What is a Proxy Server?

Published On - March 28, 2024

Proxy servers essentially act as bridges between a user and the internet. Instead of you having to connect directly to a website or another user, you instead connect to a proxy server and the proxy will communicate with the website on your behalf.

When using a proxy server, your browser will first connect to say proxy, and the proxy will forward your traffic to the website you are trying to access. This explains why a proxy server is also sometimes known as a “forward proxy.” In addition to this, proxy servers will also receive traffic from the website and forward it back to the user. In this way, the user and the website can be separate from each, with the proxy acting as the go-between.

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How Does a Proxy Server Work?

The address of your computer is known as an Internet Protocol or IP address. This address is unique to your computer and is the way in which the internet determines which computer to send the correct data to.

Proxy servers have their own unique IP address that only is known only by your computer. When you send a request over the internet (such as opening a web page), the request goes to the proxy server first. The proxy server then sends this request over the internet, collects the response and forwards you the data.

Proxy servers can make changes to the data as it passes through (without affecting how you see the page yourself). For example, proxy servers can change your IP address, filter content and encrypt your data (as we went through above).

What Exactly Do Proxy Servers Do?

There are many things that proxy servers can do to improve browsing experience, security and privacy. Here are a few:

  • Security: Proxy servers anonymize their users by changing their IP address, so that if a hacker wants to get access to a specific device on a network, it will be far more difficult to locate.
  • Firewalls: Firewalls are security systems that protect a network from external threats. Firewalls are mostly configured to block unwanted access or to protect users from installing malware onto their systems. Proxy servers are often deployed as hosts for these firewalls so that they can check out the legitimacy of traffic before it reaches the network.
  • Filtering Content: Many organizations use proxy servers as content filters to block outgoing traffic to certain undesirable or unsafe sites. However, savvy users can outsmart these content filters using proxy severs of their own.
  • Caching: Caching makes it easier and faster to access websites that you have visited before, by storing (or caching) data from those sites. Proxies can cache websites for you to help reduce latency.

The Types of Proxy Servers

All proxy servers function as an intermediary between a user’s device and the internet, effectively providing an alternative internet address for users. However, different proxy types offer distinct features tailored to specific needs. Understanding the various proxy types and their unique capabilities is crucial to selecting the most suitable option based on your individual requirements. 

Forward Proxy

A forward proxy acts as an intermediary between client devices and an internal network. It sits in front of the clients and examines incoming requests to determine whether a connection should be established. The proxy forwards data to internal network users after authorizing access. This architecture is ideal for internal networks that have a single point of entry and require IP address security and administrative control. However, the centralized nature of forward proxies may limit the ability for individual end-users to customize their connections.   

Transparent Proxy

Transparent proxies offer a seamless and unnoticeable experience for users, akin to their home computer usage. Individuals can be connected to a transparent proxy without their knowledge, making them an ideal choice for companies seeking to implement proxy services without employee awareness. The transparent nature of these proxies ensures a frictionless user experience without any interruption to internet access. However, transparent proxies also pose security concerns, as they are more vulnerable to external threats. SYN-flood denial-of-service attacks, for instance, can exploit the lack of user awareness to disrupt network services and potentially compromise system integrity. 

Anonymous Proxy

An anonymous proxy allows users to hide their internet activity by connecting to the internet on their behalf, effectively concealing their identity and computer information. This tool is ideal for individuals who are looking to achieve complete anonymity online. However, there are some drawbacks to using anonymous proxies. Some people view them as sneaky or deceptive, and users may encounter discrimination or resistance from certain organizations.  

High Anonymity Proxy

High Anonymity Proxies elevate online anonymity by efficiently destroying identifying information before establishing connections to target websites. This heightened level of privacy makes them an optimal choice for users seeking the utmost privacy, such as employees desiring to shield their activities from being linked back to their organizations. However, it is crucial to exercise caution, as some purportedly free proxies may serve as deceptive decoys aimed at ensnaring users and exposing their sensitive data.  

