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Using A Proxy For Business

If you have to handle corporate files while on the road or if you work remotely, it is likely that you have used a proxy and not even been aware of it.  Proxies are used by people all over the world and the most common form is a VPN.  A VPN or virtual private network provides you with the ability to work remotely and securely.  However, a lot of people do not know how this works and what all of the advantages are for not only remote workers but anyone who wants a bit more privacy. 
How Proxies Work
A simple explanation of a proxy is a point to point connection between a remote location on the internet and you.  If you are in a hotel in New York and you work for a company located in Austin, opening a VPN to your office will create a permanent connection between your computer and the VPN server at your corporate office.  This connection provides a tunnel that all your communication will pass through. 
This is the first quality of a VPN and one of the best known.  All of the traffic that you send through this tunnel will be encrypted from your locations to the VPN server.  The information will then be resent via internet to the wider internet.  This means that anyone who might be listening or trying to see the packets going from your system will only see static.  When using a VPN, they will not know which websites you visit because all of the information is encrypted.  This is a stronger security measure than the SSL because people will still be able to see headers and know the sites you visit with SSL.
While this is an important benefit offered by VPNs and other types of proxies, there are others that you should also know about.  All proxy providers from VPNs using PPTP to encapsulate your information packets to SSL proxies to Socks proxies and simple web gateways will have some features that are similar.  This is due to the fact that the basic principle is that the server will be relaying packets of data for you and removing the original address.  This means that the IP address attached to the packets will be the that of the proxy server and not your internet connection.  This also means that if you are connected to a proxy using the previous example, every site you go to will think that you are in Austin and not in New York. 
Of course, there are other reasons why people use a proxy.  One of these reasons is to access content which is region restricted.  An example of this will be someone in Canada wanting to see content from Hulu that is restricted to US users only.  These people will use a VPN to connect to a US-based server and bypass the restriction.  The same can be done if you are in the US and want to watch BBC content through the region-restricted iPlayer.  Connecting to a UK proxy server will allow you to access the content.
Criminals also use proxies often to hide their actual location.  They will chain proxy servers together to increase the difficulty of tracking their location.  However, proxies are used for a lot of other reasons than criminal enterprise and watching the latest episode of your favorite overseas show. 
A lot of people use proxies for the security they provide.  If you have a slow internet connection, using a proxy with a lot of bandwidth may help.  There are also malware threats on the internet which try to find unpatched systems and launch denial of service attacks.  When you use a proxy, this software will only be able to find the proxy and not your computer.  Security researchers also use proxies to infiltrate the online criminal underground because the last thing you want to do is provide them with your home address.
Proxies are able to provide a lot of services such as security and anonymity which can be very helpful for a lot of people.  If there are no corporate VPNs that you are able to connect to, there are a lot of services that will offer you an alternative.  There are a lot of popular services out there for you to choose from, check out this free proxy list.
When looking at these alternative services, you should consider one that has easy to use client software.  Being able to configure the proxy settings manually is something you might want to avoid because it can become complicated.  Most of these services will have a client interface that you download which does everything for you, keeps track of your connection status and allows you to set a few preferences.
The number of proxy servers should also be considered.  The more servers around the world will ensure that you are able to get the most from the service.  Of course, these services will not be free, but the costs will generally be worth the benefits that you get.
Proxies Will Need Trust
When you are using a proxy, there are some things that you need to keep in mind.  The first is that a proxy will provide you with anonymity and security, but the proxy will decode the traffic sent through it.  This means that the proxy is able to see everything that you are doing unless you have an SSL connection. 
This means that you need to trust the proxy.  There are a lot of people who use TOR which is a free network that is run by volunteers or they use private proxies.  The problem with this is that you do not know if you can trust these servers.  This could end up being worse than not using a proxy at all.  
A lot of popular services that base their business on offering proxy servers are better to use.  However, you should never think of using these services for criminal activities because they do generally state in their terms that they will cooperate with law enforcement.  This is due to the fact that the proxy is the only one who knows your real IP address.
It is also important to note that proxies will generally slow down your internet connection. You are transferring your data to another location before it goes out to the internet.  The speed offered by different proxy servers will vary and it is a good idea to test a few of them.
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