What is a Proxy Server and do I Need One?

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What is a Proxy Server?

Keeping your data and identity safe when using the internet is important for you and your family and a proxy server can add a layer of protection to your web browsing. A proxy server stands between your computer (it is a hub) and other servers and receives your browsing request before it is sent to the server from which you are requesting information, if necessary. The location of the end-user can be masked using a proxy server of the right type, if you so desire, preventing those who receive requests from your computer from knowing your actual location.

The proxy definition states that proxy means, (1) the agency, function, or power of a person authorized to act as the deputy or substitute for another. (2) the person who is so authorized to act in this capacity. (3)  a written authorization that empowers another person to vote or act for the signer at a meeting of stockholders. So, a proxy server is a server that is authorized to handle the data that comes from your computer, as well as information that is coming from the website that you are accessing.

What is a Proxy Server Address?

Every computer uses and Internet Protocol address (IP address), that is particular to it. The IP address is a numerical label that is assigned to every device (computer, printer, smartphone, laptop or tablet) that uses internet protocol when communicating with a computer network.  It functions as both an interface with the host or network to which it is connecting and is a location address for the network that is being used.

Addresses to the devices in your home are assigned via your router. When using multiple devices on a home network, they will all have the same address. However, this address is not accessible from outside your home network. The address that is used by your devices behind your router is different from the one that is used to access your router from the internet.

What is the Proxy Server?

Proxy server’s act as web filters, and can be thought of in this manner. They are applied to your web browser, whether the browser is used in Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari or Internet Explorer.  It is not compatible with non-browser web pages, thus limiting its usefulness for sites such as Comedy Central Sky Player and FoxOD. The benefits that you receive are particular to the proxy servers, including geographical location, speed, and security.

As an intermediary between your web browser and the location that you wish to access, a proxy server helps enhance web performance by caching frequently used web pages. They also filter some web content and malicious software. Using a proxy server on your computer or on a service can speed your access to websites and keep your location safe for you and your family.

Web Proxy

Caching Web proxy is an application used by a proxy server to cache web pages and files on a server that is closer in proximity, thus allowing local networks faster and more reliable access. Also able to filter web page content, Web Proxies can be used to block offensive content from your computer. Other Web proxies are used to reformat web pages so that they fit different devices. When used by network operators, Web proxies can be used to intercept hostile content and computer viruses.

Not all proxy servers mask the IP address of its users. IP addresses are handled differently depending how it is designed to function.

Transparent Proxy Servers – identifies to the receiver that it is a proxy server and the original IP address is displayed. They are used primarily for caching websites in order to make your browsing faster, but they do not afford anonymity.

Anonymous Proxy Servers – also identifies itself as a proxy but it does not display the original IP address, making it a detectable proxy while giving anonymity to most users.

Distorting Proxy Servers – again the proxy identifies itself but it send a false IP address in the http headers, thereby distorting the users identity.

Highly Anonymous Proxy Servers – are just that, anonymous. They neither identify themselves as a proxy server, nor do not make your IP address available.

Proxy servers can be set up through whichever browser you use, or they can be anywhere between your computer and the one that you are accessing on the internet. (whatismyaddress.com)

Being anonymous can decrease the amount of spam that you receive and mask your address but remember if you can do it so can others whose intent is not to protect their information and families, but to steal either your information, or worse. Beware of malicious proxy servers as they are used to prey on the unprotected and insecure on the internet.

What is My Proxy Server?

You can set a proxy server on your browser or you can pay for a service provider and connect to a dedicated server. Setting the proxy settings of your browser is easy and requires but a few simple steps. This will mask your IP address. You can also find local proxy servers that provide free service. Many companies that offer Virtual Private Network (VPN) service, for a fee, include proxy server service.

Following are steps to set up set up the proxy settings of your browser.

Proxy Settings for Google Chrome

  1. Click the menu on the upper right corner of the Chrome toolbar.
  2. Click settings
  3. Click show advanced settings
  4. Go to the network section, click change proxy settings. This opens the Internet Network dialog (Mac) or the internet properties dialog box. You can adjust your settings here.

Proxy Settings for Internet Explorer

  1. Open the start button
  2. Type Internet Explorer in the search box
  3. Click the tools button and then click internet options
  4. Click Connections and then click LAN settings
  5. Check the box on Use a proxy server for your LAN
  6. Type the address of the proxy server in the Address box
  7. In the Port box, enter the port number

Some networks require separate proxy addresses and port numbers for different servers. If this is the case, click the advanced button and type in the proxy server address and the port numbers to be used.

You can go here for help with Internet Explorer, or here for help with setting up your Mac.

Proxy Service Providers

Virtual Private Networks create a solid connection between your computer and the host server and offers another layer of protection to your web browsing. Using 128-bit encryption, VPN’s blocks anyone from seeing your activities, and the sites that you have visited, as well as your IP address. All that can be seen by your host server and the government is that you are connected.

Since not all providers of a proxy site are created equal, due diligence is required when choosing a company with whom to do business. Finding a reputable provider is as important as using a service if you want to keep your information safe. Included with all of the other proxy servers are ones with malicious intent, waiting to grab your information from the web and steal your information as well as your unencrypted log ins and passwords.

Do I need a Proxy Server?

Setting up the proxy functions of the browsers that you use at home is a simple way increase the security of your internet usage. It is free, and shouldn’t take but a few minutes to change your browser settings. If, however, you want a higher level of protection, a proxy service or VPN provider can offer you a high degree of security. The features offered with that service are especially important if you are using your computer for business and are uploading and downloading many files. If the files are ones contain a lot of information that you would rather keep private, a proxy server or VPN will be worth it.

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