What Is the Purpose of a Proxy Server?
By Sarah Morse
A proxy is a server that works as an intermediary between a user and the Internet. Often implemented by universities and businesses, proxies can provide more control over what comes in and goes out of a network. There are different types of proxies available but most fall under the category of Web proxy.
Many network administrators use proxies for security reasons. On one level, the intermediary server adds an extra layer of protection against hackers by blocking direct access to the network. For users inside the network, proxies can enable administrators to block certain websites or applications. Many also use the proxy to log and monitor computer use within an organization and detect any security leaks. For information sent over the network, an administrator can set up a proxy server to scan for malware and block infected applications.
A proxy server can increase browsing speed for users. When a user enters a URL into the browser, a proxy makes and temporarily stores a copy of the page. The next time that someone using the same proxy requests that page, it will load the stored copy immediately instead of making another request to the Web server. If the proxy doesn't recognize the page, it will request it, make a copy and store it for a set amount of time.
Certain types of proxies, such as anonymous or high anonymity proxies, can hide the identity of the user. When someone browses the Internet with this type of proxy, other websites cannot see his IP address. Anonymous proxies block your IP address, but may still send other fields indicating the use of a proxy to the server. High anonymity proxies, also called elite proxies, do not send any fields and, therefore, offer the most privacy.
Some websites place restrictions on or alter content based on location. A proxy server can help bypass these restrictions, or access the content for a different country. When you access a website, it receives information like your IP address and your location. If you are sending your request through a proxy server, the website will detect the location of the server instead of your computer. In this way, you can bypass regional restrictions
Sarah Morse has been a writer since 2009, covering environmental topics, gardening and technology. She holds a bachelor's degree in English language and literature, a master's degree in English and a master's degree in information science.