What are Shared Proxies?

Julia Smith
Julia Smith
Community manager @ SOAX22 April, 2022

There are different types of proxies and selecting the best fit for your needs might be confusing at first. Whilst the ultimate goal of all proxies remains the same – to protect the identity and enhance security while accessing different websites – there are special features that each type has. In this article, we’ll explore in more details shared proxies, one of many proxy types. We’ll investigate their characteristics, variations, how they operate, what tasks they are suited for, and what are the pros and cons of using shared proxies.

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Definition of a Shared Proxy

Taking a step back, let’s quickly recap what proxies are. The user’s IP address is like an ID used to access websites. In order to hide the real IP and stay anonymous while browsing the internet one can use proxies. Those are the buffer between the end-user and the website. One type of such intermediaries are shared proxies. Usually, this term is used as a synonym to datacenter proxies. Shared proxies are IP addresses used by several users at the same time. So the users are basically sharing one ID card. Due to the communal usage of IPs, shared proxies are usually one of the cheapest. Exclusivity comes at a price and if you want to have IPs dedicated for you specifically, you need to pay attention to either semi-dedicated or dedicated (private) proxies.

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Types of Shared Proxy

If we dive deeper, shared proxies can be divided into two major types:

HTTP Proxies:

The HTTP proxies utilise Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) and intercept communication sent through it. It can also facilitate work with the HTTPS websites as such proxies use a two-way communication method enabling access to the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL).

HTTP proxies perform two roles – as an HTTP client and an HTTP server. They route users’ requests and hide their real IPs before sending them to the intended website. This provides anonymity.

HTTP proxies can filter content and only allow authorised files to be downloaded or uploaded to the server. They can be configured to act as a firewall by checking for any suspicious content or setting up guidelines to prohibit specific data. Also, they check the protocol for any anomalies. If the analysis concludes there are discrepancies against the set rules, the proxy will prevent any potential threats to the user’s device. This provides an additional layer of security as it prevents potential malware to get on the server or user’s devices.

In addition, HTTP proxies enhance the efficiency of the operations. It can save bandwidth via web traffic compression, files and web pages caching, and reduction of ads’ displays. Also, it can facilitate simultaneous use of multiple users, which makes it a good choice for organisations with a big number of employees.

SOCKS4/5:

SOCKS stands for Socket Secure. SOCKS proxies are using network protocol allowing one device to send data to another via a third device. SOCKS proxies, like any other proxies, allow users to hide their real IPs and bypass geo-related restrictions. They are useful to avoid firewalls and access sites with restricted access. Usually SOCKS proxies are used for traffic-intensive tasks, such as content streaming, uploading and downloading files, P2P sharing, VoIP, and video calls.

SOCKS5 is currently the latest version of the SOCKS protocol. It enhanced the preceding SOCKS4 with the support of different authentication methods, which in turn improved security, and the ability to support User Datagram Protocol (UDP) traffic. UDP is another foundational protocol of the Internet and other similar computer networks. Previously SOCKS was using only Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) connections. Such inclusiveness allows SOCKS proxies to work on any network protocols and ports. As they are less specific about the protocols they are working with, SOCKS proxies can route any type of traffic. The newer SOCKS5 version also works faster than its predecessor.

However, there are some concerns about the safety of the data shared through SOCKS proxies. They don’t use standard tunnel encryption and SOCKS proxy servers don’t interpret the network traffic between client and server in any way. That means the data and users’ credentials might leak, which causes security concerns.

How Does a Shared Proxy Work?

There are two ways of how a user can get access to shared proxies. The first is when a user gets a list of IP addresses to use one at a time, manually accessing the server. Basically, in this scenario shared proxies are also static, meaning that automatic location change or rotation intervals set up are impossible. In this case payment is usually set up per IP address. The second way is when a user gets an access to a backconnect gateway server. This option, on the contrary, facilitates automatic assignment and rotation within the pool of IP addresses available. Payment of such shared rotating proxies is usually set up based on the traffic used or the number of IP addresses available within the pool.

Why Do You Need a Shared Proxy?

There are several purposes for which you might need shared proxies. Let’s go over these one by one:

  • To provide anonymity and confidentiality: shared proxies will hide the user’s real IP and make all the browsing anonymous. Furthermore, as there are several users sharing the same IP, it is almost impossible to identify the activities of a particular individual.
  • To choose an IP of a different location: using shared proxies allows bypassing any restrictions set on particular geolocations. For example, users can access country-specific content, such as prices, special deals or additional functionality using IPs of a selected country. The websites will treat proxy users as any other local visitors.
  • To bypass blocks: like with geolocation, shared proxies can facilitate access to the otherwise restricted content, for example, media sources that are only available in particular regions.
  • To gather large volumes of data: shared proxies can be used for web scraping, especially if the targeted websites are not very popular or well-protected, so multiple access attempts won’t cause blockage of the assigned IP in use.

What are the Advantages of Using a Shared Proxy?

As mentioned before, it provides users with a high level of anonymity. Not only does it hide a user’s IP, but also allows multiple users to connect to the same IP, making it virtually impossible to distinguish who made which requests. Shared proxies also unlock the benefits of selecting multiple locations around the globe and bypassing geolocation restrictions. On top of that, the price of shared proxies makes them even more attractive. As the cost of the set up and maintenance of the shared proxy server is split among multiple users, providers can offer much lower prices in comparison with semi-dedicated or dedicated proxies. This makes shared proxies a good first choice for novice users while they are figuring out what proxy parameters are actually vital for their use cases.

What are the Disadvantages of Using a Shared Proxy?

Using shared proxies implies sharing resources and relying on other users within your use group. This means the bandwidth might not be available to each individual user in full and the performance might be a little bit slower. If the pressure on the proxy server becomes too high, it can even become unresponsive leading to unsuccessful connections. Also, the actions of users within your pool might affect the rest of the group. If one person triggers IP blockage on a particular site, it will be blocked for the whole group. The less offensive activities, such as multiple simultaneous requests to the search engine from different users of shared proxies, might result in repetitive displays of captcha messages.

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Shared proxies are useful and affordable tools for some web activities, especially if you want to test drive proxies for the first time. However, be mindful of the potential issues associated with using such proxies. If you want to learn about more reliable proxies that lack above mentioned disadvantages, check out our blog on residential proxies.