Sometimes, we may want to browse websites anonymously or even access geo-restricted sites that are blocked in our region. Also many organizations and ISPs often block access to certain websites. To access such websites and services, a suitable proxy service often comes handy. Depending on the user’s requirement, there are different types of proxy services to access different types of online content. In this article, we’ll try to list down some of the popular proxy services and help you choose the best service that suits your needs.
A proxy server is a server that acts as an intermediary between the clients and other servers. The proxy server receives the clients’ requests and forwards them to the destination server, from which the client is actually requesting resources. As the destination server responds back, the proxy server sends this response back to the client. To the destination server, all requests appear to be coming from the proxy server and not from the client itself. Hence, the clients’ IP addresses are hidden from the destination server, and clients can spoof their location to achieve partial anonymity. A client may also unlock geo-restricted web content by using a proxy server located in a suitable region, from where the particular content is accessible.
Types of Proxy Servers
There are basically two different types of proxy servers based on the protocols they use:
These servers can only handle HTTP traffic, so they are only good for web browsing. Some of these servers may establish secured connections (HTTPS) through SSL, which generally uses at least 128-bit encryption. HTTP Proxy servers are generally used in web based proxy services.
These are different from HTTP Proxy servers in the way that they can handle all types of internet traffic. SOCKS Proxy servers are generally used by various proxy-enabled applications such as mail clients, torrent clients, chat applications, etc.
Types of Proxy Services
Using the above mentioned server types, there are broadly two different types of proxy services offered by numerous companies.
List of top web proxy services
The following are some of the popular web proxy services:
HideMyAss is popular for their free proxy service that allows you to browse the web securely and spoof your location to unlock some geo-restricted content. The service is known for supporting a few popular video streaming sites, and usually considered as one of the best YouTube proxy sites available for free. It has servers in the US, UK and Netherlands.
It claims to be the fastest and most reliable free proxy service available on the Internet. With a single click, users can switch between HTTP and secure HTTP mode. Proxy lets the users to choose among several servers while browsing or to select an alternative server if one is down. KProxy also has a paid service called KProxy Pro, which allows access to premium servers and provide a faster, unlimited and ad-free experience. KProxy Pro also has a unique payment system that lets you pay only for the number of days you use it.
Blewpass is another proxy service which lets users browse the web anonymously and bypass Internet filters and firewalls imposed in schools, colleges, corporate sectors and countries.
This popular VPN service provider also has a free proxy service which is meant as a quick solution to browse the web while keeping your IP hidden. The proxy is web based and supports browsing only a limited number of websites. You can choose between 4 different servers based on 4 different locations (GB, US, DE, RO).
This is a free proxy service that allows anonymous access to websites and unlock geo-restricted web content. It also protects user privacy by establishing a secure connection with the host server. Additionally, it allows you to change the settings of the proxy browser, and choose from a number of pre-defined browser agents.
This is a group of hand-picked proxy sites that are especially capable of proxying flash based video streaming sites, and the best part is that they are all free to use. But they are not good enough for unlocking just about any video streaming website. In fact, they can only unlock a limited number of flash based websites.
If the above web proxy sites don’t work, you can give Anonymster a try. Anonymster is an anonymous, free, HTTPS web proxy that is relatively new, and performs quite well at the basic level. It allows you to unblock geo-restricted content from around the world, and is also a perfect tool for unblocking websites in restricted zones, such as schools, colleges and offices. However, it does not fully support audio and video streaming sites as of now. Also, one notable point to be mindful about is that, you must provide the exact website URL along with the defined protocol (HTTP/HTTPS), in order for the proxy to work expectedly.
Configurable Proxy (IP Proxy)
Some proxy services offer specific configuration details of proxy servers, so that individual client devices may be manually configured. Some of these services use public proxies and usually publish an open list of proxy server addresses (IP:Port) along with the details about each of the servers, such as last access time, country, speed, type (HTTP, HTTPS or SOCKS), etc. Anyone can configure individual software programs to access these public proxy servers for free. However, these services are usually unreliable and provide no support. Their servers may be shut down at any time without prior notice.
There are also some private proxy services that are usually available for a price. The servers used by these services are not openly available for public use and generally requires authentication (login credentials) to access them. Sometimes, private proxy services encrypt the connection with the user, and usually keep no logs in order to maintain their anonymity. These services are generally offered by reliable companies and offer good customer support too.
List of top IP Proxy providers
Some of the popular services that offer configurable proxy settings are given below:
This popular proxy and VPN service provider also maintains an open IP:Port proxy list for users who wish to manually configure their devices to access the web via proxy. The list contains numerous proxy servers available across different locations which can be filtered by protocol (HTTP, HTTPS, SOCKS4/5), anonymity level, speed and connection time.
Not many proxy services offer anonymous torrent downloads to its users. TorGuard is service that does. This is a paid private proxy service which offers a number of unique features. Optimized for the BitTorrent, TorGuard provides its users access to special servers that are tailored for anonymous torrent downloads. It allocates users to more than 100 different IP addresses located across 6 different countries. More proxy servers are being added over time to expand its reach on the Internet.
This is another paid proxy service, which allows you to configure torrent clients for anonymous torrent downloads. Like TorGuard, BTGuard is a private proxy service, and thus, users need to login with their unique credentials in order to access the service. They encrypt the user’s connection to the BitTorrent network using 256-bit AES encryption. Their anonymous proxy servers are located in Canada, Europe and Asia, and offer high speeds up to 10Gbps.
UltraProxies is a proxy service that provides an open list of free proxy servers along with details such as IP:Port pair, level of anonymity, location of server, name of organization which the server belongs, last access time and latency.
NordVPN is another VPN service that provides a free IP:Port proxy list and lets users choose among over 100000 servers located worldwide. The list can be filtered country-wise as well as by the port number used, connection speed, level of anonymity and available protocols.
NinjaProxies have a total of over 500000 unique proxy servers distributed across more than 3000 different locations spanning over 180 different countries. They provide a free IP:Port proxy list along with useful details such as supported protocols, level of anonymity, location of server, its speed and uptime.
Pros and Cons
The following are some of the advantages and disadvantages of using a proxy server:
IP Spoofing: Hides the clients’ IP from basic IP checks, thus can be used to spoof user location and unlock geo-restricted content.
Quick Access: Web proxies can be used directly without additional configuration.
Affordable Pricing: Available at lower prices compared to other solutions like VPN; may even be available for free.
Data Theft: User data is directly available to the proxy server, which might be misused; hence people should use a reliable proxy service to prevent data theft, or avoid sending sensitive information over proxy connection.
Proxy servers are useful for temporary access to geo-restricted services, or websites that are blocked by your network administrator or Internet Service Provider. However, proxy services (especially the free ones) offer limited security, so your actual level of anonymity is questionable.
By comparison, VPN services are much more secure as they offer end-to-end encryption within the entire network composed of multiple servers and nodes. They also provide access to all types of websites and internet services, unless any particular service blocks them exclusively. So, if you’re really concerned about security, VPN is a better option. On the other hand, if you want to access media content that is blocked in your location and anonymity isn’t much of your concern, SmartDNS might be a better option for you.