What Is The Difference Between A Proxy Service And A Proxy Server?

Proxy servers refer to the hardware that functions as a ‘middleman’ between end users and target datasets, while a proxy service streamlines, and automates the data collection process. Read this guide to understand the key differences.
What is the difference between a proxy server and a proxy service?
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In this article we will discuss:

What is a proxy server?

Proxy Server old iPad stock photo

A proxy server is essentially a ‘middleman’ between people who are searching for information (‘end-users’), and the information they are searching for (‘target data’). The reason for using a proxy server may differ depending on a company’s goals including:

  • Security testing – For example a company could use a proxy server to simulate attacks from different IP addresses helping to keep their red team prepared for a potential future cybercrime
  • Data collection – Many companies are seeking to collect open source information in real-time such as pricing, travel bundle offers, and conversions on an eCommerce site. Using a proxy server can help them ensure that they are getting an accurate response based on factors like geolocation
  • Load balancing – When many requests for information are sent from the same IP address, target sites can get suspicious and block the requester. With proxy servers, one can distribute requests based on geolocation, and IP / device type (mobile vs. residential, for example). 

What is a proxy service? 

Proxy service - keyboard key for immediate proxy

A proxy service is typically a software that helps companies achieve data collection or security goals (as mentioned above). But in this case it is a more automated, and streamlined process.  This approach allows companies to free up resources both in terms of manpower and physical hardware. When you outsource your data collection to a proxy service then you are able to define the:

  • Frequency of collection
  • Target sites, and datasets 
  • Desired format (JPEG, JSON)

Once these basic parameters are set up, teams and/or algorithms start getting a regular influx of data. This allows companies to focus on their core business and put the data to work in the context of business strategy and decision-making. 

The major differences between the two 

The major difference is that a ‘proxy server’ is the actual hardware that helps people and companies accomplish their business goals. A ‘proxy service’, on the other hand, utilizes this technology, and does all of the technical heavy lifting, providing pure value in the form of data. 

When using a proxy service, it is much easier to scale your data collection operations as you can always ask for additional IP addresses or IPs from different geolocations or subnets. You can also be more versatile in terms of your needs so that in certain cases you may prefer using cellular IPs (for example when validating how content is being displayed on mobile devices). While in other cases Residential IPs may be best suited to your needs such as harder-to-reach target sites. 

The bottom line

Whether you decide to build your own in-house proxy server infrastructure, customizing hardware to your needs, and diverting human resources to achieve business goals. Or if you choose to enjoy the benefits of a proxy service with a single point of contact, data collection flexibility, and no overhead commitments, your business can make better decisions based on real-time industry happenings by gaining access to unmediated, unaltered data.

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