Choosing a proxy for personal or professional use can be challenging because many types exist. Some seem identical at first glance, while the differences among others form a blurry line, making them seemingly insignificant.
In today's digital world, proxies have become an essential tool for many internet users. With over 4.5 billion internet users worldwide, proxies help people enhance their privacy, security, and access online. Let’s see what proxies are before exploring their types, features, differences, and applications to help you choose the best one for your needs.
What is a proxy?
A proxy or proxy server routes internet traffic between web browsers and target servers. When you visit websites, it sends HTTP requests on behalf of your browser and relays HTTP responses, acting as a secure gateway and providing access to the requested content.
What proxy features can you use?
Proxies offer the following features:
- Granting internet access to authorized users;
- Filtering IP packets according to IP addresses;
- Sending HTTP requests to websites for unrestricted content access;
- Forwarding HTTP requests to private network resources;
- Choosing a server location to switch IP addresses;
- Internet usage control in an internal network;
- Caching web content.
Most proxies share all these features, but let’s see what functionalities each type includes to understand their differences.
Proxy types: features and differences
Many proxy types exist, primarily differing in security and anonymity levels. Here are the most prevalent types:
- Residential– tying to physical internet-enabled devices, they’re available from ISPs (Internet Service Providers). They offer home-based IP address pools, making them highly anonymous, expensive, and nearly impossible to ban.
- Datacenter proxies– providing static, computer-generated IP addresses from physical data centers means they’re not anonymous. Websites can detect and ban them, and third parties can intercept data transmission. However, they’re faster and cheaper than their residential counterparts.
- Dedicated– being private proxies allowing one user, their exclusivity makes them more expensive. However, they provide excellent security, high anonymity, and fast network speeds.
- Shared– supporting multiple simultaneous users (who share an IP address), shared are cheaper than dedicated proxies. However, more users mean lower speed and performance and less privacy.
- Anonymous– target servers can detect them, making them unsuitable for web scraping or geo-block removal. Still, they make users anonymous, hiding their online activity and protecting sensitive data.
- High anonymity– providing maximum anonymity and security, they conceal and regularly change IP addresses. They also don’t identify as proxy servers, helping them bypass anti-proxy mechanisms.
- Transparent– implicit, inline, forced, or intercepting proxies, they identify as such and don’t mask IP addresses. They don’t modify HTTP requests and responses but cache content and filter web traffic, making users unaware of their existence. Some provide SSL encryption.
- Reverse– unlike forward proxies (residential and datacenter), they sit in front of web servers, protecting them and their sites instead of clients sending HTTP requests. They can also encrypt and decrypt traffic. That makes them valuable for website owners because they act as firewalls safeguarding sensitive data.
- Rotating– since they generate a new IP address for each HTTP request or at regular intervals, they’re impossible to detect and track. Despite providing higher security and bypassing anti-proxy mechanisms, they’re more affordable than static IPs.
- Distorting– this solution hides the user’s identity and makes it seem like they’re browsing from a different location. It changes a client’s IP address in the HTTP header, replacing it with a fake one. For instance, you can use a Japan proxy server to access geo-restricted content in Japan.
Public proxies also exist, but they’re free—and we don’t recommend them. They don’t encrypt connections and could expose you to security threats like malware and privacy violations.
Use cases by proxy type: where does each shine?
Some proxies are excellent for bypassing geo-restrictions, some for safeguarding data, and others for streamlining web scraping efforts like market research and gathering price intelligence. Here are the most prominent applications where each proxy type shines.
|Proxy Type||Use Cases|
|Residential||Anonymous browsing, ad verification and blocking, web scraping, sneaker copping, and market monitoring (e.g., social media management, SEO, and price aggregation)|
|Datacenter||Geo-block removal, SEO monitoring, ad verification, online gaming, and fast data retrieval|
|Dedicated||Brand protection, ad verification, web scraping, sneaker copping, and social media monitoring|
|Shared||Browsing anonymously and bypassing geo-restrictions|
|Anonymous||Identity protection, bypassing firewalls and IP blocks, and defending against cyber attacks|
|High anonymity||Maximum cybersecurity and bypassing anti-proxy mechanisms|
|Transparent||Web filtering and monitoring (e.g., restricting employee internet access), user authentication, web caching, load balancing, SSL encryption, DDoS protection|
|Reverse||Restricting unauthorized access to company servers, preventing DDoS attacks and other cyber threats, web caching, load balancing, and SSL encryption|
|Rotating||Geo-block removal and web scraping without detection and IP blocks (e.g., price comparison and optimization, competitive analysis, and business intelligence)|
|Distorting||Avoiding IP blocks, removing geo-restrictions, and extracting website data (e.g., accessing Japanese content with a Japan proxy)|
Some providers combine proxies to enhance functionalities. For instance, you can get a rotating residential or rotating datacenter proxy. Explore all options before choosing one.
10 Key factors to consider
The geographic location of the proxy server is important. Proxies located closer to your own location will generally provide faster speeds. This is because the data has less distance to travel, reducing latency. If you are in Asia, choosing a proxy in the US will produce slower speeds due to the long distance between. Select a proxy server in your country or region for optimal performance.
Proxy speed is measured in bandwidth and latency. Bandwidth determines maximum download/upload rates, while latency is the time it takes for data transfer. Faster proxies tend to cost more money. A 100 Mbps proxy with 10ms latency will be able to stream 4K videos. But a 10 Mbps proxy with 50ms latency will buffer more often on HD videos. Evaluate your usage – browsing, streaming, downloads – and choose speed specs accordingly.
Proxies range from transparent, where your IP is visible, to highly anonymous elite proxies that encrypt all traffic. Transparent proxies only hide that you're using a proxy. Anonymous proxies hide your IP address fully. Elite proxies also route traffic through multiple servers for maximum anonymity. Consider how much anonymity you need based on your threat model.
Common protocols include HTTP/HTTPS, SOCKS4, SOCKS5. HTTP/HTTPS proxies work for most web browsing. SOCKS proxies support more programs and apps. Make sure the proxy you choose is compatible with your devices and supports the protocols you need.
Many proxies offer additional features beyond basic access. This includes ad-blocking, malware protection, rotating IP addresses, residential IPs, unlimited bandwidth, etc. Consider what features may be useful for your specific requirements.
Check proxy reviews to avoid services with frequent downtime. For home users, a reliable proxy will have at least 99% uptime. For commercial use, consider 99.9% or higher uptime. Poor reliability can interrupt your internet access.
Carefully read the proxy's terms of service. Most prohibit illegal activities like hacking, spamming, and piracy. Understand your local laws regarding internet use as well. You don't want to violate any TOS or laws when using a proxy.
The proxy setup process varies between providers. Some offer browser extensions or apps while others require manual network configuration. Choose a provider whose setup works seamlessly with your devices. Instructions should be easy to follow.
Having access to timely customer support can help troubleshoot any proxy issues. Search for proxies that offer 24/7 live chat, email ticketing, and clear documentation/FAQs. Test out their customer service before subscribing.
Proxy costs range from free to over $1000 per month for elite proxies. Carefully factor in your budget limits. Free proxies have major limitations like slow speeds and bandwidth caps. Paid proxies are more reliable for frequent use.
By evaluating proxies based on these 10 criteria, you can identify the best service for your specific browsing needs and budget. Take the time to research multiple providers thoroughly first. Testing free trials is also recommended. The right proxy can grant you privacy, security and freedom online.
The proxies above are only some of your options. However, they’re the best for most use cases, so pick the preferred type, research top-rated providers, and read user reviews to find the most reliable service.