Introduction to Proxies: Essentials You Need to Know
There is an age-long battle between businesses and websites. Businesses always want to gather the data they need to make important business decisions, and websites are putting up measures to ensure that doesn’t happen.
And to beat those measures, brands have been discovering clever ways, such as using proxies for this important task. Proxies can be used to provide protection during scraping, bypass anti-scraping measures and even overcome extreme technologies such as geo-restrictions.
Overcoming whatever a website sets in place to impede web scraping is important but staying protected even while scraping is far more important.
And proxies help you achieve all these, as we will see shortly. But first, let us answer the question, “what is a proxy?”
What Is A Proxy?
A proxy can be defined as a tool or software used by companies and individuals to mediate their online connections. It serves the primary purpose of transferring communications between users and the web discreetly.
The best proxies come with internet protocol (IP) addresses and locations, which they pick and deploy every time a user makes a request.
This is to ensure that the user’s original IP is concealed while the proxy transfers the connections. This keeps the user safe and anonymous while conferring other benefits, as we will later find out.
How Does A Proxy Work?
The general idea behind all proxies is that they serve as intermediaries, standing anywhere between users and the websites they are visiting.
To carry out their preordained tasks more efficiently, below is a breakdown of how they work:
- The user makes a request to a target server using a URL that has been initially discovered to contain the content they seek
- The proxy accepts the request and screens it to be sure everything is intact
- Then it forwards that request to the target server using its IP and location
- The server gets the request and provides the results, which the proxy accepts again on behalf of the user
- The proxy screens the result for any presence of malware before finally delivering it to the user
What Is Web Scraping?
Web scraping is understood to be one of the most efficient ways to gather relevant data from several sources in large quantities simultaneously.
Web scraping provides the best way for businesses to collect the data they need from different websites and servers without wasting too much time and human resources, as it is often automated.
Tools like web crawlers and web scrapers are generally used to automate and make data extraction faster and more efficient.
But it is common knowledge that these tools alone are not enough, and web scraping needs to include other important software such as proxies.
Application of Proxies in Web Scraping
The most prominent application of proxies in gathering data from different sources on the internet is to prevent blocks and bans.
It is important to understand that while companies eagerly want to scrape all the relevant data they can find, not all data sources are willing to share their information.
Hence, there are various measures and techniques used to dissuade web scraping and proxies are generally required to help counter these measures.
Below are the different ways that proxies can help during data collection:
- Providing Security
The first prerogative of any brand is to protect the company and its sensitive data. Hackers and competitors are always looking for sensitive data they can steal and use to launch harmful campaigns.
This is why organizations strive to stay protected while collecting data, and proxies help by providing the brand with different IPs and locations to use while concealing the original details.
Proxies also screen communications to ensure that malware and harmful content do not slip through.
- Ensuring Anonymity
By providing multiple details and hiding the user’s original IP and location, proxies also guarantee anonymity during different exercises, including web scraping.
When a brand hides behind a proxy, it becomes almost impossible to identify the user or even read their activities.
- Bypassing Anti-Scraping Measures
As mentioned earlier, not every data source is keen on sharing its content which is why many websites use different approaches to inhibit web scraping.
Some of these measures include IP identification and analysis, which leads to blocks and bans once the IP has been identified as performing repetitive tasks such as web scraping.
Proxies are used to mitigate this as they provide the brand with several IPs to pick and switch so that a single IP is never used more than once in most cases.
- Bypass Geo-Restrictions
Proxies are also crucial for bypassing geo-restrictions which are just another limitation used to deny users partial or total access based on their physical locations.
Proxies allow the brands to select from a large pool of locations and IPs so that they can easily appear from a different location without breaking a sweat.
Web scraping can help you find the right data at the right time and quickly harvest it in large amounts at once.
And proxies can help you overcome web scraping challenges and offer other benefits, including providing protection and keeping you anonymous.