Distorting Proxy

Distorting proxies are specialized tools that conceal the true identities of users and their proxies by continuously altering their IP addresses. They present themselves as proxies to websites but obscure their own identities to ensure anonymity. This feature makes it challenging to determine the location of the proxy or the user, offering enhanced privacy protection. Distorting proxies provide several advantages, including concealing the user’s geographic location, boosting privacy by hiding the proxy’s identity, and safeguarding the user’s anonymity even in the event of a proxy compromise. However, it’s important to note that some websites and services with robust anti-proxy measures may block distorting proxies. Additionally, these proxies may also face limitations in accessing certain websites or content due to geographic restrictions.  

Data Center Proxy

Data Center Proxies are administered within data centers operated by corporations, rather than Internet Service Providers (ISPs). They function as physical proxy servers, relaying user requests. While these proxies offer notable advantages, including rapid response times, low costs, and enhanced data collection capabilities, they are often accompanied by drawbacks. Due to their nature, Data Center Proxies may not provide sufficient anonymity, potentially exposing user information and identities. Consequently, they are less suitable for situations requiring high levels of privacy or anonymity, such as sensitive online activities.    

Residential Proxy

Residential proxies use IP addresses that are sourced from actual physical devices, and requests are directed through the designated device. These proxies serve as a valuable tool for tasks such as ad verification, ad blocking, and safeguarding against potential threats. With their reputation for reliability, residential proxies are a popular choice. However, they can also be more expensive than other types of proxies. It is important to weigh the advantages they offer against their cost in order to make an informed decision on whether they are worth the investment.  

Public Proxy

Public proxies offer a convenient and cost-free way to browse the internet anonymously. They provide users with an IP address that conceals their identity, enabling them to access websites without revealing their personal information. However, it’s important to note that public proxies may be slower due to the large number of users accessing them simultaneously. Additionally, they increase the risk of third parties accessing personal information, making them less suitable for users prioritizing data security.   

Shared Proxy

Shared proxies offer a cost-effective solution for internet browsing by providing access to an IP address shared by multiple users. This enables users to browse the internet from a chosen location seamlessly. However, it should be noted that shared proxies come with potential disadvantages. Since multiple users share the same IP address, a user may be inadvertently held accountable for the actions of others, potentially leading to bans from websites. Nevertheless, shared proxies remain a viable option for individuals with limited budgets due to their low cost and ease of use.   

SSL Proxy

Using SSL encryption offers a multifaceted approach to enhancing online security. It establishes a secure communication channel between clients and servers, encrypting data in both directions. This not only protects data from potential eavesdropping but also conceals the proxy from both parties, further safeguarding sensitive information. SSL is highly recommended for organizations seeking heightened protection against SSL-related vulnerabilities. Additionally, adopting SSL can positively impact website search engine rankings, as Google prioritizes SSL-enabled servers. However, it’s worth noting that SSL encryption can also impact website performance due to the overhead associated with encrypting and decrypting data, potentially slowing down subsequent website visits due to the inability to cache encrypted content.   

Rotating Proxy

Rotating proxies offer unparalleled capabilities for web scraping, assigning each user a distinct IP address. This ensures that consecutive user connections receive unique addresses, making them ideal for high-volume, continuous scraping operations. By providing anonymity, rotating proxies enable repetitive access to websites without raising suspicion. However, it is crucial to exercise caution when selecting a rotating proxy service, as public or shared proxies can expose private data. It is recommended to opt for reputable providers that prioritize user privacy and security.  

Reverse Proxy

Reverse proxies, positioned in front of web servers, intercept user requests at the network edge. They forward these requests to the origin server, receiving replies and relaying them back to the user. By balancing the load of incoming requests for popular websites, reverse proxies reduce the bandwidth burden on the origin server. However, they can expose the underlying HTTP server architecture if compromised, necessitating enhanced security measures. To mitigate this risk, network administrators using reverse proxies must reinforce their firewalls or reposition them to protect the internal network.

