Have you ever wondered whether you’re safe while surfing the internet? You could have been engaging in sensitive activities or just general browsing. Indeed, the internet is full of everything, including an underworld, and it’s better to be safe than sorry. Proxy servers happen to be a convenient gateway to much-needed security.
What is a Proxy Server?
What is a proxy server? A proxy or proxy server is a computer-backed (on the backend) application that creates a set-up whereby this computer acts as an intermediary between your web browser and a web server. Thus, all your web traffic and requests pass through the computer and are assigned a new IP address before being directed to the web server. Through these operations, proxy servers guarantee security, anonymity, and privacy because they mask a user’s real IP address.
There are multiple types of proxy servers, each serving a particular niche. These include:
- Datacenter proxies
- Residential proxies
- Anonymous proxies
- High anonymity proxies
- Transparent proxies
- HTTP proxies
- Reverse proxies, etc.
This article aims to shed light on HTTP proxies, what they are, their advantages and disadvantages, and how they’re used. Let’s dive straight into that.
HTTP proxies, being proxy servers, are intermediaries. However, the HTTP denotation points to what they really are. HTTP is a protocol that enables the sending and display of files such as graphic images, video, sound, and texts. In full, the acronym stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol. It helps web browsers and web servers to communicate.
Given that HTTP is used for sending and displaying files, HTTP proxies filter the transmitted or displayed content. In essence, they are a high-quality filter that scans the web traffic and files to determine whether spyware, malware, or any other form of cyberattack is hidden therein. HTTP proxies can be used by a web client (you, the user) or the web server. If you’re interested in starting using HTTP proxies, we suggest you read more information below.
Uses of HTTP Proxies
With HTTP proxies, you can:
- Allow or block certain types of content from reaching your network.
- Block URLs and incoming connections.
- Allow or block certain cookies.
- Enable internal machines that couldn’t be routed to the internet (such as those without an IP address or those operating in a private network) to access the internet. Essentially, in this case, the HTTP proxies act as a gateway.
- Cache data, thereby reducing network loads. HTTP proxies store the files that the user often requires, thus reducing the need to download them repeatedly. This increases the connection speed and frees up the bandwidth for other more important applications.
Pros and Cons of Proxy Servers
While an HTTP proxy can fulfill these functions, it first requires the user to configure it. The more the configurations made, the more the uses. Otherwise, it’ll just carry out a few functions. This is one drawback, and there are several others, which are perhaps responsible for the dwindling popularity of HTTP proxies. But first, we’ll highlight the advantages.
- They speed web connections up because of their caching capabilities
- They maintain anonymity by masking your IP address
- They bypass internet filtering by providing access to prohibited websites and content
- With HTTP proxies, you can make external server requests
- They support multiple connections simultaneously without the connection speeds being impacted negatively. But there’s a caveat, as you’ll see below.
- They’re ideal for installation at both the web server’s or web client’s end. The former is referred to as the HTTP-server proxy, while the latter is known as the HTTP-client proxy.
- They don’t encrypt the connection, regardless of whether a single user or multiple web clients are connected through them. This lack of encryption ensures that the connection speeds don’t take a hit whenever they support a number of devices, as hinted above.
- They require a technical background for successful deployment.
- There’s no centralized configuration whenever multiple users are using the HTTP proxy – every web client has to configure the proxy server by themselves.
- They don’t provide access to other communication protocols such as secure shell (SSH).
These disadvantages have continually dealt the use of HTTP proxies a heavy blow, a blow so heavy that the use of HTTP proxies has been on a downward trajectory since around 2004. Perhaps the reduced popularity was due to the need to have a technical understanding of coding before configuring the HTTP proxies.
If you have a technical background and a basic understanding of how proxies work, configuring HTTP proxy won’t be a problem. HTTP proxies can easily deal with tasks such as speeding web connections, masking your IP address, cashing data, blocking URLs, incoming connections, and much more. Choosing the right proxy type depends on your needs. Before deciding whether you need an HTTP proxy, think of how you are going to use it and will you manage to configure it.