What NOT to do
As tempting as it is to go for free proxy servers, these can often be the worst option for you. Have you ever heard the phrase:
If you’re not the customer, you’re the product
What this means is that you might think you’re getting something for free, but you’re giving something. It’s just not money. Often this is permission to use your IP address and bandwidth for purposes entirely unknown for you.
It’s also possible that the proxy server provider can view your traffic. You may think that you’re safe using a proxy server, but you could be giving away your data to someone who may have malicious intent.
Free proxy servers, viruses and malware
You might have to download software to use the servers too. Alarm bells should ring now as the software may contain malware or viruses which could be disastrous for you. You should never, ever download software unless you’re sure that it’s safe to use.
Be careful as the software could seem fairly innocuous, like presenting ads. Clicking on these ads generates revenue for the provider so they can offer the servers free of charge. Downloading the software can be very risky as these ads may also contain viruses and malware injected by a malicious third-party. It’s often the case that the proxy server provider doesn’t know those ads contain malware either. By the time they find out the virus may have infected many, many computers.
Free proxy servers tend to be low quality
There’s also the question of quality. With a free proxy server provider, you have no way of knowing how well configured software behind a proxy server is. The history of the server may also be unknown to you, or how many others are using the server at the same time as you.
Why does quality matter?
- Poorly configured serves might allow your information to bleed through, which means a loss of privacy.
- A server’s history matters. It may have been abused previously and is now blocked by many sites or even blacklisted.
- A large number of other customers using the server at the same time could result in impaired performance.
- Many simultaneous users mean a higher chance of others targeting the same site, which can also lead to blocks.
What to look for in a reliable provider
Many of the positive signs are the same that you would find from any digital service provider or retailer.
- Good reviews on other legitimate sites.
- ‘About us’ and ‘Contact’ pages are easy to find.
- Pricing is transparent.
- Their website is of good quality, including spelling and grammar.
- The website uses SSL (padlock symbol to the left of the URL).
Warning signs to look out for
As with any purchase from a web site, you do need to use your common sense. Listen to your instincts too!
Some of the signs of a poor quality provider are:
- A poorly built web site. Look out for errors in spelling and grammar.
- No reviews from verifiable, trustworthy sources.
- Lack of any technical guides or customer support.
- Payment is offered only by via bank transfer or cryptocurrency.
If you’re unsure about a provider, you can always ask them a few questions. Vague responses or an unprofessional attitude should tell you to move on. You can also ask if they can provide a few servers for you to test out before making any commitment.
With proxy server providers, it’s always best to err on the side of caution. There are plenty of genuine, professional providers out there who will be happy to advise and guide you towards achieving your goals.