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What Is a Proxy: Web Scraping Basics [2020 Guide]

What Is a Proxy: Web Scraping Basics [2020 Guide]

what is a proxy

In 2019 alone, datacenter proxy traffic volume grew by 45.8% with a substantial growth of 22.7% in the total number of requests, and a whopping 165.3% growth in the number of requests. This rise in the use of proxy shows that the world is increasingly utilizing this technology, but what is a proxy, and how important is it to web scrapping?

Businesses that thrive on data collection have had tremendous growth due to web scraping. But as useful as it is, web scraping has its fair share of challenges that makes achieving the desired results more difficult.

There is a lot of information available in the world today, and as useful as this information is, gathering and structuring them would require artificial intelligence to make them into more useful formats. Web scraping is possible due to the existence of proxies, and proxies are necessary to help protect against ad fraud, identity fraud, and also data leaks amongst others. Read on to find out everything you need to know about proxies and web scraping.

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WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE BROWSE?

Every device on the internet has an internet protocol (IP) address assigned to it by the internet service provider. Your IP is essential for communication between your device and the internet. So when you go online and visit a website, your IP address can let websites know your location and your online behavior. It also allows your ISP and the website to track your online history to know what you have been up to.

Interesting Read : How web scraping can help in Automobiles?

Even though this is basically what happens when you go online, there are ways to cover up your online activities and browse anonymously. One of these methods is to make use of a proxy.

WHAT IS A PROXY?

Instead of having direct access to the internet, a proxy comes in between that connection. This way, all your requests go through the proxy server, change your IP address to that of the server you chose, and then connect to the internet.

WHAT IS A PROXY SERVER?

Every proxy has its IP address, and that is the address your device would be identified as instead of its real IP. So when you send requests to the internet, they pass through the proxy server and the server handles the requests and also received them for you. This way, your real identity is not exposed, and your activity remains private.

DO PROXIES HIDE YOUR REAL IP ADDRESS?

Yes, proxies hide the user’s real IP address. This is one of the main reasons for using a proxy but they are also other scenarios in which the use of proxies is helpful. One such scenario is having access to content or a site that is geo-blocked. By using a proxy, you can choose a different server location and have access to your favorite content. You can also use proxies for web scraping to ensure accurate information is gotten.

DOES THE USE OF PROXIES KEEP YOU ANONYMOUS?

With so many organizations and agencies like ISPs, government agencies, and even cybercriminals tracking online activities, the need for online privacy has become increasingly sought after. The use of an IP address is one of the easiest and most effective ways to track online activity and gather information on a user as the IP can give a lot of information. This information includes your location, your online history; visited websites, and frequency of visits.

Interesting Read : How web scraping can benefit the real estate industry?

Cookies are also ways in which your online activities can be tracked. This method is mostly used by marketers to compile data on your web usage for targeted ads. Another way you can be tracked occurs when DNS requests are sent to the local DNS server, allowing the websites you visit to track your activity on their site.

With the use of proxies, all of the above-mentioned threats to your privacy would be tackled effectively, thanks to web privacy features in proxies. This way, third parties will have a hard time monitoring you online. Some of the ways a proxy does this is by changing your real IP so that no address linked to you will be visible when you go online. You can also ensure even tighter security by making use of proxies that use end-to-end encryption when sending and receiving your request.

HOW PROXIES WORK

By acting as an intermediary between your device and the internet, proxies shunt your direct connection to the web and can enhance your privacy, bypass content filters, and geo-blocked content, among others. A proxy does this and a lot more by sending all requests through the proxy server and process it before forwarding to the web and sending the result back to you.

So instead of your computer or phone having direct communication with the server and sending its request, the request is first processed through the proxy’s server before being sent to the target server. This way, you can stay protected as the target server doesn’t see you as the visitor but the visiting proxy IP.

So if you are concerned about the information websites to have on you, and want to keep your online activities private, making use of a proxy is a huge step to go about it. Note that not all proxies have equal capacities; the level of privacy and anonymity one would give you may be different from that from another proxy. And so bearing this in mind, you need to make your choice of proxies carefully.

