Picking a proxy service is a much more complicated process than you might initially think. Sure, if you’re looking to get around office access restrictions to browse Reddit during work, a free solution might work only as well as any paid service. For those of you that rely on proxy servers for serious work, such as web scraping techniques or social media tools, then you’ll need a provider with guaranteed stability, speed, and security. For more details, check out the leading service provider – Oxylabs.
But, first, let’s take a step back and talk about what a proxy is and why more and more modern businesses are using them.
What Is a Proxy?
When you browse the internet without a proxy, your computer communicates directly with the website or server it’s connected to. Your machine tells the server what web page or file it wants to see, and the server then sends it along. If you’re regularly browsing, direct transactions like this are perfectly normal and acceptable.
However, sometimes you don’t want other parties to know what information you’re accessing. Perhaps you’re trying to access a website that’s blocked in your region, maybe you want to browse Reddit from your office network, or perhaps you want another layer of security when sending or receiving data over the internet. In such cases, you’d use proxies.
Proxies serve as the middleman in your online transactions. Instead of your computer directly telling the server or website what it wants to see, you request a server that then relays this request to the server. Since the server only interacts with the proxy and never you directly, it has no knowledge of you ever communicating with it.
How Businesses Use Proxies
Web scraping is a technique for extracting the particular kinds of data your business needs for generating insights. Info on how your competitor prices their products, how customers respond to your marketing campaigns, what parts of your new line of shoe people are most interested in is all available somewhere on the web. The method you can use for that is web scraping.
That is done by using special tools that target specific websites or information sources and are designed to retrieve that data and store it in a database or server for analysis. These tools continuously monitor for changes in the data and update the database.
Of course, continually refreshing a website or server for new data can take a toll on a server’s bandwidth, and many sites are equipped with anti-scraping measures to counter such data-mining efforts. One way they do this is by detecting non-human activity, such as impossibly fast refresh rates or abnormally high requests from a single IP address.
Businesses use proxies to assign unique IP addresses to individual scrapers so that each appears to be accessing the website from a different location. That makes it virtually impossible for servers to know that all these requests are coming from the same source, allowing for your business’ web scraping activities to continue unhindered.
Choosing the Right Proxy Service Provider
Selecting the right service provider for your needs can be a long and involved process as there are quite a few things you’ll want to consider before spending your money. The following is a quick rundown of the crucial things you should pay attention to when comparing service providers.
Avoid Free Proxy Solutions
When it comes to pricing, you can’t beat free, but there are significant risks to using free public proxies. Remember, all of your company’s data will be passing through this server; this means project plans, customer information, and potentially social media and personal account credentials.
Additionally, free services can often be small, temporary operations run by all sorts of disreputable types. In most cases, you’ll find it’s not very easy even to find any information on what company owns the service, where they’re located, and how long they’ve been in operation. Why risk an unknown party gaining access to your valuable company information or leaking your employees’ data just because you wanted to save a few bucks a month?
It would be best if you looked for a premium, paid provider with a reputation for quality and security. Spend some time reading reviews and compare the different options available to you. More than speed or connection stability, the security of your company’s and personnel’s information takes the highest priority. The good news is, there are community forums and resources aplenty if you’re looking for real user testimonials. Spend that extra time to find out a provider’s reputation and whether it’s a legitimate legal entity.
How Many IPs Are in Their Pool?
When it comes to the proxy pool, bigger is almost always better. Having more addresses typically means more flexibility in choosing a location. The biggest service providers can even guarantee city-level targeting if your business needs it.
Keep in mind any considerations for the countries you’re targeting specifically. For example, if you need the proxy to see how well your company’s website ranks in Italy, you’ll need a service provider that has locations in Italy within their pool.
Don’t take raw numbers at face value, though. Some providers will advertise an impressive amount of addresses or locations on their front page, but don’t let their customers pick their proxy sites. Your provider owning locations in a hundred different countries will be of little value to you if you can’t choose the country you need to appear to be accessing from.
The two key things you should always consider when searching for an appropriate proxy service provider are the reputation of the provider and the size of their IP address pool.
Avoid free proxy services because they are public, and many are run by unknown companies or companies of low repute. Your vital data will be transmitted and received through their proxy, so you must trust the people that run it. The size of their IP pool is also essential; what countries do you need to appear to be connected from, and does the provider allow you to choose the location of the proxy you’re connecting through? Keep these two in mind when evaluating potential proxy options, and you’ll be off to a great start.