Last Updated on October 30, 2023 by Content Team
This article was originally written ten years ago when I used cheap proxies to run over 100 twitter accounts. I was automating all the accounts with a Twitter bot, but it became a complete pain in the ass, trying not to get constantly banned. The main problem was using cheap proxies, I think.
In the past decade, proxy services have evolved from mere tools for anonymity to sophisticated web scraping solutions. This shift mirrors the growing significance of data in digital strategy. Major proxy providers now offer advanced scraping tools, allowing businesses to efficiently harvest web data without facing blocks or breaches in legality.
Types of Proxies
Proxies serve as intermediaries between a user and the internet, providing varying levels of security, anonymity, and functionality depending on the requirements. Understanding the different types of proxies is essential for selecting the right one for your online activities, whether for personal use or large-scale corporate deployment.
- Residential Proxies: These proxies use IP addresses allocated by internet service providers (ISPs) to homeowners. Residential proxies are extremely reliable and hard to detect as proxies since they appear as average users connecting from their homes. They are ideal for tasks requiring high anonymity, such as market research or social media automation, where trust and being undetected are paramount.
- Datacenter Proxies: Unlike residential proxies, datacenter proxies are not affiliated with ISPs and come from secondary corporations with large-scale data centers. These types of proxies are popular because they offer fast connection speeds and are significantly less expensive than residential proxies. However, they are easier to detect and block, making them less suitable for tasks that require foolproof anonymity.
- Shared Proxies: These are used by multiple users concurrently, making them cost-effective but potentially slower and less secure, due to the shared nature. They’re suitable for users with lower security requirements and a tighter budget.
- Private Proxies: Also known as dedicated proxies, they are used by only one user at a time, offering a higher level of security, speed, and reliability. They are ideal for businesses and individuals with significant security concerns, such as handling sensitive data or high-stakes tasks.
- Public Proxies: These are freely available and often come at no cost, but they are notorious for being unreliable, slow, and risky when it comes to security. They are prone to malicious use and are not recommended for any sensitive tasks.
- SOCKS Proxies: Specializing in handling traffic for any type of protocol or program, SOCKS proxies offer more extensive compatibility for various forms of traffic. They are not concerned with website traffic, making them versatile for different types of applications, but they can be slower due to their heavy-duty nature.
- HTTP/HTTPS Proxies: These are designed for web-based traffic and activities, interpreting and handling data shared in HTTP/HTTPS protocols. They are the most common type of proxies used for web browsing and are faster than SOCKS proxies because they are tailored to specific types of traffic.
Each of these proxy types serves distinct needs, and their effectiveness will depend on compatibility with the user’s requirements. It’s crucial to assess the task at hand, the level of security needed, budgetary constraints, and intended use to select the most suitable proxy type.
How to Test Proxies
I’ve tested all the proxy services below, but if you want to test them yourself, you are free to use my framework below.
Go through each step until you can find a failure – this usually happens with free proxies.
- Check speed/latency – Use speed test tools to check the proxy’s impact on internet speeds. Good proxies should have minimal speed reduction.
- Test from different locations – Connect to the proxy from different geographic regions to check consistency and uptime. Proxies may work in some areas but not others.
- Verify anonymity – Use online IP checkers to confirm the proxy is masking your real public IP address. No personal details should be visible.
- Analyze traffic logs – Reputable proxy services should provide usage logs without exposing private data. Review logs to check for any leakage of personal information.
- Check connectivity – Try accessing blocked sites and services through the proxy to test if restrictions are successfully bypassed. But do so ethically and legally.
- Evaluate user policies – Review the proxy provider’s terms of service, specifically any bans on unethical or illegal usage. Avoid services allowing harmful activities.
- Assess security – Check the encryption level and technologies used to secure traffic. Strong security is essential for privacy.
The ideal proxy will have fast speeds, high uptime, strong anonymity, secure encryption, responsible user policies, and enough availability to bypass geographic restrictions.
Best Proxy Providers 2023
While exploring Oxylabs as a proxy service provider, I loved the website UX – they feel like a proper brand, unlike some lame proxy providers years ago. Like many big proxy suppliers these days, they also offer web scraping.
Their vast network, with over 100 million IPs in 195 countries, proved instrumental for the extensive web scraping tasks I conducted (mainly SERP scraping PAAs), ensuring smooth, uninterrupted data extraction with minimal detection risk. Performance was a standout feature, with Oxylabs delivering on its promise of blazing-fast speeds and robust reliability, attributes that were particularly evident through their next-generation data center proxies.
Beyond performance, Oxylabs excelled in security, providing an encrypted haven for my digital activities and offering an essential cloak of anonymity. The user interface was a breath of fresh air: straightforward and efficient, allowing easy navigation regardless of technical expertise.
Diving into the services offered by Smartproxy, I was immediately greeted with a sense of professionalism and ease of use that promised a smooth experience. Though not as expansive as some competitors, the network was impressive, housing over 55+ million residential proxies that ensured I had a broad and diverse pool of IP addresses – all of which are described as ‘ethically sourced’. This variety was particularly beneficial for tasks requiring high anonymity and IP rotation, like market research and web scraping.
What stood out with Smartproxy was the balance it struck between performance and affordability – they have some of the cheapest yet reliable proxies on the market. The connection speeds were commendably fast, and I experienced an impressive success rate in my requests, which was a testament to their proxy pool’s healthy and responsive state. The service provided a robust solution for bypassing geo-restrictions, enabling access to a wealth of location-specific content without the common hassles of being detected or blocked.
