September 23, 2022
6 min.

Proxy: What is It ? Meaning and Types of proxies

Sometimes, web scraping can be a challenging activity, leaving you with the impression that you are spending more to keep your scrapers operational and unblocked instead of analyzing the data they gather. However, there's always a solution to every issue, and one of the most essential tools for any developer is the simple proxy. Knowing how to use proxies effectively is crucial to overcoming IP blacklisting and ensuring your scraper remains functional. 

Proxy: What Is It?

A proxy is an extra server that links you and the website you’re visiting. The proxy server is in between the user and the website that user’s browsing. 

Your internet protocol (IP) address can be used by a website to identify you when you aren't using a proxy server. Although not nearly as specific, it is comparable to your home address. Your IP address is associated with the internet connection at that specific place, much like your home address is. Even though you might be using the same laptop in both locations, the IP address differs just like your home address does from the address of the coffee shop where you frequently work. 

By using a proxy, you put an additional barrier between your computer and a website. The proxy server is accessed first. Your real IP address is concealed by the proxy server, which gives the website access to a different one (the proxy IP address). When the proxy server receives the website's response, it forwards it to you. 

Why are proxies required for web scraping?

For a variety of reasons, such as running out of disk space on your computer or being unable to connect to the server due to firewall settings, the HTTP/HTTPS requests made to the web server may be blocked.

These are the most common causes of these blocks:

  • IP Geolocation: The website can deny your access if it identifies you're trying to scrape information that isn't accessible in your locality or that you are a bot. 
  • IP rate limitation restricts the quantity of requests that website owners permit from any one IP address. When you exceed that amount, you will receive an error message and possibly even be required to complete a CAPTCHA before your request can be processed further. Therefore, be sure to ask the site's owner how many requests per IP address are permitted before sending thousands of requests to scrape the data you need.

Proxy servers are the best choice for web scraping since you can hide your own IP address while the proxy uses a different IP address. This enables you, for example, to visit websites that are blocked in your home country. Additionally, you can scrape more information from your target websites without running into problems with bans or restrictions.

Main benefits of using a proxy

  • Privacy: Proxies use their own IP address to provide privacy. As a result, they are unable to identify your personal IP address. This indicates that your computer's data is secure from scam on the internet.
  • Security: A proxy server can secure your sensitive data and help keep you safe from hackers since it is an additional buffer that encrypts your data before sending it to a web server. However, the proxy server you choose can affect this advantage. Because using the wrong proxy server can have the opposite effect and put at risk your security, it's critical to ensure that you can trust your proxy provider. 
  • Geolocation: You can choose a proxy server with a local IP address from another country. You may, in essence, make it appear as though you are in that country, giving you full access to any and all of the information that computers in that country are permitted to interact with. For instance, you can use local IP addresses from the place you wish to pretend to be in to access websites that are location-restricted. 
  • Performance & Speed: Proxy servers can also cache websites and deliver web content more effectively. As it always checks its local cache of previously downloaded results of all requests, such as pictures and other static graphical content, it can speed up access to documents and site contents. The following request for the same page can be acquired much more quickly because the proxy server won't continually relay the request to the external site because it is frequently on the same network as the user. 

Types of Proxies

  • Public Proxies (or Free Proxies) 

A Free Proxy that is accessible to everyone is known as a public proxy. This is a risky option that is barely the best one to choose, and it should never be used for business purposes.

Even if these proxies were reliable, the volume of traffic they produce would make them unreliable and slow to respond. They are not reliable, though. Given that they are accessible to all end users, public proxies pose a security risk. Your data is exposed when you utilize public proxies because the majority of them don't use HTTPS. If you experience a problem while utilizing a public proxy, you are on your own to find a solution since they are not supported in any way. 

  • Shared proxies

Multiple users can use shared proxies at the same time. As a result, they frequently operate poorly because of heavy traffic. A common problem with proxies is the "bad neighbor" effect, which occurs when someone with the same IP address as you is banned from a website for inappropriate activity. Additionally, sharing proxies exposes you to security risks like hacking. Shared proxies are typically less expensive, but due to data protection laws and the risks of disclosing sensitive information, they are extremely problematic for businesses. 

  • Private Proxies (Dedicated Proxies)

A dedicated proxy, also known as a private proxy, is a proxy server that is dedicated solely to one user at any time. The benefit in this case is stability and reliability; depending on your provider, you'll either be guaranteed complete personal use at all times or the assurance that only one user is active at any given time. As a result, you avoid the problems shared proxies experience with IPs potentially being restricted or blacklisted seemingly at random based on another user's activities. Despite the fact that they provide greater stability, we are still in the territory of private browsing because a website may still detect and block a standard IP forwarding proxy like this, especially if it is making a lot of API queries.

  • Data center proxies

 These are essentially IP farms housed in data centers and might be helpful for someone searching for a bigger amount of available IP addresses. Such centers have the capacity to produce an immense amount of disposable IP addresses. They frequently promise very fast proxy speeds because they also have beautiful, rapid networks. Unfortunately, because of the way they were created, all the IPs hosted in this way are connected to the same subnetwork in the data center, making it simple for websites to identify and completely ban them.

  • Residential Proxies

Residential proxies are owned by real devices, they are constantly rotating, and the IP pool is updated every day. Residential proxies are just like regular IP addresses in appearance and functionality. Due to the fact that a residential proxy address appears to be that of a human user rather than a robot, they are highly useful for web scraping. 

  • Rotating proxies

A rotating proxy assigns a new proxy IP address for each request you make. When using a web scraper, this is excellent. Scrapers differ from human users in that they can generate requests far more quickly than human users can.

Rotating proxies provide each request a new IP address, giving the impression that a different user is making each request. Therefore, if your scraper makes 1,000 requests, they will come from 1,000 different IP addresses. The ideal solution for web scraping is to use rotating residential proxies. They are the ideal choice for commercial data scraping due to their combination of distinctive IP addresses that look to come from human users. 

  • Mobile proxies

Mobile proxies are IP addresses given to mobile devices like smartphones and tablets that serve as a bridge between the user and the internet. Mobile proxies, like residential proxies, are real IP addresses given out by a cellular network that acts as an ISP. They also give the websites you visit an authentic appearance.

Proxies can provide privacy, security, geolocation, and performance benefits, but it's important to choose the right type of proxy for your needs. Public proxies and shared proxies are risky options that should be avoided for business purposes, while private proxies and residential proxies offer greater stability and reliability. It's also important to choose a trusted proxy provider to ensure that your data is secure and your browsing experience is optimized.

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