Benefits of a Using Proxy Server

Proxy servers play a crucial role in enhancing the security, privacy, and efficiency of IT companies and other corporate entities. They offer numerous benefits, including the ability to provide anonymity to users, ensuring the security of network connections, and improving the performance of web-based applications. Proxy servers are versatile tools that can be used for various purposes, such as controlling access to specific websites, filtering inappropriate content, and optimizing bandwidth usage. These versatile capabilities make proxy servers a valuable asset for IT companies, enabling them to enhance their operations, safeguard their networks, and improve the user experience for their employees and customers alike.  

Improved Security

By acting as a filter that intercepts malicious data, proxy servers provide an additional layer of security against hacking attempts, preventing financial losses that can cripple organizations. Their protective capabilities extend beyond breach prevention, safeguarding against phishing, identity theft, brand theft, and other forms of malware.


Concealing company IP addresses safeguards the anonymity of internet requests, preventing third parties from identifying the origin of the communication. Furthermore, it provides a crucial layer of protection for research and development processes, ensuring that intellectual property remains confidential. Additionally, it serves as an essential line of defense against data theft, shielding sensitive information from unauthorized access.  

Faster Speed

To enhance internet performance, various techniques are employed by browsers and networks. Frequently visited websites are cached, reducing the dependency on constant requests to internet servers. Traffic compression minimizes the amount of data transmitted, optimizing bandwidth utilization. Additionally, intrusive advertisements are removed from websites, eliminating distractions and improving loading times. These collective measures contribute significantly to boosting internet speed and providing a smoother user experience.   

Internet Usage Control

Effective control over internet usage can significantly enhance workplace productivity and prevent security breaches. By implementing content filters, network administrators can block access to websites and applications that may be deemed inappropriate or distracting, such as social media platforms. This helps minimize employee distractions and maintains focus on work-related tasks. Furthermore, monitoring internet requests allows administrators to track network activity and identify any suspicious or unauthorized usage. This vigilant oversight facilitates the detection of illegal or inappropriate activities, ensuring that the organization’s data and reputation remain protected.  

Restriction Bypassing

Certain websites impose geographical restrictions, limiting access to particular IP locations. This poses a challenge for businesses that require access to such geo-restricted content. However, a solution lies in using proxy servers. By connecting through a proxy server, the user’s original IP address is masked and replaced with that of the proxy. This effectively bypasses the IP-based restrictions, enabling employees to access the necessary websites and content that would otherwise be inaccessible from their geographical location. 


1. What is a proxy server?

A proxy server acts as an intermediary between a client and a web server. It receives requests from the client and forwards them to the web server, and then sends the response back to the client. This enables the client to access the web server anonymously and securely.

2. What are the benefits of using a proxy server?

Using a proxy server offers various advantages such as anonymity by concealing your true IP address, enhancing security through acting as a barrier against cyber threats, boosting performance by caching commonly visited content to expedite page loading, and enabling geolocation spoofing to access content that may be restricted by location constraints. 

3. What types of proxy servers are there?

Proxy servers come in different types, each varying in their level of anonymity. Transparent proxies disclose proxy usage, while anonymous proxies conceal the user’s IP address. Elite proxies provide the utmost anonymity, typically employed for tasks requiring privacy protection. 

4. How do I set up a proxy server?

Establishing a proxy server can be achieved through multiple avenues. Manual configuration involves modifying proxy settings directly within the browser or operating system. Alternatively, proxy software offers a dedicated solution that seamlessly provides proxy server functionality. Additionally, third-party providers offer proxy services that grant access to shared or dedicated proxies, allowing users to leverage their infrastructure for enhanced privacy and security. 

5. Are proxy servers legal? Using a proxy server is generally legal, but there are certain exceptions. For example, it is illegal to use a proxy to bypass filters or restrictions imposed by your employer or ISP. Additionally, some websites may block access from proxy servers.

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