What is a proxy?
In computer networks, a proxy is a server (a computer system or an application) that acts as an intermediary for requests from clients seeking resources from other servers.
If you are in the market for some proxies, you can check our list of top residential proxy services.
In other words a proxy is something that sits between a client aka someone who wants something and a server aka someone who has something. Usually it forwards information from one end to the other, sometimes also acting as a filter or a firewall.
Why do i need a proxy?
What can i use proxies for?
Most people searching for proxies are actually interested in a very specific type of proxy. For instance the private forward proxy is a type of proxy that is most often used when surfing the web. This type of proxy works very similar to how a VPN works but has some key differences.
Most uses of proxies are actually invisible to you, the web surfer. Because most services now run on a modular architecture. Which is a fancy way of saying they have many individual parts that work together as a whole. Developers hide the parts behind reverse proxies.
Reverse Proxies are a special kind of proxy that usually sit in the same network as the other components of a site and they make sure information passes to and from the right modules and users. Most of the time all information sent to the modules is first passed through the site’s reverse proxy. This has multiple advantages like:
- Scalability: it’s way easier to split the load between multiple modules. You just need to run more servers with the same module. And the reverse proxy or the load balancer will include those servers in the pool of existing servers.
- Improved Security: because each module runs separately, if one gets compromised then the other components are still safe. Also usually the load balancer has some security measures of it’s own so components are all the more safe.
Another very popular use of proxies is the filtering forward proxy. Schools and corporations routinely use this type of proxy to block access to certain types of websites to make sure that browsing conforms to acceptable use policies.
What kind of proxies are there?
It’s easiest to split the differend types of proxies by what their purpose is. And almost all proxies allow you to either connect to the internet aka a forward proxy or to connect to an intranet aka a reverse proxy.In other words a proxy is a software that sits between a client aka someone who wants something and a server aka someone who has something
1. Forward Proxy
Forward proxies are the proxies you are probably looking for. Theese are the ones that people use to get the job done.
Another way to split different types of proxies is by their behavior. How each software handles the forwarding matters a lot when it comes to security, privacy, and especially detection.
1.1.1. Anonymous Proxy
1.1.2. Intercepting Proxy
This type is a hybrid of a network gateway and a regular proxy server. The network gateway forces outgoing connections through the proxy behind the scenes. You are not very likely to encounter theese kinds of proxies outside schools and some old corporate setups.
1.1.3. Transparent Proxy
1.1.4. High Anonymity Proxy
1.1.5. Distorting Proxy
1.1.5. Elite Proxy
One more way of sorting them into categories is by where the IPs come from. This one is simple, you have datacenter IPs and Residential IPs.
There is one main difference between a highly anonimous proxy and an elite one. The elite has everything the former has but also passes detection. A simple and free way to test if how anonymous you are is Whoer.
1.2.2. Datacenter Proxies
1.2.2. Residential Proxies
A residential proxy as opposed to a datacenter proxy is a kind of server that is located in a real person’s home
Most residential proxies that you can buy are categorised as backconnect residential. Because they are on home networks they are almost always hidden behind routers and private networks. The backconnect(nat punching) protocol is great for accessing this types of devices.
1.3.1. Socks 4/5
2. Reverse Proxy
Big sites usually use reverse proxies like Nginx, HAProxy, Varnish. They do this to split the work of handling all the web traffic. However there’s a whole discussion here about a caching vs non caching reverse proxy but i’ll save that for another time.
A good example of a site that uses reverse proxies to a very high degree is your friendly neighbourhood Netfix, they even created one and open sourced it. They named it Zuul which is a reptile, i wonder what that’s about.
In essence the most obvious point to make about reverse proxies is that most of the time you can’t use them to browse sites or crawl webpages. However one interesting exception to that rule is Cloudflare’s workers. For example someone has created a script here that basically turns cloudflare’s reverse proxy in an almost fully functional forward proxy.