What is a proxy?


What is a proxy?

In: Technology

A proxy server is a network service that represents you in the internet. a device behind a proxy doesn’t (usually) communicate directly with the internet. so a host says „hey i want google“ and the proxy takes this request and presents you the google page.

In the beginning of dial up, and expensive data plans, the proxy server also cached each page. so if someone already visited microsoft updates, the would be cached and sent at lan speeds to your pc. Thus saving a ton of bandwidth! since https is widely adopted this is a whole lot more complicated.

You know that scene in harry potter where Ron is mad at harry and tells hermione to say stuff to Harry for him?

Ron was using hermione as a proxy.

On the internet, the idea is the person/server receiving the message doesn’t know who it actually came from, and only interacts with the middleman/proxy.

Imagine you need something from the local shop only you don’t want the shop to know it is you who wants it.

So you ask someone to shop for you.
The shop will see that person getting the things and they bring it back to you.

That’s shopping by proxy.

That’s how a computer version of a proxy works as well essentially.

Without a proxy, when you use your browser to request a web page, you send a message directly to the web page’s server, and it sends a response directly back to you.

With a proxy, your browser sends that message to the proxy server, and the proxy server figures out what to send back to you. Normally, it contacts the web server you’re trying to reach and forwards the response to you, but it can also store that response for future requests, or manipulate what it decides to send back to you.

Why would you want to use a proxy server? Well, suppose you are running a business. You have 1000 computers in the building. Every person in your office is browsing reddit. They’re all downloading the same dank memes. Suppose the top story on Reddit is a 100MB video. Without a proxy server, each of your 1000 users is going to download that same 100MB file. That single file is going to end up using 100GB of your company’s internet bandwidth.

But, if you have a proxy server to cache the media, it is going to save a copy of that file when the first person downloads it. When the other 999 users try to download the same video, the proxy server is going to send them the copy that it has previously saved. Your users all receive their dank memes, but you only use 100MB of bandwidth instead of 100GB. Repeat for every other piece of commonly-accessed content, and you can quickly save tens of thousands of dollars on your internet costs.

Proxy servers are also used to filter content, such as ads, or porn. When a web page asks your browser to request an ad, the proxy filter intercepts the request, and blocks the ad from downloading.

Proxy servers can also disguise the ultimate recipient of content, so that the web server doesn’t know who is actually receiving it. They know the IP address of the proxy server, but not the end user. So if you’re in Europe and you’re trying to access a web page that complies with the GDPR by blocking European visitors, you can get potentially get around that block by using a US proxy.

If you’re interested in this technology, Try “Pi Hole”, a proxy server built to run on a Raspberry Pi, and used to block ads. “Squid” is another popular one that can be configured in a variety of ways. Apache, NGinx, and most other web servers can also be configured for various kinds of proxying.