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Proxy VPS Explained: From A to Z

by Chinonye on August 22, 2011

Controlling access to the Internet has two important facets – making sure the right people are using your connection, and ensuring that those who use it are protected. The speed at which you can access information through your Internet connection is also crucial, especially if you have a large number of requests per day or if you run a hosting service. What are known as “proxy servers” can be used to not only help protect your connection and your users, but increase your retrieval speed as well.

Proxy Servers – All the Basics

A proxy server is one that allows an indirect connection to a second server or the Internet, adding a layer of protection and also the ability to cache data and files for faster retrieval. The term “proxy” means to act as an authorized substitute, which is the essential function of a proxy server. Instead of connecting directly to the Internet or a server where data is stored, a proxy server takes incoming requests and directs them appropriately. If a request is made for a file or Web page, the proxy server searches to see if it is already cached. If not, it seeks it out and provides it to the user, then saves the data in its cache. It can save data from multiple users in order to build up a large bank of cached pages and files for easy access.

Proxy Severs – Best Uses

The most common uses of a proxy server are to provide a mix of speed and security. By keeping a cache of common Web pages and files, users can more easily access the data they are looking for, and the nature of a proxy server is such that it allows a measure of protection for all those that use it. There are four common “types” of proxy servers that are used: high anonymity, distorted, anonymous and transparent. A transparent proxy will cache Web sites and files for users, but will identify itself as such and make your original IP address available through HTTP headers. Anonymous proxy servers will also identify themselves as proxies, but will not provide any information about an IP address. Distorted proxy servers will provide an incorrect original IP address in an effort to increase security, but can still be detected as proxy servers, and a high anonymity proxy will not be detectable as such and will provide no IP address information at all. Most proxy servers will not store sensitive encrypted information in their cache, but settings should always be checked.

Proxy Servers – Creating a VPS Option

One option if you’re looking to create a proxy server but would prefer not to use your own on-site server is to use a VPS server instead. You may already have VPS space that you use to store files or for Web hosting, and the process to turn it into a proxy VPS server is actually relatively simple. First, you should ensure that the OS you are running on your VPS is some flavor of Linux. This is because one of the best pieces of software you can use to run your proxy – Squid – is both free and must be run using a Linux OS.

Once you’ve confirmed you have a Linux system running, you need to make sure you have access to the command shell. The command shell allows you to access the VPS and install software on it, and information on how to access it should be contained in data sent by your VPS provider. When Squid is installed, you can then use the program to determine which IP addresses will have access to your new proxy VPS server as well set up multiple user accounts.

Proxy VPS Servers – Determining Your Needs

Hardware requirements on your VPS are going to vary according to how many users you will have accessing your proxy – for example, 10 GB of disk space with 512MB of RAM and 1,000 GB transfer would be enough to support up to 100,000 hits per day, allowing users to easily access the information they need quickly and easily, and from behind whatever type of proxy server you prefer.

Proxy servers are an excellent way to control user access to the Internet or off-site resources, while still providing quick retrieval times. A VPS Proxy server may be a viable choice for you if you have a high volume of user traffic, and if you’d prefer to have your server off-site.

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OhDonna August 21, 2011 at 7:26 AM

I knew proxy servers helped increase security, but I had no idea they could boost your speed so much in addition.

Texas2Step August 21, 2011 at 7:28 AM

If a transparent proxy reveals your IP address, it seems to defeat the main purpose of a proxy sever.

OfftheWall August 21, 2011 at 7:29 AM

Thanks for the Squid recommendation — I’ve got to look into that program further.

Randy5 September 13, 2011 at 1:56 AM

For some reason, I’d been under the impression that retrieval times were slower for proxy servers. I’m glad that’s not the case.

Stoddard October 13, 2011 at 9:29 AM

@Randy5: Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like the retrieval times for proxy servers are actually FASTER sometimes.

WrigleyF December 8, 2011 at 3:14 PM

I hadn’t thought of using VPS hosting to set up proxy servers, but it’s a great idea. My server is used enough as it is: why overtax it?

PotsNPans February 17, 2012 at 7:31 AM

@WrigleyF: Yeah, I don’t see why anyone would want to use an on-site to set up proxy servers. Not when VPS proxy servers work just as well.

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