Simply put, a proxy server is a system that acts as a gateway between end-user clients. It enables clients to access files and data stored in various servers remotely securely. This is just one of the many functions of a proxy server. Many people like to compare a proxy server with a VPN – their functionalities are almost alike.
Have you been looking to improve data security in your company, especially when it’s in transit? A proxy server might be what you need. Familiarizing yourself with the pros and cons of a proxy server should help you make a more informed decision on the same. Outlined below are some of the known advantages and disadvantages of a proxy server you should know about.
Advantages Of A Proxy Server
A proxy server hides your actual IP address, making it hard for a website or hacker to track your activity online. Such anonymity reduces the risk of you, or your employees, becoming targets by malicious individuals. This gives you an extra layer of protection online.
Protects You From Online Threats
Although you might not know this, your computer and the entire network are more vulnerable to hackers, viruses, and malware attacks when you connect directly to the internet. Visiting a malicious website or clicking a link with malicious code will most definitely infect your computer and anything else connected to it. A proxy server, however, protects your computers and the systems behind them from such online threats. This is because the proxy server handles all traffic, blocking anything that seems unsecured or unsolicited. Your computer systems are thus better protected this way.
Access Geo-Blocked Content
Many website owners restrict access to their content to specific geographical locations. This makes it virtually impossible to access such content from elsewhere, well, unless you have a VPN or a Proxy server. A proxy server hides your actual IP address, assigning you a completely new one. It also allows you to choose a server closest to the website’s whitelisted zone, granting you access to whatever content you want – including sites such as Pirate Bay. Many people, especially organizations, use proxy servers to bypass such restrictions, among other uses.
Most proxies store information about regularly visited websites in a cache file. This way, it won’t have to make a new request when a user tries to access the same a second or subsequent time. This improves loading times when if anyone tries to access the website a second time, saving both time and bandwidth. Users thus hardly notice loading times, with the pages loading a tad bit faster than the first time.
A proxy server will also come in handy if looking to control what content/websites employees and other users can access or log on to. This feature is commonly preferred especially when looking for improved productivity or preventing procrastination. Controlling what content employees can access also minimizes the risk of getting hacked or logging on to an infected website. In other words, a proxy server will restrict access to specific sites; in the same manner, it will unblock restricted ones.
Disadvantages Of A Proxy Server
As mentioned before, a proxy server stores information about visited websites in a cache for retrieval later. While this may improve speeds, anyone with malicious intent (within the network) can download all the stored data (including usernames, passwords, and sensitive information). You can, however, avoid this by investing in a legitimate and trustworthy service provider. Some proxy servers are feature-rich and may have a way to prevent tracking but will cost a bit more for such functionality.
While proxy servers may help keep you anonymous online, they do not offer strong enough encryption. Most of these use the standard SSL certificates, some of which might be vulnerable to SSL stripping. VPNs thus offer more advanced and more robust encryptions as compared to a proxy server.
Some proxies might not be compatible with your existing local network. Configurations for the same might be too complicated for your IT support, too, forcing you to seek specialized configuration too. You can however avoid incompatibility issues by choosing a provider that matches your network configuration.
The cost of setting and maintaining a proxy server can be a bit on the higher side for most companies. While already established companies might not have a problem, it certainly isn’t the same with startups and smaller companies.
Most proxy configurations aren’t plug-and-play. One thus requires a form of understanding and training to be able to code the proxy as it should. One also needs to ensure there aren’t any ports left for a hacker or anyone else to manipulate. In other words, you will need a network administrator to set your proxy server up.