A proxy server is a computer that allows client computers to make indirect network connections to other network services and effectively hiding the originating IP address.
We are assuming that you know what an IP address is but if not, every device connected to the Internet has an IP address which is a unique number that can identify you and your physical location on the Internet.
An IP addresses consist of four numbers separated by periods and looks something like 127.0.0.1.
If you have heard of proxies and proxy servers don’t just assume that they are used for nefarious purposes.
In fact there are many legitimate and illegitimate or better said legal and illegal (or somewhat legal) reasons that people use proxy services.
A proxy server can provide a very valuable resource to people who need them for legitimate purposes. They are also used for illegal purposes, in some cases, which sometimes gives them an undeserved bad name.
We aren’t making a judgement call about what is legit and what is not legit but instead noting that there are many reasons and motivations if you are considering paying for a proxy service.
Legitimate Uses For Proxies
Proxy servers are oftentimes used by search engine optimization experts. For example, search engine marketing experts will oftentimes use a proxy server to test various strategies they have developed to get the best search engine ranking possible.
Some of the more common tools that require proxy servers are Scrapebox and Traffic Travis.
If you use Google’s search engine in any other many than it was intended to be used then Google will be unhappy.
As SEO professional its your goal to understand how search engines work but Google doesn’t particularly appreciate using their search engine for such purposes and they will sometimes ban you for minutes at a time if you don’t use proxies.
Using a proxy server provides you with a layer of protection in these instances.
A lot of search engine optimization services work better when they are used with a proxy server, as well. For example, Link Assistant is known to function much better when it is used with a proxy server.
Some of the people who specialize in making sure that legitimate websites that are trying to market themselves are doing so effectively rely on proxy servers so that they can test the results.
Proxy servers are also oftentimes used by people who live in nations where freedom of speech is not guaranteed. In these nations, access to the Internet is oftentimes limited. Proxy servers allow individuals to see the entire Internet and allow them to communicate without the fear of being monitored.
They’re also used in less serious situations, such as for checking e-mail, YouTube and Facebook while someone is at work and behind a firewall.
Illegitimate / Illegal / Spammy Uses For Proxies
We aren’t making a judgement call about what is legitimate or a non legitimate use for a proxy service but rather we let’s say proxy services can be used to generate webspam.
For example, if you’re engaged in e-mail spamming or Craigslist spamming, a proxy server allows you to camouflage your IP address so that the spamming activity cannot be traced back to you.
Xrumer, a profile link spamming service, works with proxy servers so that the people who take advantage of it can engage in blackhat SEO tactics.
If you’re not sure whether or not some use of the proxy server that you have in mind falls outside the terms of service, be sure to read them in detail. People tend to check “accept” on these terms of service without really reading them.
If the proxy server service finds that you have violated your terms of service agreement with them, they will generally drop you as a client.
If you are considering signing up with proxy service provider make sure you do your research beforehand about what they do and don’t permit.
Public proxy servers are sometimes used in a pinch, but they generally offer a much lower level of service than do paid services. When professionals need a proxy service, they almost universally rely on the paid services.
The speed is much faster with the paid service and, of course, you have a terms of service agreement that ensures that you know what you can expect out of the company that you’re working with. For professionals, all of these things are necessities.