The Internet has become an indispensable part of our daily life. Every day, we consume hours of data via our smartphones, smart TVs, or personal computers. The Internet provides us access to virtually all the things we need, be it sending work-related emails, searching for information about things, connecting with our friends, watching entertainment programs, or even visiting a virtual casino to play online roulette.
What is a proxy server?
A proxy server is a sort of a gateway between your computer and the internet. If you are using a proxy server on your device, or the organization where you work, has a proxy server, any data which you exchange with the internet is channeled through the proxy server.
Why use a proxy server
It can be used for a variety of reasons. One of the major reasons for which a proxy server is used is privacy. When you request something from a website, the website collects the IP address of your device, so that it knows where to send the data. By using a proxy server, the request is first sent to the proxy server, which forwards the request to the website. Then the data is sent to the proxy server, which forwards it back to you. Thus, the website deals only with the proxy, and your IP address is not revealed.
Another reason for using a proxy server is to access banned content. Countries, educational institutes, or organizations ban certain types of content, like pornographic websites, social media, or gaming sites. Since a proxy server uses a different IP address than yours, you can access blocked content via proxy servers.
Transparent proxies are used by parents, or companies, who do not want to reveal that a proxy is installed on the device. The user experience is seamless, but the server collects data regarding internet usage, which can be accessed later.
Free proxy servers
There are many proxy servers available for users to choose from. While some are paid, the majority are free to use. All you need to do is visit a proxy website like hidemyass, hidester, or hide.me, and type the name of the URL that you want to visit. The request is rerouted through the proxy website, and the website is opened.
One thing to keep in mind while using a free proxy server is that they may not always be secure. While your web request may be anonymous, the data is not secure and can be accessed by someone who really wants to. Also, while most free servers claim to provide 100% access to the entire web, it is often not the case, and most free proxies have certain limitations. Free proxies tend to push advertisements as they are the sole source of revenue, to compensate for free access.
Certain proxies also keep a log of your activity, which may defeat the whole purpose of using a proxy, that is secrecy and anonymity.
Proxy servers vs VPN
While both terms are often used interchangeably, there is a lot of difference between the two. A proxy server works at application levels, which means that only the specific request that you send is via a proxy. VPN, or a Virtual Private Network, works with the operating system, and sends all the data from your device, be it the one you request, or background data, via a remote server.
Both can mask your IP addresses and allow access to blocked content, but VPN adds an extra layer of security by encrypting all the data originating from your device, which is not the case with a proxy server. Using a VPN protects you from surveillance and hackers and doesn’t allow your ISP to collect browsing data.