Proxy servers route Internet traffic through a “proxy,” or a stand-in. The proxy server sets itself between a data source and a user in order to “stand in” for that user. This middleman server offers several benefits to computer users and network administrators, including better security and network administration, as well as allowing anonymous browsing and better browsing performance through page caching.
Proxy servers offer security to internal networks. When you manage a large private network, you likely want to control where incoming traffic goes. You can install a proxy server at the entry point of the network so every incoming connection must go through it. The proxy server can route traffic around the network depending on the type of connection, and prevent unauthorized access to the server by hiding the internal workings of the network. In other words, if a connection is rejected, it is routed from the proxy server to a safe location to disallow direct contact with the main servers in the network.
You can use proxy servers for anonymous Web browsing. When you browse to particular websites, it is fairly easy to obtain your Internet Protocol address and Internet service provider’s information, which includes personal location information. If you route through a proxy server, however, the website does not read your information, but the information of the browser. This allows you to browse without the fear of displaying private information or information that can be used to obtain private data.
Proxy servers can also handle the dividing of networks, and protect the structure of a network. Proxy servers handle requests from incoming traffic and, rather than let that traffic through to main servers, make requests to those servers on behalf of the incoming connection. This is different than rerouting, in that rather than simply route traffic, the proxy server disallows direct access to the network, handling connections itself both in and out of the network.
Cache and Performance
Proxy servers can also cache websites within the network to users outside the network. “Caching” refers to the process of saving copies of websites in memory so that users can load the copies rather than request the pages from the main servers. This significantly increases loading time and reduces network bandwidth usage. The proxy server only changes the cached pages if a change is made on the main server; if no change is made, the proxy simply brings up the copy stored locally.