The main benefit of a proxy server is safety. As a proxy acts as a halfway house between your computer and the Internet and makes it significantly more difficult for hackers or malicious programs to access or attack your machine.
This is also true for businesses, as a proxy can use a technique called network address translation, making all the computers on a network anonymous, reducing the risk of an individual computer being targeted, or compromised, by hackers or viruses.
There are plenty of reasons why a proxy server might come in handy, with privacy, performance, and security among some of the chief reasons for using one. Some of the most common proxy types are explained below:
How does a content filtering proxy work?
A content filtering proxy server can be used within a workplace to implement filters on Internet usage and to block certain websites or types of content. This is especially useful in situations where inappropriate content must be censored, like schools or Internet cafés.
This works by analysing requests made by a computer, and then deciding whether this search term, website, or download, violates the content rules that have been set on the proxy server. If a computer makes a request for content that is inappropriate, it's intercepted by the proxy which determines if the request breaks any rules – then blocks the request so it never reaches the target server, preventing access. This can be a common practice in some offices, especially those where access to social media is prohibited.
In some cases, content filtering proxies can slow down your connection, as everything you input must be sent to a third party.
What is an open proxy?
An open proxy can be used via the Internet by anyone, instead of a closed proxy, which only allows users within a network group access, e.g. a content filtering proxy.
Open proxies are sometimes installed on devices by malware and viruses without the knowledge of the user, allowing hackers to hide their activity behind the location of the infected computer. Open proxies are also used to facilitate email spam using a similar method, using multiple networks of infected machines to avoid detection.
What is a caching server?
A caching server is used to improve performance by saving web pages in its memory (or "cache"), so it can serve web pages quicker without loading them from scratch. Caching proxies store a copy of a requested web page locally, so that when a user wants to see the same web page again, it loads the copy, which vastly improves performance speed.
These types of proxies are particularly useful in scientific fields, or any occasion where large amounts of data would put pressure on server performance if new requests were made often. One downside to cached websites is that the information will often be out of date, as the server will display the older version which has been saved to its cache. On this occasion, the cache must be emptied (or 'flushed') to remove the out of date version and make a copy of the newest one.