What is a Proxy Server? Simple Guide
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Maybe you like sharing your location and online viewing habits with the rest of the world. Maybe you don’t. A proxy server can help make you invisible.
Most of us are pretty careful with our personal information. For example, if someone came up to you on the street who you did not know and asked you for your phone number or your address, you would be very leery.
What you may not realize is that every time you connect to a website or you connect to anyone via the Internet, your connection gives your computer’s address to the individual who you are interacting with. Why does this happen? Because your computer needs to be able to send and receive information from the computer it’s interacting with.
You can think of it like it to people trying to send each other information via the postal mail. The only way that they can make sure the information gets to the right location is by putting their address on the envelope.
The address that your computer sends out is your public IP address. Maybe you’ve heard that term before. IP is an abbreviation for Internet protocol. Now that you know you have an Internet address, are you curious to know what it is? It’s easy to find out. Just go on Google and type in the search bar, “What Is My IP?”
You should see a series of numbers divided at intervals of three or two by dots. This is what your computer and other computers use to connect to the rest of the world.
Ready to know more about your IP Address? Keep reading.
What’s behind Your IP Address?
You may wonder how you got an IP address. Well, how did your home or your apartment get an address? A group of city planners mapped out the area and designated certain streets to have certain names and certain homes on that street to have certain numbers. It’s pretty much the same with your IP address.
The difference is that instead of city planners, you have your Internet Service Provider. Depending on where you are in the country, that could be Verizon, AT&T, Comcast, or any number of ISPs. What you should know is that your modem is assigned an IP address. So any device that you use while you’re in your home to connect to the Internet will send and receive information via that address.
If you’re like most people, you see this as interesting information, but you do not feel it’s something to be that concerned about or interested in. That being said, there are some realities about public IP addresses that make some people nervous.
For example, did you know that if a person has your IP address, they are able to identify where you are on the planet? They might even be able to pinpoint the street that you live on.
Or did you know that your access to certain websites may be limited by the IP address that you have? Most people realize this for the first time when they travel overseas and try to access their favorite US-based streaming service. Either the service does not work at all, or there are certain limitations on how the service will work based on where you are when you connect.
Think about this, your IP address is directly connected to your name and your home address. This is because your ISP knows that there is someone at a particular address who is paying for the address. This means that every single time you use your computer, you are giving away potentially personal information about yourself to the world. So what can you do?
Look into Getting a Proxy Server
A proxy is something or someone that stands in the place of another. When we are talking about a proxy for your IP address, we are talking about you getting a substitute IP address or a substitute identity.
No, this does not mean that you need to get a new Internet plan. You simply need to go online and review a list of the proxies that are available. There are a number of proxies that claim to be free, but more times than not they offers slow service and might have less than scrupulous habits when it comes to monitoring and retaining your personal data.
There are a number of reputable proxies that are available online. These proxies and VPNs block your actual IP address and give you a fake IP address that makes it appear like you are in another part of the world.
How Does a Proxy Work?
A proxy is a server on a computer. This server is going to take your web browsing traffic and redirect it. What does that mean in practical terms?
Well, let’s say that you want to purchase something off of eBay. You go online, you type in eBay in the search bar, and your Internet service provider sends a request out. That request connects you to your destination, and it shows eBay what your true IP address is.
If you are connected using a proxy, the request takes a different route. The request goes from your computer to your Internet service provider, but then it goes to a proxy or a substitute server. From that proxy server, it travels to eBay. As the information travels, the proxy gives you a secret IP address, which allows you to hide your true IP address.
Do You Need a Proxy?
There are number of people who would say that they do not need a proxy. They have nothing to hide, and they’re not concerned about who has access to their IP address. However, there are a number of reasons to use a proxy that go beyond wanting to hide your personal information.
For example, you’re at school or the library and you want to check the status of your social media. However, your school or the library has blocked access to your favorite social media site. A proxy would make it possible for you to circumvent that block and get the access that you want.
Or it may be that you are interested in looking at something online, but you don’t necessarily want the entire world to know that you’re looking at said item or reading about a particular topic. Without a proxy, your IP address would be traced back to your physical location. With a proxy, your IP address would not trace back to your physical location.
Another time that you may benefit from a proxy is when you are traveling abroad. You might think that when you are traveling you would not be interested in streaming content online. However, as anyone who has traveled extensively understands, no matter how exotic or how beautiful the location you visit, there is going to be a time when you want to be able to just sit back and relax and watch your favorite show on your favorite streaming service. However, because of geo restrictions, you might not be able to. Once again, using a proxy would help you.
Some people use a proxy at work because their employer blocks access to certain social media sites. They want to be able to bypass those restrictions. The truth is that there are a number of reasons why using a proxy may be the right option for you.
There are some reasons to shy away from using a proxy. For example, your ISP, your employer, or a network may object to you using a proxy. They may even blacklist certain IP addresses they know could be from a proxy.
Related Read: Transparent Proxy
Your Privacy Is Important
People value their privacy. Proxy servers help you keep your personal information and your browsing habits private. Proxy servers provide security benefits. Your proxy server may be able to encrypt your web requests, stopping prying eyes from looking at your transactions. A proxy server can protect you from known malware and can be coupled with a virtual private network that allows remote users access to the Internet via the company’s proxy.
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