If you only heard about proxy servers recently, it might be unclear why people and businesses use them. Some other alternatives might seem better at first glance, but it’s a hasty conclusion. Proxies have many advantages compared to other tools, and we will cover the four main ones below.
Proxy servers are intermediaries allowing your connection to go through them before reaching the internet. Without proxies, your device sends a request to the websites directly and has to provide its IP address – a unique string of numbers that identifies every device on the web.
IP is an essential part of how data is transferred online, but it also gives away your private information. By knowing your IP address, websites and the government can uncover your approximate location and the name of your internet service provider (ISP). Because of this information, your actions online can be tracked.
Proxies allow you to hide your IP address and show only that of the intermediary server. Since the servers can be anywhere, they enable you to bypass geo-restrictions or internet censorship effectively. A quality proxy service will give you a wide choice of locations and proxy types (learn more about the types of services and locations).
Different proxy types are suited for various tasks, from anonymous browsing to web scraping and online automation tasks. Here are the main proxy types to keep in mind
- Residential proxies are among the most legitimate proxy types. IP addresses come from physical devices, and the connection is affiliated with ISPs.
- Datacenter proxies are the fastest and cheapest proxy type, with IPs created virtually in bulk and hosted in data centers independently from ISPs.
- ISP (or static residential) proxies are the middle-ground option between residential and datacenter proxies. ISPs verify such IP addresses, but they are hosted on a server.
- Mobile proxies are the choice for those who need IPs originating from portable devices, such as smartphones or tablets.
The advantages of proxies become obvious when we compare them to other privacy tools. VPNs (short for a Virtual Private Network) are the most common alternative. They work by creating a secure tunnel between your network and the internet. The method is similar to proxies as the requests also go through an intermediary server.
Companies use VPNs to create secure access for remotely working employees. Private users often buy them for ordinary tasks, such as bypassing geo-restrictions, streaming, or anonymous browsing. While VPNs and other privacy tools have many useful applications, proxies have at least four main advantages.
While you can stream movies and download files with VPNs, a proxy service is a superior choice for those who need to transfer even more data. Datacenter proxies, for example, are commonly used for web scraping projects where data quantities can be enormous. Proxies are best for commercial use in such tasks.
In addition to that, proxies do not require any additional software to be used, which doesn’t overload your device. The proxy provider will give you an IP address, port, and password. You can then use proxies with software of your choice or simply set up a proxy in the browser or PC settings.
VPNs or similar tools will ask you to install software that needs to run in the background at all times. While most devices will run such programs, it can get problematic with other tasks running in the background or when you lack processing power.
For the first-time user, proxies might seem a bit hard to set up, but that also brings a benefit. While VPNs can only work with dedicated software or browser extensions, proxies can be set up in any software that needs to route the connection through an intermediary server.
Web scraping, email protection, or automation software will require you to provide a proxy IP address and port to connect. There are some workarounds for using other tools floating on the internet, but it will take you a lot of time to set them up, and the performance will plummet.
Even more, many VPN providers restrict the usage of these products in their terms and conditions. They are simply not meant for such purposes and leave proxies as the only viable option for data collection and online automation.
We don’t recommend using free proxies since there are many security and performance concerns. Even if it looks like you will save money, the result will cost you more in damages from data leaks or malware. That said, proxies might seem more expensive than other tools, but there’s a catch.
Other privacy tools are often bundled with additional features most users don’t need, while with proxies, you only pay for access to intermediary servers. A proxy service charges either for the bandwidth or the IPs used. Other tools can hardly compare if you count price per IP or GB.
Since proxies can utilize a large pool of IP addresses, it is only natural to switch between them periodically or for a given task. For example, if you choose dedicated datacenter proxies, the IP addresses will rotate from your private proxy pool, or you can hold on to one IP for longer.
Usually, the rotation is done by a proxy service provider automatically, so you do not need to worry about anything. However, third-party proxy rotator software options can add various functionalities, such as only using specific IPs for chosen websites.
Other tools do not have such a wide range of options for IP rotation and usually rotate IP addresses for a set period (say every five minutes). Usually, it is for server load-balancing purposes.
All the mentioned advantages of proxies make them the best choice for those who need a lot of fast and cheap connections. Tasks like web scraping, online task automation, or botting are unimaginable without proxies. If any of the four benefits are important to you, consider purchasing proxies.