Proxies are special servers that act as an intermediary for all of your activity on the internet. Usually, when you’re browsing the web, your computer makes a direct connection to the webserver.
But when you connect through a proxy, the proxy is the one that establishes a connection with the website. You tell the proxy what data you want to get from the server and the proxy gets it for you. You are essentially using the proxy’s identity in place of your own.
Proxies can keep your data secure when you’re browsing the internet, protect your anonymity when browsing online, and help you get around website access restrictions imposed by your government or office.
Proxies can also make you appear to be connecting from a different location in the world than you actually are. For all these reasons, proxies are important for modern web tasks such as data scraping, the automated gathering of publicly available information for the purpose of gaining insights.
Avoid Free Proxy Services
There are free and paid services to choose from, but for security reasons you should opt for paid services. As always, you want to research a service before you make your final decision, but, generally, paid services are operated by reputable companies who are legally obliged to keep your data safe and secure.
But when you pick from the thousands of free services available to you, you’re searching for a diamond in the rough. The vast majority of free proxy services are either unreliable, slow to the point of being unusable, or rife with critical security issues that put your data at real risk.
Shared vs. Dedicated Proxies
Before picking a proxy service, it’s important to know the different options available to you. There are two types of proxies available to you: shared and dedicated proxies.
As the name suggests, a shared proxy is a proxy connection that you share with many other users. The biggest advantage to shared proxies is that they cost less. Since you’re sharing a connection, the operational costs of running the proxy are essentially divided up amongst the users. Of course, since you’re sharing a connection, the proxy’s limited bandwidth is also shared with others. During peak hours, when many users are online, you may notice speeds can become quite slow.
Another disadvantage of shared proxies is what is known as the “Bad Neighbor Effect.” Remember, a proxy allows you to connect through the internet through the proxy’s address. But when several users are connecting through the same proxy, they’re all assuming the same online identity. If even one of the other users connected to your proxy is involved in conduct that breaks the terms of service of a website you want to access, that website could end up banning the proxy, rendering it unusable for you and everyone else on the proxy network.
If you’re running a business that relies on data scraping as a key part of your workflow, then the Bad Neighbor Effect is a threat to the stability of your company’s work. You’ll likely end up spending more resources trying to keep your proxy connection online (i.e. monitoring proxy connectivity and switching addresses when a proxy goes down) than you would if you simply spent a little more money on a private, dedicated connection.
In contrast to shared proxies, dedicated proxies assign a unique address to each of its users from their pool of IP addresses. This completely eliminates the Bad Neighbor Effect inherent to shared proxies. This also means you can utilize the full bandwidth that a proxy address can offer, ensuring maximum possible speeds no matter what time of day or how many users are online. Naturally, this exclusivity comes at a premium — the cost of service can be considerably higher for dedicated proxies than it is for shared proxies.
If you’re a business owner, the benefits of dedicated proxies far outweigh the benefit of low cost offered by shared proxy services. Any downtime, no matter how short its duration, affects the quality of your service or product. Ultimately, your business could wind up losing the business of potential customers.
Shared proxies allow multiple users to connect through a single address. This helps keep the price of their services low but they are more likely to suffer from speed and reliability issues. Shared proxies also make you susceptible to the Bad Neighbor Effect where a single abusive user on your connection can lead to everyone on the connection getting banned from a website.
Dedicated proxies are more expensive but generally faster, more stable, are less likely to go down, and eliminates the Bad Neighbor Effect entirely.
For those looking for a personal proxy service that will let them access the web in a safe and secure manner, a shared proxy offers all the benefits of a proxy at affordable prices.