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The Ultimate Guide to Proxy Servers
What is a proxy? You have probably heard of this term, or if you are a computer or technical enthusiast, it is not some piece of news to you. A proxy is an intermediate that allows you to access information over the internet. I hope you understand why it is an intermediate. Or, maybe we need to define the word intermediate. An intermediate is like a bridge that connects two paths. When you search the internet, you are requesting to access some specific piece of information and it is the proxy server that processes your request and uses it to give the results you are looking for. In other words, a proxy server acts as a bridge between your computer and the internet.
How Does It Work?
When you type in your search terms on Google, for instance, you are sending a request. The term you typed in, is processed as a request for some specific information. What happens is, the request (what you just typed on google) is sent to the proxy server. So, the proxy server, as the bridge between your basic computer and the internet, passes your request to the entire internet network. The search terms you typed are then used to retrieve the information you are trying to seek. The information is then returned to the proxy server which passes it back to your computer.
Understanding forward proxies and reverse proxies is also crucial. However, to properly understand the two terms, the term “proxy” should sink in well. So, the proxy is a server that performs certain functions on behalf of another computer. What makes forwarding and reverse proxies different is their objects.
The object of the forwarding proxy is the Client, and the object of the reverse proxy server is the server.
The Forwarding Proxy
The forwarding proxy works to retrieve information from another website on behalf of the internet user.
Why do you have to use forwarding proxy when browsing?
• To Unblock Websites. Suppose you want to browse through a blocked or banned site, for example, social networks, you can access such sites with the help of forwarding proxy.
• To Bypass Restrictive Limits. Suppose you are banned from accessing a website for reasons such as spamming, forwarding proxy helps you overcome the ban.
• Facilitates Anonymous Browsing to Protect Your Privacy. Forwarding proxy helps you mask your IP address when you visit a website. You can either use it for free or pay.
A forwarding proxy handles requests of a user, but under the administration of a local server, and passes the user's request to a bunch of resources the server has no control of. So, forwarding proxy is just as important as a regular proxy.
With a reverse proxy, as mentioned earlier, the object is the server. Normally, you would search from your computer and be directed to the site having the information you are looking for. But in some cases, the web admin may need to block you from directly accessing their site. In this case, the site admin will pass through reverse proxy first. So, the proxy server retrieves information on behalf of the web admin. You may assume it is the same with forwarding proxy but it is not. Pay attention. Here, you (the user) are unknowingly accessing the website because you are communicating with the proxy server. In this case, the website becomes invisible. Instead, a reverse proxy is all you can see. So, all your communications with the proxy server are forwarded later to the website server.
HTTPS and SOCKS
The difference between the types of proxy servers is usually applied to internet protocols and technologies. They vary in terms of speed, security, and routing protocols.
HTTP (Hyper Text Transfer Protocol) Proxy
HTTP is the most popular proxy and its commonly used by internet users around the world. It is specifically designed for surfing the internet. This property makes HTTP compatible to work with any type of browser. After some time, with the help of SOCKS technology, the HTTP became upgraded and can now work with other applications as well.
HTTP proxy handles HTTP(S) requests, and which uses the format IP:Port to process the requests. When a user types in the request, it is passed on in the form of a complete URL. The proxy, however, makes the request more specific when the URL is passed on. This retrieves the most relevant search results only. The anonymity of the user is maintained such that not you, but the web proxy server is connecting to the website. It acts as a shield between the internet user and the website such that no one can see your online search history.
Socks proxy server serves functions such as routing traffic back and forth between the user and the external server to which the requests are sent using TCP connection. Socks proxy can cater to a network protocol. This makes it very versatile and the most efficient proxy server you can use. Unlike the web proxy server, which turns users' requests into a complete URL before sending them, socks send your request the way it is. It doesn't make any changes to your request.
To activate this feature, however, the browser you are using must be SOCKS enabled. This enables the browser to connect to a socks proxy, which grants thebrowser the ability to transcend firewalls and access programs.
While most users use speed as a deciding factor on whether to use HTTP or Socks, it shouldn’t be the case because there is a very slight difference in their speed. Speed depends on the company providing the two proxy servers.
In summary, proxies and proxy servers are both vital in conducting internet search activities. The versatility of some of the proxies has made it easy for internet users to overcome barriers that prevent them from accessing the information they are seeking.