What Are Shared Proxies and When to Use Them?
Shared proxies make a great choice for changing your IP and location on the cheap. But they might not work for all tasks. This article will teach you more about shared proxy servers and what you can expect from them.
What Are Shared Proxies?
Shared proxies are middlemen IP addresses that multiple users control at the same time. For example, two people can use a shared proxy server to access Google, the third Amazon, and so on. These IPs are great for simple tasks, but they often struggle with popular websites.
When people talk about shared proxies, they usually mean datacenter addresses – IPs held by cloud hosting companies. Residential and mobile IPs are technically shared as well, but they go by different names. Besides, for many people “shared” equals “cheap”, and it’s something residential and mobile proxies are not.
Their Use Cases
Shared proxies work well enough for most tasks, as long as the website you’re accessing isn’t very popular or protected. In general, they’re good for:
- Hiding your IP. Shared IP addresses can be used for security reasons, to stay anonymous on the web. They replace your IP address with a new one, which many websites use to identify your device.
- Unblocking geo-restricted content. You can get shared IP addresses in various countries around the world. This lets you access content that’s limited to those locations, whether it’s movies, news, or pricing information.
- Torrenting. We’re big believers in respecting authors by paying for content. But, obviously, not everyone is. Shared proxies work great for torrenting, and no one will be able to track your IP.
- Web scraping. If you’re not planning to scrape on a big scale, or the websites you’re targeting aren’t very well protected, shared proxies might be a good option. They’ll let your web scraping tools avoid rate limiting and blocks caused by making too many connections from the same IP.
Which websites can you realistically expect to access with shared proxies? A lot depends on their prior usage history and your current neighbors. You most likely won’t have a good experience with sneaker sites, social networks, or search engines like Google: your success rate will be low and you’ll experience many CAPTCHAs. But your mileage might vary.
Shared Proxy Types
Shared proxies come in two formats. One is a list of IP address, the other – a backconnect gateway server. Here’s how they differ.
Shared Proxy List
A shared proxy list is exactly how it sounds: you receive a list of IP addresses in a text document, which you can use however you like. That’s it. These IPs don’t rotate, and they have no fancy settings where you can modify the port number to change the location or rotation interval.
Shared proxy lists work well when you don’t want your IP address to change: for example, when you’re gaming. But they’re less ideal for tasks like web scraping. When you use this format, you usually pay per IP address.
Shared Rotating Proxies
Shared rotating proxies give you something called a backconnect gateway server, for example: en.proxyprovider.net:10000. It connects you to the provider’s proxy pool and automatically assigns you an IP address. After some time – this can range from every connection request to 30 minutes or more – the gateway server gives you a new IP address from the pool. Rinse and repeat.
Shared rotating proxies are simpler to manage than proxy lists if you need proxy rotation. With this format, you usually pay for the traffic you use.
The Pros & Cons of Using Shared Proxies
- Price. The biggest benefit of using shared proxies is their price. This is the cheapest type of proxies available, mainly because you have other people to shoulder the cost. For example, if you’re web scraping, access to shared datacenter proxies will cost 10-20 times cheaper per gigabyte compared to residential IPs.
- Anonymity. A shared proxy server will give you most of the same benefits as a dedicated one: it’ll change your IP address and location. Shared rotating proxies will give you even more anonymity by constantly switching your IP address.
- Lower speed. Even if you get IPs on a 1 Gbps line, you’ll have to share this bandwidth with others. This will hurt the speed. In extreme cases, it might cause bandwidth overload. Still, shared datacenter proxies will most likely be faster than residential IPs.
- The “bad neighbor” effect. It refers to when someone has abused a proxy and its IP gets banned from sites you might want to target. This is a significant risk with shared proxies. Even if the proxy is not banned, its prior use history on a specific website might lead you to experience more CAPTCHAs and other protection mechanisms.
Comparing Shared Datacenter Proxies with Other Types
You might want to know how shared proxies fare against other proxy IP types.
Shared Proxies vs Dedicated Proxies
Dedicated proxies are datacenter addresses optimized for particular tasks: sneakers, ticket scalping, or social media. So, you can expect them to work better for those tasks. Dedicated proxies usually have one owner, which brings further performance improvements. Naturally, they cost several times more.
Shared Proxies vs Semi Dedicated Proxies
Semi-dedicated proxies are shared among two to three people; a shared proxy can have many owners. There’s no clear-cut difference here – it depends on how a proxy provider decides to market its services. Recently, the term “semi-dedicated proxies” has been going out of fashion.
Shared Proxies vs Private Proxies
Private proxies have only one owner at a time, which is their biggest difference compared to shared proxies. They have a better performance and speed, as you don’t have to share the same IP address. Private proxies are 2-4 times more expensive, and they often come in the form of IP lists.
When Does It Make Sense to Choose Shared IPs?
In general, shared proxies are worth it when:
- You are just starting out with web scraping and just need the tech to experiment. Due to their low price, shared IPs are a great gateway tool for learning the ropes.
- You don’t have the funds to invest in a dedicated proxy. Let’s face it – dedicated proxies are expensive. Sometimes, you might find it worthier to have worse performance and more IPs than fewer IPs or nothing at all. Just remember that shared datacenter proxies won’t work for use cases like sneaker scalping or social media automation.
- The websites you wish to target are relatively unknown. Not every website has the security level of Google. If you work smart and manage to find clean IPs, shared proxies will let you scrape many websites with few issues.
Picking a Shared Proxy Provider
If you’ve decided you need a shared proxy server, consider looking at our page of the best shared proxies. It lists a number of great providers which we’ve extensively tested and used over the years.