| A Little Drool |
First of all, the basics. What's a proxy, and why do you care?
A proxy is a piece of software that supports sending and receiving data on behalf of another application. It's an intermediate layer on your network that receives requests from within the networks, forwards them to the appropriate host, reads the response, and sends the response back to the requesting host or application within the network.
By functioning as a gateway to the public Internet, a proxy makes for more secure networks, and also allows multiple hosts on a network to share a single public IP address. So, if you have an office network consisting of multiple workstations, but only a single Internet connection, you can use a proxy to provide Internet access to all the workstations using the single IP address and single connection.
Since a proxy effectively carries the weight of serving all Internet traffic for a network, it can also be used to do a couple of other things. The first (and most interesting) is that it can substantially speed up your Internet activity by caching, or locally saving, copies of frequently-accessed Web pages, and using these cached copies to serve client requests. This reduces latency, cuts down on Internet connectivity charges, and results in a more positive user experience - all usually considered good things.
A proxy can also be used to monitor Internet traffic flowing in and out of a network, logging all requests in order to gain a better understanding of how the Internet is being used; this data can be very useful, especially in corporate environments. And in the event that the data analysis reveals that most of the employees are goofing off, wasting time and Internet packets on online comic strips or mind-numbing MUDs, a proxy can even be configured to block access to certain sites, or block certain workstations for accessing the Web.
If you're a network administrator, the thought of all this power probably has you drooling. Wipe it up, and let's get started.
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