If you’re new to the Virtual Private Network (VPN) world, you might well be unaware of what a residential proxy is, let alone why you might consider buying one. Residential proxies are used in conjunction with a VPN. They are Internet Protocol (IP) addresses that are connected to the internet via a regular Internet Service Provider (ISP) as opposed to an IP address that originates from a vast data center such as the Microsoft Azure Cloud infrastructure.
But why would a business want to buy a residential proxy when faster and perhaps more secure servers are available through commercial channels? The answer is simple, so that a business can’t be identified from its IP address as a commercial venture. Because residential proxies are IP addresses provided by ISP providers, say for example Verizon, they are associated with private homes.
The fact that an IP address indicates that the visitor to the internet from that address is a domestic user in a residential street makes certain online business intelligence activities less traceable and therefore less liable to be blocked by the target website.
Scraping the bottom of the barrel?
For example, the practice of web scraping is discouraged and indeed blocked by many websites as they see it as a violation of their terms of service. However, web scraping is a very useful tool to extract vital data from social media and news articles, together with gaining pricing information from a business’s competitor websites.
The scraping activity is often done by a code-driven bot, usually written in Python computer code, or indeed scrapers can be simply installed by companies as browser extensions. Many websites are guarded by software that detects data center originating IPs and blocks the visitor, but when a business buys a residential proxy, it circumvents that potential blockage.
Proxy plus points
There are other advantages to using residential proxies for a business, such as avoiding geographical web content restrictions. Home users of VPNs tend to use this geographical content restriction avoidance technique to avoid detection when visiting certain websites, or to access cheaper streaming services, either from Android devices, iPhones, tablets or laptops. Appearing to be based via an IP address in another country from your actual location can reap rewards.
For example, it costs a whole lot less to access Netflix as a subscriber based in India than it does in the US, so home VPN users often employ the cloaking advantages of VPNs to watch content usually unavailable to them. Another example is the ability to watch the BBC’s UK flagship streaming service the iPlayer – only available to license holders in the UK, but a VPN user in the US could fool the iPlayer into thinking the visitor is based in Great Britain.
However, businesses don’t use the geo-cloaking facility of a residential proxy via a VPN to watch TV! Instead, they can test the efficiency of geographically targeted website advertising or the results of geo-targeted Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
It might be that a website offering flights or hotel rooms uses dynamic pricing to serve different areas of a country with differing prices, dependent upon the perceived wealth concentration in that given area. It’s morally questionable, but there is a theory that websites offering hotel rooms will display a higher price for an identical room to a business based in NY City than to a mom-and-pop store in Oklahoma. Using a residential proxy can allow the dynamic pricing facility to be tested by the offering website.
What to watch for When Your Business Buys A Residential Proxy
Having established the clear advantageous features and benefits of a residential proxy, what are the criteria to examine before a business might purchase one or more of them?
Dependent upon the length of subscription and the number of proxies required, a residential proxy can cost anything from $10 to around $35 monthly, but some companies buy many proxies and have them ‘rotating’, so that they are chosen at random from a pool of purchased IP addresses, making detection of web scraping and efficiency testing of SEO even more secure.
Rotating residential proxies can extend into thousands of dollars per month and tend to be used by bigger companies using the internet as their primary revenue generation model.
The server provided by the ISP should carry an adequate level of encryption to ensure that the originating business behind it can’t be traced or identified. Also, encryption prevents hackers from attempting to install malware or spyware through email attacks and the like.
There’s nothing so sure as to get penalized by Google as a slow loading website. Equally, it’s just as important to be able to access target websites from the residential proxy, as when web scraping and SEO testing, time is money. A cheap proxy with limited data traffic handling capabilities can be worse than useless, so agreed speed and capacity levels should be checked before any purchase is made.
It’s one thing losing your home internet when you’re trying to Zoom call the kids or watch the latest episode of American Idol; but another thing entirely when your business processes grind to a halt due to unreliable proxy servers. Again, a minimum uptime is essential, as is instant redundancy switchover to backup servers if the primary IP should go offline.
Money well spent
In summary, it’s well worth a business of any size obtaining a residential proxy; for the small business hackers tend to leave you unnoticed, for larger data-driven businesses, the extra facilities outlined above make an investment in worthwhile technology.
The most important thing is that a business sources a quality product with adequate security, uptime and speed. After all, there’s nothing worse than using a poxy proxy!
Also read: What is the Difference Between Firewall and Proxy?