Home and Learn: Web Design Course
To answer the question as to what is a proxy server, think about what a normal server is. It's basically a hard drive or digital storage space somewhere. Your Internet Service Provider, for example. If you want a webpage, you send a request to this server. The server notes the address of the webpage, and also your address. It then sends you the webpage you requested. Think of it as a direct line:
There is a problem with this, however, if you value your privacy. One of the problem is governments! Governments around the world tend to want to know what you're getting up to in the privacy of your own home, even if what you're getting up to is entirely innocent, as it mostly is. In other words, governments can and will spy on you.
To protect your privacy, you can use something called a proxy server. Think of this as another computer sitting between the server where the webpage lives and your own computer. Like this:
Now, when you request that webpage, the request goes first to the proxy server. The proxy fetches the webpage, and then passes it on to you. As far as the server goes, it has fulfilled its request. It doesn't care what computer the webpage passes it on to. And, crucially, has no way to track the webpage after it has been handed off to the proxy.
There are a number of reasons why everyone doesn't just use a proxy server.
First, relatively few people know about them. Or why they would need one. Perhaps internet users think that their internet providers are honorable business people who wouldn't hand over your entire internet history to law enforcement officials at the drop of a hat. Or perhaps internet users are not aware of just how much information is stored about them. Perhaps ignorance is bliss. Whatever the truth, if you were to ask an internet user why they would need a proxy server, most would answer, What's a proxy server?
Using a proxy server can slow down your connection, so you don't get those web pages as fast as you used to. This is because you're connecting to at least two servers now to get you goodies, rather than just the one (proxy servers can connect to other proxies). And, because some governments crack down on the use of proxy servers, the proxy might be in a country that's not noted for fast internet speeds, or its adherence to international law.
Governments are not keen on you using a proxy server. Simply because they can't monitor your every internet move, if you use a proxy. And, to a spook, if you're using a proxy, you must be up to no good. So, government agencies like to know exactly where these proxy servers are. Simply so they can hack the whatsit out of them. And, if they can't do that, try to close them down.
The main legitimate use for a proxy server comes from business. Instead of you connecting directly to their servers, they'll set up a proxy server for you to connect to. That way, they can filter traffic, do user authentication, analyse traffic, improve security, and a whole lot more. If you work from home, and need to connect to your employer, you'll probably be connecting to a proxy rather than the business directly.
There are a lot of cowboys out there, in Free Proxy World. If they are not too slow then they just be controlled by crooks. To help you out, a website called VPN Overview can help you out. The address is here:
Free Proxy Servers (opens in new tab)
Take note of the warnings on their site, and the dangers they outline.
Once you have a proxy server, you'll need to know how to connect to it. This site will help you out:
How to Connect to a Proxy Server (opens in new tab)
Scroll down a bit, to get to the instructions.
Tech Jury also has a page on how to find and connect your browser to the proxy. The page is here:
Connect Browser to Proxy Server (opens in new tab)
Whether it's to hide your IP address from prying eyes, or just for business purposes, connecting to a proxy server can be beneficial. It can also be a nightmare, so be careful out there!
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