USES OF PROXIES

The use of proxies can be divided into two categories:

1 . PROXIES FOR PERSONAL USE

Individuals and companies can have proxies for their personal use for several reasons. If you need to access the internet without having to worry about someone else tracking your activities going through what pages you opened and what content you viewed, a proxy would come in handy. Apart from providing its user with privacy, proxies also give you security by encrypting your connections. So all requests sent from your device wouldn’t be understood even if intercepted due to the encryption proxies provide.

Interesting Read : How can web scraping help in efficient growth hacking?

Choosing a proxy IP from a specific location can give you access to geo-blocked content to your location even if your real IP is blocked from viewing the content.

2. PROXIES FOR BUSINESS

When used for business purposes, proxies also allow the company to achieve the goals for personal use as explained above, but its use doesn’t end there. Proxy servers can also be used internally to control and monitor internet usage amongst members of the company.

External uses of proxies by companies can be to carry out daily tasks and operations. This could include anonymous ad verification by companies to check the advertiser’s landing page. Travel fare aggregators also make use of proxies to scrape flight prices to avoid getting blocked. Proxies can be used to make purchases of limited edition products, to get pricing data, create and manage multiple social media accounts for brand promotion, and many others.

TYPE OF PROXY SERVERS

After having a good idea of what a proxy is, it’s important that you know the common types of proxies. In terms of their origin, there are two common types of proxies; residential proxy and datacenter proxy.

1. RESIDENTIAL PROXIES

Residential proxies, just as the name implies are provided by the internet service provider to homeowners. They are legit and are attached to a location, so the chances of these types of proxies getting blocked are low while they ensure high anonymity. Your IP address changes with your location as you have now seen, so when you move to a new place and set up your internet, you get a new IP address.

BENEFITS OF RESIDENTIAL PROXIES

1 . Low Chances of Getting Blocked

Since residential IPs are seen as legit IPs given by an ISP, they can be used for web scraping and other activities without getting blocked by the website’s security.

2. You Get Higher Success Rate

Since these IPs allow you to pass security checks, using them for your online activities ensures that you have greater chances of being successful. They mimic human behavior better and so are more likely seen as human users rather than as bots.

3. Great Number of Locations Available

With residential IPs, there is a great number of IP locations to choose from. This way, you can easily choose the location that is most convenient for your use of a proxy and get your task done.

USES OF RESIDENTIAL PROXIES

1. Ad Verification

Companies that subscribe to the use of ads try to verify that the money spent is not in vain, so they verify the ads. They do this by using an anonymous IP to check out how the ads are displayed, and if they are real to avoid being scammed.

2. Travel Fare Aggregation

Flight company websites, travel agencies, and other sources of collecting data on prices usually have tight security that recognizes bot activity and blocks the IP. Since residential proxies are legit, they can pass those checks and allow you to scrap the data you want.

TYPES OF RESIDENTIAL PROXIES

1. Static Residential Proxies

These types of proxies are usually a combination of residential proxies and datacenter proxies. The result is a fast and stable connection with high anonymity guaranteed. Static residential proxies also let the user access the internet with the given IP for as long as is required, without having to worry about getting banned.

2. Residential Rotating Proxies

Depending on your use of proxies, chances are you would need rotating proxies. Rotating proxies are required when using bots for scraping and also for sneaker purchases. These types of proxies ensure that the number of requests per IP is within limits, and allows you to have multiple accounts online.

3. Mobile Proxies

Mobile IPs are very similar to those of residential IPs, the only difference being that mobile IPs are provided by mobile data providers.

2. DATACENTER PROXIES

Datacenter proxies are not provided by any ISPs but come from a secondary corporation. They give you private authentication, a high level of privacy, and rapid response time. Despite their benefits, they are mostly blocked by website security as they are not provided by ISPs and are easily linked to the use of bots.

BENEFITS OF DATACENTER PROXIES

1. Fast Response Times

If you need to gather data or do any other task quickly, your best bet at fast speed would be datacenter proxies. Apart from the sped they provide, they are also very cheap and more affordable.

