A to Z on How Your Business Can Benefit From Proxy Servers

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Proxies are an essential computer networking component that handles many operations on the World Wide Web. 

They distribute online traffic to prevent server overload, protect clients' IP addresses, and store cached files, to name but a few functions. The first proxies were primarily single-functioned intermediaries between the client device and the server.

They optimized data flow between multiple local area network devices (clients) and the external networks to reduce cost and increase performance. 

Right now, after fifty years of development, proxies support numerous additional functions that benefit businesses. This article overviews the many ways you can improve business operations via this technology.

What is a proxy server?

We must first briefly overview online communication to grasp the proxies fully. The standard online communication happens between clients and servers.

A to Z on How Your Business Can Benefit From Proxy Servers

For example, when someone browses a specific website, their device requests the web server for specific information. The web server responds with what is initially a website (HTML and CSS elements, images, etc.) and sends it back to the client.

A proxy server is an intermediary between the client's device and the web server. Instead of communicating directly, the client sends the request to a proxy server, which forwards it to the target destination.

These are called forward proxies, which we'll get back to later on in the Proxy Types section.

It's important to note that proxies take over online communication. Nowadays, you can customize proxies to handle online communication in many different ways beneficial for businesses.

Proxy privacy and network security

Both casual Internet users and companies use proxies to enhance the web browsing experience. Firstly, proxies (excluding Transparent proxies) obfuscate the original user IP address and replace it with an alternative.

Instead of exposing IP addresses to third parties and hackers, businesses gain online surveillance and IP-based cyberattack protection, such as DDoS.

The same applies to web servers. If your company hosts websites, you want to protect them. You can place a proxy, called a reverse proxy, in front of your web server facing the client.

They take clients' requests and send them to the correct web server, achieving two goals: lessen dedicated server load and protect its IP address from public exposure.

Reverse proxies are widely used by many companies, and many companies provide reverse proxy services to large enterprises.

Proxies can be used as network firewalls. You can configure a proxy to inspect incoming/outgoing traffic to filter malicious elements, such as malware.

Simultaneously, you can deny access to websites you don't want your employees to visit (torrenting, pornography, video games, etc.) This significantly reduces the chance of employees downloading a virus and complicates the popular Man-in-the-middle attacks.

Lastly, we must mention encryption and information logging. Unlike VPNs, proxies do not provide additional data encryption by default (except SSL proxies).

This leaves online traffic vulnerable to several online surveillance methods. However, the lack of encryption increases server performance, so proxies handle numerous business tasks better and faster than VPNs.

Proxies also log your traffic (unless your proxy service provider specifically states otherwise), so using them is inadvisable for operations that require secrecy.

Different proxy types

We will only overview the proxy types that benefit businesses to avoid spamming you with unnecessary information.

Different proxy types
  • Forward proxies. They process client requests to the World Wide Web, protecting clients' privacy. Businesses can use forward proxies as a single entry point to their intranets, increasing their security. Forward proxies are similar to firewalls, inspecting inbound/outbound web traffic for threats. However, they have significant differences, as forward proxies aren't primarily designed for cybersecurity and should not be used instead of firewalls.
  • Reverse proxies. Considered a direct opposite to forward proxies, reverse proxies handle incoming client requests towards web servers. Large companies use them to distribute incoming traffic across dozens, if not hundreds, servers, reducing load and increasing performance, such as page load speed. These proxies also obfuscate web server IP addresses protecting them from cyber threats.
  • Anonymous proxies. These proxies are designed to anonymize online operations, erasing user information from web requests and obfuscating that a client uses proxies. They remove specific headers from requests like Authorization, Proxy-Connection, X-Forwarded-For, and, of course, the IP address. Businesses can utilize such proxies for highly confidential operations, like competitors' research or data scraping.
  • Residential proxies. This type assigns an IP address that belongs to a particular physical device. They are one of the most popular proxy types. A residential IP address ensures worldwide data access avoiding geographical restrictions and avoiding CAPTCHAs. They efficiently scrape data and allow multiple social media account management without detection and more.
  • Datacenter proxies. These proxies are easily identifiable and often put no effort into anonymizing Internet connection. They are suited for business operations that don't require privacy, like large-file transfers and public data gathering. They are much cheaper than residential proxies and have a better connection speed and availability.
  • Mobile proxies. As the name suggests, these proxies assign an IP address unique to mobile devices. They connect to a mobile cell tower and assign its IP address. They have robust privacy protection features and are much harder to identify as proxy servers. Furthermore, mobile proxy IPs have the best trust scores, ensuring smooth information access.

