Understanding Proxy Servers

We imagine a good many of you will have heard the term ‘proxy server’ more than a few times but not have a clue what it means. Think of all those times you’ve seen someone visit your LinkedIn profile in anonymous mode. A proxy server is a computer that is used as an intermediary, of sorts, between your computer and the websites you are visiting. The purpose of its function in doing so is so that you can surf anonymously or bypass an blocking capability of the websites you’re visiting. More simply, proxy servers hide your home IP address from websites that would otherwise be able to take note of it.

Here at 4GoodHosting, it’s been a long road to becoming one of the best Canadian web hosting providers, but we like to think that a good part of our reputability is in the fact that we have a more value-added proposition than many of our competitors, and being informative and helpful regarding everything in the web world is definitely something that’s helped us out.

So let’s look at proxy servers in greater detail this week, and see what makes them so appealing in certain instances or scenarios when you’re making your stops along the information superhighway.

Anonymity

One of the primary appeal of these servers is that they allow you to leave an anonymous comment on a website. The website’s owner may choose to block the proxy’s IP address, but it won’t be blocking your home IP address. Trying to track the IP address wouldn’t have any ability to track back to your genuine home IP address. You won’t care much if the proxy server’s ID is blocked, and that’s kind of the idea.

Proxy servers used to be the only way anyone could access the world wide web, but times have certainly changed. Hackers now often use proxies to get behind network firewalls.

Say a building’s computer is being used as a proxy to get behind the network firewall of that building because the IP address of that computer would be allowed there. A proxy server is a hacking tool most commonly, despite the fact it was up until then the only way people could use the internet. At that time computers would basically be fighting with each other while trying to access the internet, so that one computer in a building would be the proxy and all of the other household computers would be working to gain an internet connection from it.

Proxy Server Downsides

The first major drawback for proxies is that they have incredibly low speed, and slow internet connections and inefficient hardware will make that speed even slower. Proxies also affect all browsers, so forgetting to turn it off may result in you entering information you don’t want to be volunteering while your’e still using someone’s proxy. Keep in mind again that proxy servers are often hacker tools. Hackers generally are the ones to use them, as well as those responsible for creating them. It slows down their computer and clogs it hopelessly, so what’s the appeal exactly?

Well, quite simply the aim is to gain mass amounts of information from people with as little work as possible. With that understood, never save passwords over a proxy. Any information you enter is initially sent through that proxy server, and you can be certain those hackers are saving that information. Always understand that while you might be using a proxy server for anonymity, there is a chance that whoever is providing it may well be using it for criminal purposes.

Proxy Server Upsides

It’s not all nefarious stuff when it comes to proxy servers. The privacy and anonymity appeals for proxies can be quite genuine. You can browse without websites knowing where the original request came from, and then personal information and browsing history remain private.

Proxy servers are popular for companies and schools when they are aiming to control where their employees and students can and can’t go online. Parents and school boards are also able to monitor children and employee’s browsing habits to be responsive to irresponsible or unproductive behaviour there.

How Does a Proxy Server Work?

Information is sent from your computer to the proxy, which then passes it along to the Internet. It’s going to be possible to link the two from the other side if the path exists in one direction. It’s quite possible to trace a proxy. If the police get a search warrant for your IP address, your company will be obligated by law to give them your information.

You may think that proxy servers sound much like virtual private servers (VPS servers), but they are not the same. The only function shared between them is that they both hide your home IP address.

Setting Up a Proxy Server

There’s more than one way to set up a proxy server if you require one. For starters, there are websites that will allow you to use their proxy servers, but again beware of hackers who will skim your information if they get the chance. Remember – if you can access their server, they can access your computer. These website proxy servers are almost like a private browser on Google. If maximum and reliable anonymity is what you’re after, there are also ‘proxy changing’ services you can use that change your IP address every minute. However, they do tend to be expensive.

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