2. Private Proxies

The possibility of having a datacenter proxy used by only you is high. This ensures a server that isn’t loaded and takes care of slow connections and downtime.

SOME USES OF DATACENTER PROXIES

Datacenter proxies have a lot of uses, including their use in brand protection. This is so because they are fast and cheap, so you can easily afford them to monitor your brand. The use of your brand without your authorization could damage the image of your brand, and even cause you to lose revenue, and the step to take is to react quickly. With the speed of datacenter proxies, you can prevent much damage from being done by taking the necessary actions.

You can also use datacenter proxies in market research. Gathering data from the web, especially those of your competitors can be a challenge. You can’t use your real proxy because you can be fed with false data, so you will need to make use of proxies. Datacenter proxies, since they are cheaper are ideal because in market research, the more proxies you make use of, the better.

Proxies can also be classified based on their access type. Types of proxies in this category include; private (dedicated) proxies, semi-dedicated proxies, or shared proxies.

3. DEDICATED PROXIES

Just like other proxies, dedicated proxies shunt the user’s connection to the web, and all requests pass through the proxy server first. A dedicated proxy is private, hence only one user makes use of the IP at a time.

Since this type of proxy is private, only you would have access to it. This means you have a higher level of security and privacy as the risk of your information getting compromised is very low. You can also have access to multiple IP addresses in various locations, making it easier for you to overcome geo-blocked content and others like this.

Private proxies are very fast as it's used by only one person at a time, so the lags caused by bandwidth overload are taken care of. They are also more reliable and even though they come at high costs, it’s worth it.

4. SEMI-DEDICATED PROXIES

Semi-dedicated proxies are similar to shared proxies, the difference being that the number of users is reduced. This reduction leads to better performance and it’s a good alternative if you can’t afford to spend as much on private proxies, but require good performance from your proxy.

5. SHARED PROXIES

Shared proxies are the types that have multiple users all sharing the IP addresses at the same time. When compared with dedicated proxies, they are inferior, but they are also ideal for many tasks online. Since they are being shared, they are the cheapest types of proxies. Shared proxies are mostly used by those who want to appear as a user from a different location other than their real one.

One of the main advantages of using shared proxies is its cheap cost. Since these proxies are shared among users, it's less expensive to maintain the servers. They are also ideal for use with web scraping tools as long as the IP doesn’t get blocked. Shared IPs are also very anonymous, partly because many users share the same IP, so it can be difficult to locate a particular user.

Interesting Read : How web scraping can benefit the healthcare industry?

Some downsides to the use of shared proxies are the slow speed due to the shared bandwidth. You also stand the risk of being blocked from visiting a site due to an action by one of the users sharing the same IP as you. With shared IPs also, you are more likely to encounter captchas frequently. This can happen if all users of the same IP visit a site at the same time. The action may be regarded as spam.

Apart from these types of proxies, others exist which include:

1 . SOCKS5 PROXY

SOCKS5 proxies are useful especially for tasks that are traffic-intensive. Examples of such tasks include uploading and downloading data, streaming content online, VoIP or video calls, amongst others.

2. HTTP PROXY

An HTTP proxy has different uses and can be broadly classified into two groups; an HTTP client and also as a server that serves other purposes including security. It allows for tunneling, meaning that HTTP requests can be routed from a browser to the internet as it acts as a middle man. It also supports caching web data which is important for faster web page loading.

3. REVERSE PROXY

A reverse proxy sits behind a firewall and directs requests to a backend server. By doing this, it ensures reliability and good performance as it protects against cyber-attacks.

4. ANONYMOUS PROXY

It’s also known as an anonymizer and is used to ensure your online activities and your online presence stay private. With an anonymizer, your IP address would be hidden and the probability of being banned is low.

5. HIGH ANONYMITY PROXY

A high anonymous proxy is also known as an elite or premium proxy. It offers the same features as an anonymous proxy and with some additional features too. Your use of a proxy is hidden and your IP address changes periodically to further prevent detection of your identity.

