What is a Proxy Server?

With the internet often in the headlines for the wrong reasons these days – no thanks to hackers, scammers, viruses and snoopers – a big topic among users is online safety. In other words, how do we protect ourselves when browsing, streaming, shopping and using social media? You may have already heard about Proxy Servers – but what are they exactly?

Proxy servers, used by a wide range of internet users such as individuals and businesses, offer enhanced levels of security, anonymity and privacy. Setups vary depending on usage requirements and company policies.

When you utilize a proxy server – basically a gateway between your computer and the internet – all your internet traffic flows through the proxy on its way to a requested website. In most setups, the request then comes back through the same proxy, with the proxy finally forwarding the data received from the website to you.

In addition to forwarding web requests, a modern proxy server is about data security, network functionality and performance. It acts as a firewall and web filter, provides shared network connections, and caches data (to speed up frequent data requests). A valued proxy server will safeguard users and internal networks from online threats, while providing increased privacy.

When a proxy server forwards web requests, it can change the data you send while still getting your requested data. The proxy can change your IP address, meaning the web server won’t be aware of your geographical location, and also encrypt your data, making it unreadable as it travels back and forth. Furthermore, a proxy can restrict access to specified web pages based on IP addresses.

Common reasons to utilize proxy servers are to control employee internet usage, save bandwidth/improve connection speeds, benefit from increased privacy and security, and to grant access to restricted websites and other resources.