The Complete Guide to Datacenter Proxies

Jan 9, 2024 · 10 min read

Datacenter proxies allow you to access the internet with complete anonymity. I’ve worked with these invisible gateways for over 5 years across various web scraping and data collection projects - so I’m going to download all that proxy knowledge here!

We’ll start from the basics, move to real-world applications and even dig into some advanced configurations. By the end, you’ll have ninja-level skills to wield datacenter proxies to your advantage. Cowabunga, let’s get started!

What Exactly is a Datacenter Proxy?

Let me explain proxies by relating them to something we use daily - mailboxes.

When you order items online, does the delivery guy bring packages directly to your apartment door? Nope - they go to your mailbox first, which acts as an intermediary drop-point between the sender and receiver.

Similarly, a proxy server sits in between you and a website you’re accessing, acting as an go-between for requests and responses.

Your computer connects to the proxy, which then fetches data from sites on your behalf. This prevents websites from seeing your real IP address. Instead, they only see the proxy IP which masks your digital identity!

Peeking Under the Hood

There are two common proxy architectures - forward and reverse proxies. Let me unpack how they differ:

Forward Proxies

These middlemen act on behalf of the client, like you and me, accessing sites:

Our devices connect to the forward proxy which then fetches web content for us. Websites remain unaware of our original IP address or geographic location, enhancing privacy.

Forward proxies also easily allow multiple clients to channel requests through a single proxy, sharing resources efficiently. More on this later!

Reverse Proxies

These proxies sit in front of web servers, receiving requests meant for the server:

Some common reverse proxy use cases:

  • Load balancing - Distributes client traffic evenly across multiple servers
  • Caching - Serves frequently accessed static content directly from the proxy’s cache to improve speed
  • Security - Adds a protective layer hiding origin servers behind the proxy
  • Now that you know about proxy orientations, let's turn our attention to proxy hosting environments.

    Where Do Datacenter Proxies Live?

    As the name suggests, datacenter proxies originate from large centralized computation facilities or server farms rather than ISPs.

    These infrastructure hubs allow proxies to provide stable, high-bandwidth connectivity - ideal for data-heavy operations.

    Many cloud providers like AWS and DigitalOcean now offer proxy hosting with flexible scaling and global availability zones. proxify(AWS) and ProxyRack(DigitalOcean) are two well-known datacenter proxy services.

    Of course, you can also directly lease dedicated proxy servers from datacenters like Hurricane Electric, Equinix and Flexential. The IP will remain fully under your control.

    Unmasking the Power of Datacenter Proxies

    Datacenter proxies excel in a wide range of web scraping, data aggregation and market research applications.

    Let me walk you through some common use cases I’ve built solutions around in the past:

    Accessing Geo-Restricted Content

    Websites like BBC, Hulu and Pandora restrict media content access to certain geographical locations.

    However, datacenter proxies can easily bypass these constraints. By routing your traffic through proxies situated in eligible regions, you can successfully view the full catalog!

    Here’s a Python snippet that connects via a UK-based proxy to scraper BBC iPlayer:

    import requests
    
    PROXY_HOST = 'uk-proxy.myprovider.com'
    PROXY_PORT = 8000
    
    proxies = {
      'http': 'http://%s:%s' % (PROXY_HOST, PROXY_PORT),
      'https': 'https://%s:%s' % (PROXY_HOST, PROXY_PORT)
    }
    
    response = requests.get('<https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer>', proxies=proxies)
    print(response.status_code)
    # 200 OK! Site thinks request is from UK :)
    

    See, BBC's servers now assume the client is based in Britain rather than halfway across the globe!

    Competitive Price Monitoring

    Ecommerce stores can track pricing data of rival online businesses selling similar products. This competitive intelligence helps adapt your own pricing strategy.

    However, sites naturally don't want competitors constantly polling their product catalogs. So they implement scraping countermeasures like IP blocks and CAPTCHAs.