How do proxies improve business operations?

Network security, online privacy, and data anonymization proxy features secure enterprises from numerous cyber threats. However, let's focus on more direct or indirect revenue-related enhancements.

Data scraping

Nowadays, proxies are most often related to data scraping. The Internet provides access to an unlimited amount of information, but getting it is not as easy as it sounds.

Firstly, we must quickly debunk the myth that data scraping is illegal. This practice has been given a bad name due to shady Cambridge Analytica practices and the controversial LinkedIn VS HiQ law case.

In reality, data scraping is widely used by many businesses, including Google (the biggest data scraper worldwide), Microsoft, Amazon, etc.

Most websites try to limit data scraping because they deem it a competitive danger. But denying access to publicly available information is a contradiction and falls out of information-sharing ethics.

Websites that notice many requests from the same IP address can block access to important information.

Businesses can use residential and mobile proxies to send data-gathering requests from multiple high-trust score IP addresses, bypassing these limits.

However, using proxies to automate privately protected data gathering (such as locked behind a password) can get you in trouble. Furthermore, inspecting the website's robot.txt file to know their data sharing policies and adhere to them whenever possible is best.

Market research and price comparison

These operations involve data scraping and another extremely useful proxy feature – geo-block evasion.

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The Internet is divided into separate geographical regions with restricted access privileges. For example, numerous US websites are unavailable to European users due to GDPR laws.

You can connect to a proxy server in a different geographical region to browse the Internet as if you were there.

The US will grant access to previously blocked websites, and streaming service providers will open up their libraries. But, most importantly, you will get worldwide market data.

Proxies, combined with a scraper, will bypass geographical restrictions and CAPTCHAs and automatically gather information within hours, which would otherwise take several days manually.

You can scrape competitors' data, service reviews, product release dates, etc. Moreso, it's one of the best ways to make an exhaustive price comparison.

Data scrapers return Big Data in CSV or JSON formats for further analysis. You can quickly perform a price comparison to improve your product placement.

Social media management

Social media is one of the best-converting channels, with over five billion worldwide users.

However, most social networks prohibit having multiple accounts from the same IP address. They will ban these accounts, and you can lose organic traffic or conversion from this channel.

You can use proxies to assign an IP address to a specific social media account. Because your accounts will have different IPs, social networks will not identify them as duplicates, and you can proceed with social media marketing operations.

Proxies assist social media marketing by providing access to local social networks, automating posting, and allowing multiple account management.

SEO optimization

SEO is one of the best ways to get organic traffic from search engines. Instead of buying expensive Google ads, you can optimize your website with ranking keywords and effective backlinking. However, how do you know global keywords volume?

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Services like Ahrefs provide such information, but using a foreign proxy is much more accurate. You can get much better information if you first connect to a proxy server in a chosen geographical location and then gather keyword data.

SEO specialists also use proxies to extract keyword and backlink details from competitors' websites.

Final words

Even in this lengthy article, we cannot outline all proxy use cases, yet we explained the most widely-used ones. 

Proxy service developers continuously upgrade their proxies with new features that open up new business operation possibilities. The most beneficial proxy use cases depend on your business needs and goals.

About the author 

Peter Keszegh

Most people write this part in the third person but I won't. You're at the right place if you want to start or grow your online business. When I'm not busy scaling up my own or other people' businesses, you'll find me trying out new things and discovering new places. Connect with me on Facebook, just let me know how I can help.

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