I'm sure most of my small select readership are well aware of how to use a proxy IP but after writing my last post, a less-technical friend asked for more details. So here you are, a quick 10-minute guide to using a proxy IP.
What is a Proxy IP?
There are computers that allow anyone to connect to the web through them, i.e. they can be used as a gateway to the internet. Some of these computers are deliberately left open or run as commercial services while others are left open by accident through poor server administration. The Proxy IP is the address of that computer.
Why Do We Need to Use Proxy IPs?
Several reasons. Maybe you are carrying out multilingual marketing and wish to test your website or PPC advertising from the perspective of visitors outside your country. You may even want to ensure that your material is not available, for example blocking poker advertising from US visitors due to current legislation. Sometimes you just want to test on an IP outside your local company network, to ensure the public have the experience you expect.
Where do we get a Proxy IP?
There are many sources for Proxy IPs, some free and some commercial. As with most things, you get what you pay for. If you need a reliable and safe Proxy IP then it maybe better to find a company who can sell you this service. Otherwise you can pick up a free one. My recommendation for free proxies is PublicProxyServers.com or Samair.ru, you can see a sample of their list below:
You can browse the available proxies by country to find the one you want. All proxies are listed in the following format: IP Address:Port Number. Using the first example above, 184.108.40.206 is the IP address and 8080 is the Port Number. Leave this window open and open a new window to enter the details into Firefox.
How to Use The Proxy in Firefox?
In Firefox go to Tools > Options and then click the Advanced tab.
Under the Network tab, in the Connection section, click the Settings button.
Make a note somewhere of your current settings. We'll want to be able to change these back once we finish using the proxy.
Click the option for Manual proxy configuration. In the box HTTP Proxy enter our Proxy IP address we noted earlier and put the Port Number next to it. Click OK and return to your browser.
Testing the Proxy
Sometimes a listed Proxy IP does not work. It may have been closed or the computer is currently unavailable. This is the disadvantage in using free proxies. If you can't get any page or the connection seems too slow, repeat the steps with a new Proxy IP address until it works.
Once you can get any page to load, visit whatismyipaddress.com and see if your IP and location has changed. This is how other websites will now view you while browsing the internet through this other computer.
Important Warning: Please Read.
You must be aware of one key point when using a Proxy IP. All data that you send and receive can be intercepted by that computer and stored. Blackhat Hackers (Crackers) have been known to set up proxy servers simply to catch sensitive details and passwords from users. So remember the following two rules:
1. Never enter important passwords, credit card details or visit your online banking while connected to a proxy. Keep in mind that someone can be watching your traffic.
2. Always change back to your default connection when you have finished your session. It's easy to forget you're connected through a proxy. Simply reverse the steps above.
Of course paid proxy services from reputable companies will offer a greater level of security but always be aware of these issues when connecting through any proxy.
Got to grips with the basics? Download the FoxyProxy plugin for Firefox. This plugin will manage all your favourite Proxy IPs and lets you switch between them from your toolbar. You can categorise your proxies by geographic location, performance or online identity. It even provides automatic proxy switching, based on URL rules or time intervals.
** 27 Jan 2007 by Ingorrr one of the artists who make their work under a Creative Commons license at Flickr - thank you!
Update: Much to my surprise this post got nominated for a SEMMY award. I'm honored to be included in the company of Sebastian, Aaron and Vanessa. My own education in this industry has been made possible by the articles that others took the time to donate and it's a great feeling to be able to give something back.
The winner is determined by public votes so if you found this post useful then vote here (no registration required). Thanks.