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What are Proxy Servers Used For?

written by: Lashan Clarke•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 2/15/2010

This article will describe what a proxy server is, along with its most common uses. It will also outline the various types of proxy servers.

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    A proxy server refers to a system or software that acts as the middle link between two other computers. The client computer will connect to the proxy server, and the proxy server will in turn connect to another computer to get the requested information. Proxies are mainly put in place to connect a user’s computer to the Internet. They were created from initial gateway code established by Tim Berners-Lee.

    There are various reasons why proxy servers can be used. The main reason is to filter content and operate as a firewall. This is a security feature put in place by network managers. By using a proxy server, the network is able to filter what content is allowed through and stop harmful content from reaching the user’s computer. Depending on what proxy server is selected, it is also possible to view a history of proxy server traffic. This makes it possible to see if the proxy server is working properly.

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    Using Proxies to Increase Speed and Performance

    A second way a proxy server can be used is to increase the speed and performance of a server. A proxy server will store a cache of previously visited websites, so when the user requests the page, the cache stored page is presented to them. In this regard, the page should load faster.

    A third use of a proxy server is to surf the Internet anonymously. Therefore, anyone worried about having their surfing habits monitored on the Internet might use an anonymous proxy server. Proxy servers have been used in situations to allow users in certain regional areas without access to certain web sites to take an alternate route to the Internet. In this respect, a proxy server can be used to circumvent an acceptable use policy, perhaps in locations such as schools or libraries.

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    Types Of Proxy Servers

    There are various types of proxy servers that can be implemented. One of the most common proxy servers are the anonymous proxy server, which prevents the receiving computer from discovering the correct IP address of the computer requesting information from it. There are also transparent or intercepting proxy servers.

    These types of servers will show the exact IP address of the computer requesting information from it. There is another type of proxy server called a distorting proxy server. It is similar to an anonymous serve,r but it will give the protocol computer an incorrect IP address while making it obvious it is a proxy. This is the opposite of an anonymous server that tries to hide that it is a proxy. A fourth type is a reverse proxy. As the name suggests, the reverse proxy uses a firewall to prevent access to sensitive information on the network. Thus it is possible to view a history of proxy server site visits by looking at the IP addresses that were blocked.