Datacenter and residential proxies are both widely used to hide users’ real IP addresses and provide anonymity in various online activities like web scraping. Yet, both proxy types have crucial differences that impact the success of accessing websites.
In this article, we'll demystify the question of datacenter vs. residential proxies, and we'll break down the 13 key considerations you should keep in mind before buying a proxy service. Read on to learn about the different sources of IP addresses, costs, speeds, web scraping ability, IP variety, use cases, reliability, bandwidth, and much more. By the end, you’ll know whether to use datacenter or residential proxies for your specific case.
Defining the two proxy types
If you’re new to proxy servers, let’s begin by defining them first. A proxy server acts as an intermediary that isolates the user from the internet and routes all web requests through the proxy server. As a result, the user’s actual IP address is hidden, and the websites see the IP address of a proxy server.
What are datacenter proxies?
Datacenter proxies are associated with companies that own and operate data centers rather than an internet service provider (ISP). They provide you with a data center IP address that you can use to access websites without exposing your real IP address and geographic location. Here’s a simple illustration below which illustrates how do datacenter proxies work:
Datacenter proxies can come in two ways: shared or dedicated. Shared datacenter proxies are used by multiple users at the same time, while dedicated datacenter proxies entirely belong to one user only.
What are residential proxies?
Residential proxies are a network of real IP addresses assigned by internet service providers to residential households. The IP address can come from a multitude of devices such as desktops, laptops ar mobile devices. Such IP address source makes them perfect for automation tasks that require to bypass geo-location and enable high anonymity. Also, residential proxies help mimic real users significantly better than datacenter proxies, which makes them great for bypassing strict anti-proxy measures. Here’s a simple illustration below which illustrates how do residential proxies work:
Differences between residential and datacenter proxies
See this table to get a summarized view of the discussed differences between residential and datacenter proxies:
Let’s discuss each aspect in more detail.
1. Source of the IP address
Residential proxy IPs come from real devices that are connected to home internet networks, while datacenter IPs come from data centers, which can be either physical facilities with clusters of computer servers or cloud-based infrastructure. This is the main difference that makes residential proxies less detectable by websites when compared to datacenter proxies.
Every web request made on the internet provides information to the destination website, such as the IP address and its source. Residential IPs are provided to home networks by ISPs and are registered with geographic location and ISP information. Therefore, requests routed through a residential proxy server are indistinguishable from organic user requests. On the other hand, datacenter proxy IPs are owned by companies that aren’t related to ISPs; hence, websites see this information and can flag requests as suspicious.
Datacenter proxies typically cost less than residential proxies because they come from large data center facilities that are cheaper to maintain and are designed for cost-effectiveness. Compared to residential proxies, datacenter proxy providers don’t have to pay additional costs for persons and ISPs that provide the IP addresses, and the maintenance of hardware is also cheaper than residential proxies.
Residential proxies are significantly costlier due to the nature of how they’re sourced and their overall operational costs. These additional expenses, bundled with advanced capabilities like human-like requests and precise geo-location targeting, add up, making residential proxies more expensive than datacenter proxies.
3. Pricing structure
Dedicated datacenter proxies are commonly priced per amount of IP addresses you want to buy, while shared datacenter and residential proxies are generally priced per gigabytes of network traffic you want to use. This difference makes the pricing of dedicated datacenter proxies more straightforward and predictable, as users only have to calculate how many IPs they’ll need for their specific use cases.
Datacenter proxies are notably faster than residential proxies. While shared datacenter proxies are slower than dedicated as network resources are shared between multiple users, dedicated datacenter proxies offer the best speeds overall. This is due to the fact that data center facilities are usually built in well-connected areas and have fully dedicated resources specifically for proxy requests that surpass residential devices in performance. Therefore, they can process much more traffic. Moreover, there’s less network overhead, meaning there’s minimal network interference compared to residential proxies.
Residential proxies are slower because they’re sourced from residential internet networks that may be shared between multiple users in the household. Home networks also have different bandwidth limits, depending on the internet plan; thus, residential proxy speeds heavily rely on the available bandwidth of the specific home network. Now, residential proxies also must handle additional tasks in their processing chain, which adds additional network overhead as the data has to travel through the typically slower residential internet network.
5. Scraping ability
Datacenter proxies are great for scraping simple targets on a large scale, whereas residential proxies are best suited for scraping restricted websites. Restricted websites more often utilize geo-location restrictions or anti-crawler measures (sometimes even both) to prevent users or crawlers from accessing website resources.
Hence, residential proxies overcome these barriers naturally, while datacenter proxies can never imitate requests coming from ISP addresses. Thus, the scraping ability of datacenter proxies is poor when it comes to scraping websites that implement, at the very least, moderate anti-scraping measures.
6. Size of IP address pool
Residential proxies, most of the time, offer the largest pool of IP addresses compared to datacenter proxies. With residential proxies, users get access to the entire pool of IPs, ranging from a couple of million to a hundred million. Shared datacenter proxies are quite similar in that you can typically get access to the whole proxy pool, yet the available amount of IPs is significantly smaller.
In comparison, dedicated datacenter proxy pools are considerably more modest in size than residential pools, ranging from thousands to a couple of millions. However, it doesn’t matter, as users generally only get access to the amount of IPs they buy.
7. IP address range and variance
Residential proxies offer a dynamic and broad range of IP addresses with high variance, while datacenter proxies have a fixed and limited IP address range with minimal variance.
The diversity of residential proxies is due to their IPs coming from various internet service providers and being assigned to specific residential locations. Additionally, an internet service provider can allocate a dynamic IP to a home network, which changes with each connection to the network, adding even more variance to residential proxies.