The dashboard was another highlight of Smartproxy. Intuitive and sleek, it eliminated the often steep learning curve associated with proxy services. I found it incredibly easy to set up and manage my proxies, monitor my usage statistics, and navigate the various features available, making the experience straightforward from start to finish.
Moreover, Smartproxy didn’t fall short on customer service. My main query was met with a prompt, clear, and helpful response, reflecting a customer-first approach. The support team proved well-versed in various scenarios, guiding me through different use cases and setups.
My experience with Bright Data marked an encounter with one of the industry’s titans, immediately setting a high standard with its extensive network of over 72 million IPs. This breadth offered unparalleled global reach, essential for diverse tasks like meticulous web scraping, ensuring anonymity, and robust data collection. The performance was exceptional, with their residential proxies delivering a seamless blend of speed and reliability. Notably, Bright Data’s emphasis on ethical data collection practices instilled a sense of confidence and respect for digital regulations, making my navigation through the internet more responsible and transparent.
The platform’s user interface was a pinnacle of intuitiveness, simplifying complex tasks through a well-orchestrated dashboard, making proxy management, usage monitoring, and billing incredibly straightforward. But the customer support truly solidified my appreciation for Bright Data. Their knowledgeable team exhibited an unmatched commitment to assisting clients, ready to tackle any issue with insight and dedication.
Best cheap proxies to buy for online marketers
I have tried most of the proxy suppliers and 80% of them are crap. The sites below offer decent, fast private proxies at good prices with reasonable customer service. I recommend using private proxies over shared as these are often abused by other users. Never use free proxies, they are a complete waste of time.
Recommended Private Proxy Suppliers
Squid Proxies – x10 dedicated private proxies from $24/mth
Act Proxies – Dedicated IPv6 proxies from $1.40/each.
Proxies v VPN
There are numerous differences been proxy servers and VPNs, and it’s important that you know what they are, especially if you do internet marketing work. While the basic purpose of VPNs and proxies is to conceal the identity of the user or spoof a specific location on earth, there are still a few things that differentiate these services from each other. A lot of VPN providers also offer some sort of proxy service, and you will be able to find quite a few different public proxy servers that can be used free of charge.
The actual processes that are involved with proxies and VPNs are very different and therefore have different outcomes. A VPN or Virtual Private Network, creates an encrypted connection between your computer and the host server; all of the internet traffic goes in and out of the host server. Your ISP as well as the government can only see that you have connected to a VPN, but not where on the web you have gone. This means that all of your internet traffic is completely hidden. Setting up a VPN typically requires you to download a VPN client. One of the drawbacks associated with VPNs is that they can be expensive, and the encryption process takes a real toll on the servers, resulting in very slow web browsing much of the time.
It is important to keep in mind that a VPN will encrypt all of your internet traffic by replacing your ISP and routing all of the traffic through the VPN server, which includes programs and applications of all kinds. A proxy server is completely browser-based and not always compatible with certain websites, while a VPN will work with any internet-based services. A VPN, however, doesn’t offer as many choices when it comes to which applications are run through your ISP; everything gets routed through the same server when it is connected.
What is an ethical proxy network?
An ethical proxy network refers to a proxy service that operates with transparency and under the compliance of legal and ethical standards. It means that the network respects user privacy, adheres to data protection regulations, and does not engage in or condone activities that would involve unauthorized data access or manipulation. Ethical proxy networks often obtain consent from IP owners, ensure user anonymity, and provide clear terms of service, emphasizing lawful use of their services.
Are proxy sites legal?
Yes, proxy sites are legal as they are simply a method for users to access the internet anonymously, ensuring privacy and security. However, the legality becomes murky based on how they are used. If a proxy is used for illegal activities (such as hacking, illegal downloads, or accessing banned content in certain jurisdictions), it becomes a part of an illegal process. It’s essential for users to understand the legal implications of their activities while using proxy services.
What is an example of a proxy server?
A proxy server acts as an intermediary between the user and the internet. For example, when a user connects to a web proxy server and makes a request for resources (like a webpage, file, or service), the request is processed by the proxy server on behalf of the user. The server then masks the user’s IP address, so the online action appears to originate from the proxy, not the user’s location. A common example of a proxy server is Squid, which is widely used for its caching capabilities, improving page load speed and reducing bandwidth consumption.
Why do some websites ban proxy use?
Websites ban proxy use for several reasons, primarily to prevent fraudulent activity and abuse. Proxies mask the user’s actual IP address, which can be used for malicious purposes like hacking, spamming, data theft, or even to manipulate content or services (such as voting or comments). Some websites also use geo-blocking tools to restrict content to certain regions, and proxies are commonly used to circumvent these restrictions. To maintain security, integrity, and content licensing agreements, websites opt to ban proxies.
Can you be tracked through a proxy?
While proxies provide a level of anonymity by masking your original IP address, they do not offer complete privacy. Skilled hackers or entities with the appropriate resources, such as law enforcement, may potentially track a user through a proxy with enough effort or if legal measures compel proxy service providers to reveal logs. Furthermore, if the proxy is not configured correctly, it might leak information that can be used to identify the user. For enhanced privacy, users often resort to additional measures like using a VPN in conjunction with proxy servers.
What is a reverse proxy?
A reverse proxy, unlike a standard (forward) proxy that sits in front of clients, is positioned at the network edge in front of web servers and directs client requests to the appropriate backend server. A reverse proxy is used to distribute network or application traffic across several servers, which helps optimize performance, providing users with a smooth, interruption-free experience. It also acts as an additional security measure, protecting servers from direct exposure to the internet, which can shield the backend from potential attacks.
Gareth James has been in internet marketing since 2001. Gareth currently runs a portfolio of websites and works with a handful of clients.