    However, implementing robust IP cycling data scrapers introduces overhead. Instead my SaaS service Proxies API handles auto IP and user-agent rotation behind a simple API. Just pass the target URL and Proxies API fetches rendered pages through its pool of 10M residential proxies, solving captchas and dealing with blocks automatically!

    Gathering Public Social Media Data

    Datacenter proxies also facilitate aggregating trends, sentiments and conversations from public-facing social media platforms like Twitter, Reddit and YouTube.

    However, many restrict usage of their API services these days. So directly tapping their feeds hits rate limits pretty fast.

    Scraping the front-end content becomes more effective here. Tools like Selenium and scrapy work well shielded behind datacenter proxies for evading platform blocks.

    I once used over 2000 datacenter IPs to scrape 1 million YouTube comments for an NLP research project!

    The proxies proved vital to distribute the data gathering load without triggering red flags for unusually high traffic. We managed to acquire all the content in less than 2 days!

    Acquiring Your Own Datacenter Proxies

    Alright, so now that you’ve seen proxies in action across real-world use cases, let’s get into the nuts and bolts of procuring your very own!

    There’s a thriving marketplace today with dozens of commercial datacenter proxy providers. Based on extensive trial and error, I’ve filtered down these top services:

    1. Bright Data

  • Over 40M residential IPs + 40K datacenter IPs across 195 locations
  • Free browser extensions for basic testing
  • Plans start at $500/month for 15GB traffic
  • 2. Oxylabs

  • 2M+ datacenter IPs worldwide
  • SOCKS5 proxy support
  • $1.5 per proxy monthly, $500 minimum
  • 3. Smartproxy

  • 100K datacenter IPs in 190+ countries
  • 7 day free trial
  • $0.7 per GB, $7 minimum
  • I’ve had excellent results combining Bright Data’s residential IPs and Oxylabs datacenter proxies for heavy lifting. Smartproxy also offers a generous trial if you’re just exploring.

    Let’s now get hands-on with setting up and running proxies smoothly.

    Configuring Datacenter Proxies

    Once you create an account with your chosen provider, you’ll receive server access credentials - the hostname, port, username and password.

    These parameters simply need integrating into your programming scripts, browser settings or scraper tools.

    For example, here is a Python scraper configuring Bright Data proxies:

    PROXY_HOST = 'proxy.brightdata.com'
    PROXY_PORT = 22225
    PROXY_USER = 'user'
    PROXY_PASS = 'pass'
    
    proxy_url = 'http://%s:%s@%s:%s' % (PROXY_USER, PROXY_PASS, PROXY_HOST, PROXY_PORT)
    
    proxies = {'https': proxy_url}
    requests.get('<https://api.brightdata.com/ip>', proxies=proxies)
    

    And this cURL command routes through Oxylabs datacenter IPs:

    curl -x socks5://customer:password@proxy-server.oxylabs.io:8080 <https://ipinfo.io>
    

    See this post for more detailed proxy configuration walkthroughs across languages and platforms.

    Now let’s move on to advanced considerations when optimizing proxy usage.

    Choosing Proxies for Your Use Case

    Not all datacenter proxies are created equal. Based on your application, certain types will work better than others.

    1. Shared vs. Dedicated Proxies

    As the names suggest:

  • Shared - Single proxy IP used concurrently by multiple clients
  • Dedicated - Exclusive proxy allocated just for you
  • Naturally dedicated proxies deliver more speed, stability and privacy. But shared plans allow accessing large 15,000+ IP pools cost-effectively.

    For large-scale data extraction involving thousands of concurrent requests, I prefer dedicated proxies or residential IP rotation.

    However if you’re just testing or gathering moderate data, shared proxies work great to minimize costs.

    2. HTTP/SOCKS Proxies

    These denote the protocol your traffic uses between your device and the proxies:

  • HTTP - Normal unencrypted web traffic
  • SOCKS - Encrypted protocol providing added security
  • I’ve found SOCKS proxies really effective when dealing with advanced firewalls. The encryption lets them fly under the radar compared to HTTP proxies.