6. TRANSPARENT PROXY

With a transparent proxy, the client is unaware that their requests don’t go straight to the server but is intercepted and processed by the proxy before reaching the target server. This is done for authentication and caching amongst other uses.

7. CGI PROXY

CGI proxies are used by those whose devices or networks don’t permit changes in the settings of the real proxy. So it accepts the requests, processes them in the browser window before sending it to the target server, and then returns the result of the request to the client.

8. SNEAKER PROXY

A sneaker proxy is designed specifically to help with copping of limited edition sneakers once released. These proxies are used with bots and they offer very fast connections, are unlikely to get blocked, and have IP addresses similar to those of real internet users. Residential proxies and datacenter proxies are usually sold as sneaker proxies.

9. SUFFIX PROXY

A suffix proxy just as its name goes adds its name to the end of the URL it’s processing or rerouting. This way, users can have access to sites and contents that were otherwise blocked.

10. DISTORTING PROXY

A distorting proxy allows the user to bypass content restrictions due to location and prevents targeted ads by making use of a substitute IP address. Its described as the middle level in the three levels of anonymity that proxies provide; below elite but above transparent proxies.

11. TOR ONION PROXY

Tor is an acronym that stands for ‘the onion router’. It’s an open-source network and protects your data using multiple layers of security and anonymity. The disadvantage of using TOR however is that your connection is slower as your requests are tunneled through multiple servers.

12. I2P ANONYMOUS PROXY

I2P anonymous proxy is an anonymous network of over 55,000 computers that allows the flow of web traffic with end-to-end encryption. It protects P2P communication, blocking any monitoring from external eyes like your ISP.

13. DNS PROXY

A DNS proxy functions by converting IP addresses in their numeric form into readable web addresses, and vice versa. It does this through the use of a system of connected servers.

WHAT TYPE OF PROXY IS CONSIDERED A CHEAP PROXY?

When proxies are sold for prices that are lower than the average market price, they are referred to as cheap proxies. Note that as cheap and appealing as it may seem, these types of proxies come with trade-offs. The resellers of such proxies will not provide you with added value services, so in case of any problem, you will be on your own. And if you purchase directly from the company, it should be noted that cheap proxies may not provide you with the security and anonymity you need.

DO YOU NEED A PROXY SERVER?

The answer to the question lies in the intent of the user. If you are looking to mask your IP address alone, then using a VPN will be sufficient. But if you need to gather data from the web in large quantities, then what you need is a proxy server.

If you plan on carrying our web scrapping on a large scale, then you will need multiple proxies to ensure a successful process. With multiple proxies, each IP won’t exceed the limit of requests per IP, and you can extract the amount of data you need quickly. So if this case is peculiar to you, then yes, you need proxies.

THE BEST TYPE OF PROXY SERVER FOR YOU

Proxies can be divided into Residential and Datacenter proxies as already mentioned. The type of proxy you choose however depends on what you intend to do with it.

If your need for a proxy is one that requires speed such as for market research, then datacenter proxies will do. They are fast, stable, and cheap so you can get as much as you need. But if your need for a proxy is to assist in web scraping, residential proxies would be better for the job. This is because residential proxies look like real human proxies and so websites overlook them.

IS THE USE OF PROXIES SAFE?

Proxies are very useful as they help you stay anonymous and keep your online presence private. Not all proxies ae however safe to use and it's wise that you be cautious when choosing a proxy service provider.

As much as 79% of free proxies do not offer you HTTPS protection protocol, and by this, your private data could be at risk. Free proxy servers also monitor your connection, and could contain malicious software, so even if they are free to use and may seem attractive, it’s good to check out reviews before you make use of them if you must.

A better choice would be to make use of proxies that ensure your privacy and connection remains safe. These types of proxies are not free but give you security and privacy and by choosing the one that’s best for your task at hand, you’ll be able to enjoy the full benefits of a proxy; anonymity, web scraping, or bypassing content filters.

