Use of a Proxy Server to utilize internet bandwidth
Proxy Servers operate at the Application layer (layer 7) of OSI model. Basically, a proxy computer is a computer which does a job on behalf of you. Like writing to files, reading data, perform calculations. Nowadays most proxy servers are Web proxy servers.
The main benefit of having a proxy server is additional security and caching. Accessed websites are stored in the proxy server and users are served the web pages from the cache of the server if they are available there instead of going to Internet again.
In addition to cache, proxy servers can provide a number of additional features like firewall, internet management, internet activity-logging and many more.
The main purpose of a proxy server is to save bandwidth. When users access internet, it is also saved in the cache, so when another user access the same content it downloads straight from the proxy server. They can also block high bandwidth intensive sites during office hours. Or block irrelevant websites which may cause harm to your computers.
In the early days of the internet, routers didn't have NAT (Network Address Translation). The service that changes internal private IP addresses into public addresses. Back then, if a group of computers wanted an internet connection, a proxy server is required. And with the introduction of NAT to internet routers, proxy servers were not necessarily required for an internet connection.
Though a proxy server is not required, it still can be a very useful piece of hardware for home and office networking. Proxy servers provide a lot of features routers do not have and can manage bandwidth much more better and efficiently.
ISPs (Internet Service Provider) often use proxy servers to give their users a better browsing experience and increased response time.
Proxy servers can be used for enforcing rules such as:-
- Block access to unwanted, malicious websites
- Restrict internet usage during office hours
- Block certain types of files
- Control and limit bandwidth
Transparent Proxy Servers
Also known as intercepting proxy, inline proxy or forced proxy. They catch web traffic at Network Layer (Layer 3) just like routers, that's why you don't have to configure proxy settings on client machines. If you want to use a proxy server manually, you have to enter proxy details in your browser or application. A transparent proxy doesn't require you to manually configure details. It sits in between your internet connection and your computer. And acts as an gateway just like a router, they also perform some functions of a router.
You may wonder why proxy servers don't operate as transparent by default. The reason is, proxy software usually operates at Application Layer (Layer 7). It is just like any other program you have installed in your computer (firefox, internet explorer, VLC player). You cannot directly connect an application like chrome to a router right? Routers and switches operate at Network Layer (Layer 3), the data from network cables are directly fed into switches and routers. Usually routers deliver data from the internet to computers. Transparent proxy servers intercepts data communication from the router and divert it to proxy application and sends them to client computers. This interception is also often called "Connection hijacking".
While using a transparent proxy, the client computer won't even know the presence of a proxy server. For this reason, transparent proxies are more favored in businesses, it eases administrative overhead since each client doesn't need to be manually configured to use proxy.
They are also commonly used by ISPs to increase customer response speed by caching.
This sits between client computers and the internet. This saves internet bandwidth and also increase user response time by caching accessed web pages. Business often use proxy servers in their internet connection. A proxy server can also be very helpful for home networking.
These are for the web servers. They sit between the Web server and the internet and reduce load on the web servers. With Reverse proxies the client connects to the proxy server and proxy server fetches the pages for client users. These are very commonly used with internet web servers.
A proxy server on the internet which is accessible to anyone on the internet. These can be used to hide your real IP address. These are the proxy servers which average people are familiar with. They also can help you gain access to region-restricted content, because when you use a proxy located in another country, web servers will think that you are actually in another country.
Issues with caching
Just like any other technology, there are certain things that might not work due to failure. Caching is a great feature, it saves internet bandwidth by saving accessed web pages. The websites you have visited recently loads in a split second. But sometimes when web pages get updated, you might still be seeing the old copy due to issues in caching.
Log Internet usage
This can be very valuable to companies. It can provide valuable information on how the internet is used. These data can be very helpful in solving internet related problems. Employers have a right to know how the internet is being used by their employees. Internet can be a valuable source of knowledge for any kind of profession, either for discussion on work-related problems or connect with peers. And sometimes it can cause distraction in the work environment. Such problems must be tackled wisely. Restricting your employees too much will not increase the productivity as some employers might think. Still with all those regulations to follow, we are still human beings. Employees too need sometime to relax and get some fresh air to breathe.
For example if internet downloads are found to slow internet connection, it is wise to block bandwidth consuming websites or files during office hours only.
Proxy servers can monitor activities such as:-
- Total downloads, view downloads by individual users.
- Frequently accessed websites, view sites accessed by users.
- Monitor downloads
Bypass internet security
A lot of times proxy servers can also be used to bypass website restrictions in school or offices. Since the proxy server is not a machine inside the restricted zone, it is able to fetch content you may be restricted such as blocked websites. Using a proxy server is just like surfing on your own computer, you won't see any difference. Actually the proxy server does all the surfing, accessing pages and stuffs for you and sends you the data back to you.
Average people know proxy servers only as a way to bypass restricted web content. There is actually more to it then just bypassing.
Extra layer of security
Proxy servers provide you with that added layer of security by acting as a barrier between your computer and the internet. In this way if someone hacks into your internet, it will prevent them from compromising your workstations. And from the internet your computer won't be visible, it will seem as if your proxy server was browsing the internet.
Businesses often also use proxy servers as firewalls for protecting their internal network from the untrusted larger network (internet). Firewall can be configured as according to company needs. You must ensure your firewall is according to best security practices.