    3. Rotating vs. Static Proxies

  • Rotating proxies provide a new random IP for each fresh web session
  • Static proxies retain a fixed IP across your scraping activity
  • Rotating is generally preferable to reduce the chance of your sessions getting linked and blocked altogether.

    However certain sites implement advanced fingerprinting and bot detection. For those, static residential IPs work better to mimic organic users.

    Based on the nuances around continuity versus randomness, assess your target site protections to pick correctly here!

    Maximizing Your Proxy Game 💪

    Finally, I want to leave you with some pro tips to really master datacenter proxies:

    Chain Multiple Providers

    Blending proxies from two separate providers minimizes IP space overlap. This reduces the chance of common IP blocks tripping your scrapers.

    I chain Bright Data and Oxylabs all the time to smash through complex target sites!

    Automate IP Cycling

    Rather than manually changing IPs, automatically rotate them programmatically after each request or browser session.

    Tip - scrape through a different proxy for every product SKU to maximize success rates!

    Persist Sessions

    For certain data gathering workflows, you may want to persist websites sessions across IP rotation rather than losing your history and cookies.

    Provider tools like Bright Data’s Proxy Manager CLI have session containers to achieve this persistence easily!

    Cache Common Responses

    Proxies themselves cache frequently accessed content like CSS, JS and images for speed. You can take this further by caching scraping logic outputs in your own databases.

    I use Redis to bypass redundant computations and accelerate overall extraction pipelines.

    So there you have it - everything you ever wanted to grasp about datacenter proxies! Armed with this guide, you can now wield proxies like a Samurai 🗡 to accomplish all your data aspirations.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    How do datacenter proxies compare to residential or ISP proxies?

    Residential IPs originate from home broadband connections whereas ISPs directly allocate IPs to users.

    Both proxy types are tougher for websites to detect versus datacenter IPs. However datacenter proxies provide better uptime and control for automation.

    So assess whether mimicking organic users or maximizing scale matters more for your use case!

    Are datacenter proxies legal to use?

    Datacenter proxies themselves are perfectly legal with a wide range of legitimate applications like price monitoring, ad analytics and market research.

    However certain website terms prohibit scraping or data aggregation activities. So just ensure your usage respects sites' permissions.

    I advise having an experienced lawyer review your exact proxy workflows if concerned. Generally the law sides more with data aggregators rather than restrictive websites!

    Why do my proxies sometimes not work for certain sites?

    Rather than debugging proxy configurations, services like our own Proxies API (https://proxiesapi.com) work right out the box! It handles user-agent rotation, advanced fingerprint cloaking, captcha solving and dynamic IP cycling across its millions of residential IPs for any site.

    Can I use datacenter proxies on mobile apps?

    Absolutely! Once you have mobile proxy IPs, they can be configured within SDKs like this:

    // Java code for Android apps
    
    HttpClient client = new DefaultHttpClient();
    HttpHost proxy = new HttpHost("104.42.32.178", 8080);
    client.getParams().setParameter(ConnRouteParams.DEFAULT_PROXY, proxy);
    

    Just ensure your provider has geo-distributed proxies on both mobile and wi-fi networks for optimal performance.

    So get integrating and happy (anonymous) app testing!

    While datacenter proxies provide a solid foundation, handling the many complexities of stable large-scale scraping manually becomes tedious.

    Our SaaS platform Proxies API (https://proxiesapi.com) takes care of that hassle! It provides simple APIs to fetch rendered web pages behind the scenes through automatically rotating millions of residential IPs pooled globally.

    So you can focus directly on data extraction rather than proxy configuration and rotation workflows. Sign up today to get 1000 free API calls! Just focus all energy directly on building your parsers and scrapers at scale sans any blocks or captchas!

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