PROXY COMPATIBILITY

Proxy compatibility as the name implies is the ability of a chosen proxy to be used with different tools and software and on different levels. Most proxies are compatible with different systems and browser add-ons to mention but a few, and this compatibility depends on the integration of the various proxy providers.

PROXY SETTINGS

Proxy settings are manual configurations for the proxy as present on specific applications like browsers. Some browsers go further in providing you with more configuration options like exempting some sites from being connected to by your device using a proxy. They do this in addition to providing you with your proxy address by a protocol; HTTP, HTTPS, FTP, and SOCKS. Proxy settings are usually specific to the application you want to use it with. But most times, all you need to do is provide your proxy IP list and a connection port where required.

Not all applications let you have access to manual configurations, however, and they only let you use your proxy with the default system settings.

PROXY TOOLS FOR WEB SCRAPING

It’s very common to purchase multiple proxies for web scraping. Even though it makes the process successful, it is time-consuming. Maintaining your proxies would involve maintaining and managing the servers to mention but a few. It also demands resources as you will have to spend on maintenance and on the workforce too. Proxy tools are the solution to the problem of time and resources while using proxies for web scraping.

A proxy tool is a modern way of scraping data and it allows the user to scrape certain targets that they choose. Depending on the scraping tool you choose, you have different scraping capabilities. With some tools, you can scrape many targets, while others will only allow you to scrape certain targets.

Proxy tools are not the same as bots. They have their proxy infrastructure and usually don’t require the user to set up their own anymore thus saving time.

API SCRAPING

API scraping is also a proxy tool but unlike others, it won’t be a program in your device but rather a third party web service.

REAL-TIME CRAWLER

A Real-Time Crawler is an advanced form of API Scraping and is meant for use if the purpose is to extract large data. Instead of having to build your web scraping solution, a real-time crawler receives the necessary result and data from search engines.

WEB SCRAPER

A Web Scraper is a tool for data collection. It’s easy to use and doesn’t require in-house proxy maintenance. All you have to do is to input the target URL and successfully retrieved data will be sent to you in HTML format.

NEXT-GEN RESIDENTIAL PROXIES

This proxy tool is offered by Oxylabs and they make use of advanced solutions like ML-based HTML parsing, AI-powered anti-captcha tech, and others. This way, you can scrape for data without having obstacles.

IS THERE A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A VPN AND A PROXY?

Proxies work in the same way as Virtual Private Networks (VPN) since they both mask your real IP address, making it seem your connection is from another location. Even though they both work in similar ways, they are useful in different scenarios.

Proxies connect to the web through specific protocols and they allow mostly application data through their server to the internet. VPN on the other hand routes all requests through the appropriate server before reaching the internet. Also, VPNs cost more than proxies general and are slower than proxies too.

VPN OR PROXY?

You would benefit more from a proxy if you intend to deal with a large amount of data either by transferring, retrieving, or analyzing it. They are also cheaper and you can afford to make multiple purchases if required, and their speeds make them ideal for many processes.

VPNs on the other hand are not limited in their use and have applications for whatever task you need them for. They assure you of better privacy as they encrypt all outgoing data instead of data from some applications only as is the case with proxies.

FAQ's

CONCLUSION

With the high need for data especially in the world of business, the need to extract this data has grown in demand. Web scraping of course isn’t just about extracting data, but also involves extracting accurate data. Competitor websites when spotted could be fed false data or blocked out altogether, and that is why the use of proxies is important.

Proxies mask your real IP address, allowing you to pass through the website’s defenses anonymously as you extract your data. The more proxies you use, the faster and safer it would be. For web scraping and other tasks, you would be needing proxies for, the type of proxy is the same; one that protects your privacy and keeps you anonymous.

Limeproxies is one of such proxies. They encrypt all connections, provide you with different IP locations to choose from, and give you a fast speed connection so that you can effectively scrape and get as much data as you need.

About the author

Rachael Chapman

A Complete Gamer and a Tech Geek. Brings out all her thoughts and Love in Writing Techie Blogs.

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