When it comes to datacenter proxies, they usually have a limited IP range and variance, as IPs in data centers can be grouped in blocks and have a similar IP address format.
Higher IP address range and variance makes residential proxies even stronger for web scraping purposes, as client requests made by the proxy user are less likely to be from the same IP range - making them harder to detect.
In short, datacenter proxies prove to be effective for accessing content on websites that don’t immediately ban data center IP addresses, whereas residential proxies are the most effective for accessing websites that forbid requests from data center IPs.
While both proxy types have different use cases due to their speeds and ability to overcome anti-bot systems, some use cases can overlap:
- Datacenter proxies are great for scraping non-demanding websites, accessing geo-restricted content, performing SEO monitoring, price monitoring, as well as website and application testing.
- Residential proxies are the top choice for accessing content with precise geo-location targeting, ad verification, travel fare aggregation, e-commerce monitoring, SEO monitoring, and even cybersecurity.
Residential proxies are more reliable than datacenter proxies in scraping activities as requests routed through them are significantly less likely to receive blocks like CAPTCHAs, geo-restrictions, or IP address bans.
Datacenter proxies, on the other hand, are much easier to detect; thus, they aren’t so reliable for web scraping targets with complex anti-bot systems. Furthermore, the reliability of shared datacenter proxies can be compromised as IPs are shared between multiple users simultaneously. This can lead to situations where you attempt to access a website only to find that the IP address has already been blocked due to prior access by another user.
Nevertheless, implementing IP address rotation can enhance the reliability of both datacenter and residential proxies by making it considerably more challenging to trace requests back to a single user. Yet, again, datacenter proxies still fall behind residential proxies due to the source of their IP addresses.
Residential proxies offer the best overall anonymity compared to datacenter proxies. As mentioned, residential proxies come from real home networks, and websites see the requests originating from ISP addresses. As a result, anti-scraping systems perceive these web requests as coming from genuine users and don’t flag the IPs as suspicious. Additionally, precise geo-location information of residential proxies helps requests look more realistic and harder to trace to the proxy user.
While datacenter proxies hide your real IP address and location, they’re easier to detect as their web requests show the IP source of a data center. This information alone may get a datacenter proxy IP blocked. In addition, anti-bot systems can also compare incoming requests’ IP addresses and IP ranges against various databases of known bot networks, in the end blocking access to website resources if the IP address is found among these lists.
However, it’s very important to note that while proxy servers offer a level of anonymity, there are other factors at play that can trigger anti-scraping systems even when a residential proxy is used. Hence, proxy users must take care of various detection factors that can penetrate the anonymity of proxies, such as HTTP header monitoring, browser fingerprinting, HTTP/2 fingerprinting, and TLS fingerprinting.
11. Connection stability
Datacenter proxies offer a more stable connection when compared to residential proxies. As datacenter proxies have dedicated resources and are sourced from data centers with enterprise-grade networks, they have superior connection stability and low latency. This allows proxy connections to be consistent and predictable.
On the contrary, residential proxies may not have a stable connection, as they solely depend on users who provide the IPs to have their home networks connected to the proxy network. They can turn their connection off as they please, eventually disconnecting their IP address from the proxy network and making it unavailable. Therefore, residential proxies tend to have a less stable connection.
12. Amount of locations
Residential proxies offer more diverse geographic locations than datacenter proxies. This arises from the fact they’re sourced from residential networks; thus, residential IP addresses are scattered across various countries, states, and cities.
Datacenter proxies, however, have a limited amount of locations, as they come from data center facilities that are usually built in major, well-connected cities and most-demanded countries. Thus, it’s very unlikely that a data center would be built or used for proxying somewhere in a small country like Grenada, where demand for proxies is very low.
Hence, if you need a diverse selection of geo-locations, especially the ones that datacenter proxies don’t cover, then residential proxies are your best friend.
Datacenter proxies, by nature, have significantly higher bandwidth and speed than residential proxies. Therefore, users utilize datacenter proxies for traffic-intensive scraping tasks such as PDF or image scraping, that require the ability to transfer a lot of data with speed and stability. What’s more, is that datacenter proxy providers usually offer unlimited bandwidth. All these features allow datacenter proxy server users to scale their operations as needed without causing financial strain.
The bandwidth of residential proxies relies on the home network bandwidth from where the IP was sourced, which can vary. Additionally, residential proxy bandwidth and speed can be affected by how the home network users are using their own internet network resources. For instance, the bandwidth may decrease if there are a lot of devices connected to the home network or if the network user is doing resource-intensive activities. Thus, residential proxies may not match the bandwidth and speed of datacenter proxies.
Which one should you choose?
You should buy datacenter proxies if you need:
- Fast and stable high-bandwidth connections
- A moderate amount of available proxy locations
- Access websites that don’t readily block data center IPs
Datacenter proxies offer an advantage with their speed and cost-effectiveness when compared to residential proxies. Their capabilities make them an excellent choice for activities that are data-intensive and require accessing online resources that allow datacenter IPs. Learn more about datacenter proxies.
You should buy residential proxies if you need:
- Superior anonymity and reliability
- The ability to bypass complex anti-bot systems
- More proxy locations around the world
- Accurate geo-location targeting
Residential proxy servers make web requests look like they're coming from real residential homes, thus they’re more reliable when dealing with websites that use anti-scraping measures. Despite being more expensive, their advantages make residential proxies essential for accessing difficult websites worldwide. Learn more about residential proxies.
For a more detailed overview of each proxy type, see our posts where we delve deeper into what are datacenter proxies and how users utilize residential proxies to bypass restrictions.