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Proxy Servers: A Beginner’s Guide to Usage & Setup

A proxy server is an intermediary between a user and a website. If a proxy server is not used, a website can identify a user by their IP address, which can reveal, for example, their location.

How does a proxy server work?

First, your computer establishes a connection with the proxy server and sends a request to connect to the desired website.

The proxy server accepts the request and then modifies it by replacing the client’s data with its own. 

It then sends the request to the site and receives a response, which it displays to the client. 

The terms ‘proxy server’ and ‘proxy IP address’ have different meanings, although they are often used interchangeably.

A proxy server is a machine that hosts proxy IP addresses.

A proxy IP address is an individual IP address that is used to hide your real ‘ipi’.

A proxy server handles your requests but hides a lot of identifying information: this includes the source IP address, geolocation, where the request came from, operating system (OS) data, and more. In general, it helps prevent third parties from easily tracking you, or what’s known as ‘IP-based computing.’ A proxy server operates at the application layer of the OSI (L7) model.

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  • Speed: our servers provide fast connection speeds.

  • Easy to use: setting up a proxy with ALT VPN requires no special knowledge.

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  • 24/7 support: our team is always ready to help you with any questions.

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Types of proxy servers

At the moment there are many types of proxy servers. Let’s highlight the main ones.

Public proxy 

These types of proxies are known as public proxies. They are free proxies that are used by many people at the same time. You can usually find them on websites that publish updated lists of proxy servers. The obvious advantage of open proxies is that they are free. But the disadvantages outweigh: these proxies are slow, insecure and unreliable.

Private proxy

These proxies are faster and more secure than the previous ones. Companies providing private proxies may offer other features, such as WAF (web application firewall), VPN and others, as well as customer support. A private proxy can be a dedicated proxy or a shared proxy.

Dedicated proxy 

This type is provided through high-performance servers with dedicated resources. These proxies allow connecting and sending requests to only one client, solving the problem of ‘noisy neighbors’ or blacklisting. The latter is relevant for free proxies, when one of the users who used it earlier allowed the IP address to get into the site’s block list.

Transparent proxy

A type of proxy server that allows you to connect to it without additional settings. The principle of its operation is that all traffic from the client port is redirected to the proxy server port through static routes on the device itself or on the router. But there are more specific varieties of proxies. 

HTTP proxy

This is a type of proxy server that acts as an intermediary server between a client and a web server. If you use an HTTP proxy, when you send a request to a website, the following happens: the request does not go to the website, but to the proxy server as plain text. The proxy server then analyzes it and sends a new request to the website, using the data from the request but changing your IP address (optionally). The website receives it and sends a response to the proxy server, after which the server forwards the response to the user.

Proxy using SSL

When using an SSL proxy, only one TCP connection is created. This distinguishes it from an HTTP proxy, which creates two connections: one from the client to the proxy and one from the proxy to the web server. 

When a user initiates a web request, it sends a CONNECT request to the web server and creates a TCP channel over which the request passes. One of the advantages of SSL proxies over HTTP proxies is that they can be used to access both HTTPS and HTTP server resources. This is not the case with an HTTP proxy, which can only be used to access resources on HTTP sites. If a user attempts to access an HTTPS site using an HTTP proxy, the connection to the site will not be considered secure.

CGI proxy

Common Gateway Interface (CGI) proxy retrieves web content from the Internet on behalf of the client. A CGI proxy is used through a web browser and looks like a normal website. To use it, simply enter the destination URL and the CGI will display the results as if it were the sender of the request. A CGI proxy works through an encrypted web form embedded in another web page using SSL.

SOCKS proxy

SOCKS is another internet protocol. It stands for SOCKet Secure and is typically used for traffic-intensive tasks such as content streaming or P2P sharing. 

SOCKS uses a TCP connection, which is designed to send and receive data packets over the Internet and to guarantee the successful delivery of resources over the network. When using a SOCKS proxy, Internet traffic is routed through a proxy server over a TCP connection on behalf of the client. Like most other types of proxies, SOCKS hides the client’s IP address, ensuring anonymity.

