Changing your IP address without changing your physical location does seem like a complicated matter. Unless you know a few basics of how proxies operate, what their types are, and where you can use them. With some fundamentals in place, the functioning and benefits of proxies can be unveiled to anyone.
What are proxies?
Let’s start with a definition. Proxies are devices that act as intermediaries receiving network requests from the user and forwarding them to the target server. You can think of such requests as simple messages that ask for data needed to load a website, video, or audio from the internet.
Any device can send and receive such requests, and it’s the basis of how the internet operates. That means that any device can act as a proxy server – an advanced server in a datacenter, a smartphone, a table, or a laptop at home.
With proper software setup and a fast enough internet connection, they can receive and forward requests from other devices. But why would anyone need that?
The two primary benefits of proxies
Each device that connects to the internet has an IP address assigned to it by an internet service provider (ISP). It is a string of characters that uniquely identifies them and enables them to send and receive requests. However, it also ties each IP address to your approximate geographical location.
Just like you wouldn’t want any stranger to know your home address, you don’t want everyone on the internet to know your IP address. It’s a way to uniquely identify you at all times and assign you to a specific category in terms of your location and browsing habits.
That’s where proxy servers come in handy. If you route your requests through a proxy server, you will never be in contact with the web server directly. He will not know your IP address and will not be able to track you.
Additionally, changing your IP address to that of a proxy enables you to bypass geo-restrictions, which might be imposed on your original location. For example, an e-commerce website might show greater prices to users from the United States than from Germany.
If you change your IP to a German one, you will have access to lower prices. But this is just one of the possible use cases of proxies. There are many more applications and many more proxy types that are made for them.
Main proxy types
The first distinction of proxies comes from the origin of IP addresses. It gives us three main types – residential, datacenter, and mobile.
These are the most legitimate proxies that you can buy. Residential proxies use IP addresses from ordinary households. These connections are verified by an ISP and can only be created by running a physical device (such as a laptop) to route the connection.
This is the fastest proxy type. Datacenter proxies originate from commercial centers running high-tech servers and networking equipment. Multiple datacenter IP addresses are created by one server running virtual machines and connecting through a commercial internet plan.
Quickly growing in popularity, mobile proxies use smartphones and other devices that connect to the internet through cellular towers. They are best for accessing mobile content while keeping a similar level of legitimacy, price, and speed as datacenter and residential ones.
Rotating vs static proxies
A proxy might be set up to change the IP address for the user at a certain interval. Such proxies are called rotating. The user himself might purchase more than one IP address and rotate it as he wishes with special software — for example, a proxy rotator browser extension.
Datacenter proxies are best for such rotation, as they are powerful enough not to lose much performance. Also, since they are easier for websites to spot, rotation helps to avoid IP bans and CAPTCHAs tests.
Residential pixies are used as static more frequently because their performance might suffer from such setups. Retaining residential proxies for longer sessions is more beneficial for their use cases, such as collecting data or making online purchases.
Proxies and different protocols
Lastly, proxies differ by the internet protocol used to send and receive data. Most proxies use HTTP, which is the basis of web browsers and the language of most of the internet communication. However, when it comes to proxies, this protocol is somewhat limited as it only supports this basic web service protocol.
SOCKS5 proxies, on the other hand, are more flexible and made specifically to transfer large data packets and network requests. It can support the same HTTP and HTTPS formats but also FTP, SMTP, and many more. This is important when using proxies with specialized software.
Practical applications of proxies
If you can, I always recommend to buy residential SOCKS5 proxy. It is the most practical choice that will ensure you have the most legitimacy online as well as integration possibilities. Here are the most common use cases of these proxies.
Since proxies conceal your IP address, no website is able to easily identify you as a visitor and follow what you are doing. Pairing proxies with an anti-detect browser makes it a superior combination for online anonymity.
Web scraping is a process of using automated bots to collect freely accessible data on the internet in seconds. With a few clicks, you can collect large quantities of data from multiple sources. However, it must be proxies to avoid being restricted.
Bots can be used not just to collect data but to purchase goods in e-commerce shops. Pairing them with proxies allows you to access the best prices with the least suspicions from the web server.
All in all, proxies shouldn’t be a mystified technology. They simply route your network requests and can do it differently depending on the type. I recommend you try setting up a residential proxy on an anti-detect browser and see for yourself how practical this invention is.