition, the proxy server is the main element of the firewall that protects your PC from cyber attacks from the global network.

What is an anonymous proxy and how is it different from a regular one

Regular server

When surfing the Internet and using regular data traffic, your request is sent directly from your computer to the target computer (server), where it is converted. Typically, you will immediately receive the requested data on your computer from that target server, which, for example, contains a specific website.

To let the external computer know where the desired data should go, you automatically transmit your individual IP address along with your request. It is saved on the target computer. The operator of the target computer can read the data stored in the logs and, if necessary, identify them.

Anonymous proxy

These proxies are a proven way to hide your surfing traces on the Internet. They are necessary in order to anonymize the IP address of your computer.

If an anonymous proxy server is connected between your computer and the web resource you are on, the administrator of this resource or service can only determine the IP identifier of the anonymizer, but not your own. Conversely, you can only trace the path from your computer to the proxy server, not the actual destination.

The network contains lists of free anonymous proxies that provide a service of varying quality. For the most part, they just cache pageviews and content, making them only suitable for encrypted websites. However, compared to VPN or the Tor network, proxies usually have the advantage that they work without additional software installed and are available for free in many cases.

These proxies only mask the IP address and can speed up internet traffic, however, only commercial VPN providers offer real anonymity.

How to work through a proxy server?

You can get started by entering the service address for the OS (indicated above) and applying the same settings when starting your default browser.

It should be remembered that the Internet Explorer browser, as well as Google Chrome and Opera automatically duplicate the data of the operating system installed on the computer, and Mozilla Firefox requires entering separate settings for the proxy service, which applies only to the use of this browser. In this case, other online applications on the computer are not redirected.

(Anonymous) proxy settings for Google Chrome

Step 1. In the Google Chrome browser, go to "Settings" (top right)

Step 2. Select "Show advanced settings" and then "Change proxy settings".

Step 3. In the "Internet Properties" window that opens, click "Local Area Network Settings", select the "Use a proxy server" checkbox and enter the server IP address.

(Anonymous) proxy settings for Firefox

In the Firefox browser, you install the proxy server according to the following instructions:

Step 1. Open the menu (top right in the browser window) ->

Step 2. Select "Settings" and then "Advanced". Then go to "Network" and then to the item "General network settings".

Step 3. Enter the provided IP address of the server and the corresponding port in "Manual configuration of proxy and HTTP proxy service". Both sections are shown in proxy list rules.

Remember to remove the settings after using anonymous proxy. Especially when the proxy server is no longer active or unavailable, otherwise you will no longer be able to access the Internet.

Possible errors and problems

If users intentionally use proxy services, connection errors can usually be traced for one of the following reasons.

Proxy Overloaded: Proxies that are available for free on the Internet are especially popular among users for anonymizing online activities and bypassing geo targeting. If the demand exceeds the capacity of such a server, congestion failures occur. In this case, the browser displays the message "Proxy server not responding". Users can now wait or use another server.

Proxy server disabled: If a server is permanently removed from the network, it will no longer offer proxy services. The reasons for leaving may be technical problems or the bankruptcy of the provider. In this case, users have no choice but to choose another forward proxy or browse the Internet without a proxy.

Proxy IP has changed: If the proxy IP has changed, this also results in connection errors. Users solve this problem by finding the current proxy server address and adjusting the configuration accordingly in the system settings or in the browser.

Connection data was sent incorrectly: the most common causes of errors are incorrect proxy settings. Before users contact the appropriate service or consider an alternative anonymization service, it is recommended to check all settings for typing errors in network addresses or used port numbers.

What is important to know when choosing a proxy

By using the anonymization service, you already have a lot for your anonymity on the Internet. But this is not enough - you can still be identified by third parties.

You must be extremely careful when choosing a provider. Don't forget that the proxy server owner can control your activity if you access something online over HTTP instead of HTTPS. Not to mention, the service administrator can also lock down secure resources without giving a reason if he wants to.

You should be aware that some providers limit the bandwidth of services. If you get the feeling that this is the case, you can check the speed of your Internet.

In addition, providers often use special "transparent" proxies. The software installed on them is capable of transmitting information about your IP identifier to the resource. These services are primarily intended to improve download speed and should not be used to mask the IP address.

Cons - 80% of free services do not use HTTPS protocol with SSL protocol, so you are practically unprotected from online cyber attacks. And some of them can change the static HTML markup and use the modified JavaScript code to serve ads to their visitors.

Ideally, you should choose private proxies from trusted providers. They provide an extra layer of security by using a VPN service that provides access to a proxy service.

If you are unsure why you should use a VPN instead of a proxy server, consider the following: VPN already offers the same benefits as anonymizer, and also uses strong encryption protocols. This provides a higher level of security while surfing the Internet and protects your confidential information.


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