What are the benefits of private proxies from ALT VPN?

  • Anonymity: your IP address is hidden, which means you can browse the web and use online services anonymously.

  • Security: your data is encrypted, protecting you from hackers and surveillance.

  • Bypass restrictions: you can access sites and services blocked in your region.

  • Improved speed: proxy servers can optimize traffic routing, making your browsing experience faster.

  • Multitasking: you can use multiple proxies at the same time for different purposes, such as work, personal business and online gaming.

Why do you need a proxy server?

Let’s answer the question of why a proxy is needed. In addition to anonymisation on the Internet, the following tasks are solved with the help of proxy servers:

Filtering of available resources. This option allows you to cut off access to some resources – for example, to block employees’ access to social networks during working hours. In this case, some requests are discarded and not broadcasted. Also in combination with SWG (Secure Web Gateway), which can include, for example, antivirus, email security programmes, a proxy server can provide additional IS protection.

Speeding up the internet. Websites can be loaded using a cache on the proxy server. Caching and data compression – this technological feature of a proxy server is similar to the ‘Turbo’ mode in browsers. When it works, resources are downloaded from the site not directly to the user’s computer, but first to the server, where they are compressed. After that, the resources are transferred to the user in a reduced volume. The function will be useful if you use a tariff with limited traffic or a slow connection.

Security. With the help of a proxy server it is possible to set up blocking requests from potentially malicious sites.

Proxy or VPN?

The question is ambiguous. These technologies provide similar opportunities to anonymise the user in the network, but have a number of differences. 

Firstly, they operate at different layers of the OSI model – this is a significant difference between a proxy server and a VPN. 

Popular VPN protocols such as PPTP, L2TPv3 and IPsec operate at layer 3 (the network layer). Of course, VPNs use layer 4 to establish a connection. For example, PPTP uses TCP (layer 4), and L2TP and IPsec use TCP and UDP (layer 4) to establish a tunnel. But once the VPN tunnel is established, its protocols work just like network interfaces. Operating at L3 means that the VPN takes all of your traffic (DNS, HTTP, P2P, VoIP, etc.), regardless of port number or application, and encrypts it. Proxies, on the other hand, operate at layer 5-7.

Secondly, they are based on different technologies to secure the connection.

The level of privacy in a VPN depends on the cryptographic strength of the encryption mechanism. There are different encryption algorithms – 3DES, AES and RSA. They determine how the data is hidden in the message. These mechanisms use a set of keys and ciphers (128 or 256 bits) to hide information and find use in various security protocols. Examples of VPN encryption protocols include PPTP, L2TP, SSTP, IKEv2, OpenVPN, IPSec, WireGuard, and others.

Proxy servers, on the other hand, are not designed to encrypt data. In concept, proxy servers mask your IP address with their own, but do not encrypt data. To compensate for the lack of encryption, you can use proxy servers with SSL. Proxy servers have no encryption overhead, so they are usually faster than VPNs. Surfing the internet with a VPN will hardly affect your user experience though. The latency concerns the highest load traffic such as video streaming, P2P file transfers or gaming.

Finally, the cost of implementing a VPN and proxy differs. It’s possible to find cheap VPNs for shared resources and even free (in some cases), but the price of a VPN for businesses can increase in the long run. Maintaining a VPN for a large enterprise will require more infrastructure, support, maintenance, and monitoring. A local proxy server tends to be cheaper for companies, but it’s hard to imagine a company using them in their purest form.

Risks of using proxies

There are certain risks involved in using proxy servers. For example, it is important to be careful when choosing a service provider. When using, for example, publicly available proxies, do not enter passwords from account networks, as this will be tantamount to transferring data ‘directly into the hands’ of attackers.

It is worth considering that there may be ‘leaks’ of user data by proxy owners, which may fall into the hands of fraudsters or regulatory authorities. That is why it is important not to enter personal data, logins, passwords from websites when using third-party proxies, especially free ones.


With the help of proxies companies can block access to social networks for their employees, filter unwanted traffic and protect the network perimeter. But when using free or untested solutions, you should be aware of the security risks of making your requests and all the information they contain public.