In this article, you will learn about rotating proxies and how proxy rotation can boost various business and personal projects. Additionally, we will cover the pros and cons of rotating proxies and what alternative solutions are available.
What is a rotating proxy?
A rotating proxy is a kind of proxy server that periodically or with each new connection request changes the IP addresses it assigns to hide its user’s actual IP. Proxy rotation usually happens automatically, without additional input from the user.
Rotating proxies are distinguished from static proxies, which give you a single static IP address to hide yours. When connecting to a static proxy server, your entire session and every request to the target website will depend on this proxy IP address not getting blocked.
Meanwhile, when you are using rotating proxies, you will keep being assigned new IP addresses for as long as it takes or every time your device makes a request to the end server. Proxy rotation adds another layer of online anonymity and security and makes it harder for web servers to track and block users.
Buying rotating proxies is usually as easy as buying other proxy types. They come at a higher cost but provide a wide range of benefits for web scraping and other web automation tasks.
How are rotating proxies used in business?
There are many use cases for rotating proxies both in business and for personal practices. Business usage is often related to the need to collect data on a scale. In order to fulfill this need, businesses utilize web scraping – the process of automatically extracting large amounts of data from websites. Software tools known as web scrapers are used for this procedure.
Web scraping is used for such standard business practices as competitive and product research. These business practices often include data gathering for ecommerce purposes like price monitoring and revenue optimization at scale. Financial businesses and investors businesses may use rotating proxies and web scraping to gather and parse financial data at scale from all around the world. Rotating proxies are also essential for SEO related scraping, when trying to scrape and analyse on-site SEO at scale.
Rotating proxies are perfect for wholesale web data extraction. Since the web scraper needs to make multiple requests to the target website in order to collect all the data it is at risk of being blocked.
Proxy rotation can also be used for personal web scraping projects. With increasing access to no-code web scraping tools, anyone can utilize web scraping to answer questions that interest them.
Private users also utilize rotating proxies to avoid IP blocks when accessing geo-restricted content. For both business and private users rotating proxies help to avoid CAPTCHAS that websites use to throttle traffic.
What are the types of rotating proxies?
The two main types of rotating proxies for desktop users are rotating residential proxies and rotating datacenter proxies. Additionally, rotating mobile proxies are available although not as popular in private and business use.
Rotating residential proxies
Rotating residential proxies are rotating proxies that use residential IP addresses to hide yours. A residential proxy server is one that is assigned to a device in an actual residence of a lay internet user. If you are curious, you may learn more about what are residential proxies by clicking on the blue link.
As residential IPs are given by the Internet Service Provider (ISP) to real residences, end-servers cannot tell that you are using a proxy. Thus, it is easier to mimic normal internet traffic with residential proxies.
Residential IP rotation adds another layer of security and anonymity. This way not only that the website cannot tell that a proxy is used, but it appears to it as though many different residential internet users are connecting instead of one user agent.
As with all rotating proxies, rotating residential proxies can rotate IPs either periodically or with each new connection request.
Rotating datacenter proxies
As opposed to residential proxies, datacenter proxies are not affiliated with the ISP. The effect this has is that websites can tell that you are using a datacenter proxy, as the IP address given to you will not be listed as an ISP-provided IP. If you are curious, you may learn more about what are datacenter proxies by clicking on the blue link.
Rotating datacenter proxies come from private data centers all over the world. The IP address is assigned by the third-party cloud service provider.
In some cases, websites can blacklist all datacenter proxy IPs, thus making you unable to use them. However, rotating datacenter proxies are usually faster than residential proxies. Additionally, rotating datacenter proxies are often cheaper.
Since using a rotating proxy service requires buying multiple IP addresses, the lower price of rotating datacenter proxies makes them more available to many users.
Rotating mobile proxies
Rotating mobile proxies are those that assign you an IP of a mobile device, such as a cell phone or tablet. These types of proxies give the most anonymity as they are almost impossible to detect.
However, mobile proxies are also more expensive. And since rotating mobile proxies need multiple mobile IP addresses to rotate proxies, the price goes up even higher. Mobile proxies can also be slower if the user sharing the network is using mobile data instead of a Wi-Fi connection. Due to these reasons, mobile proxies are rarely used. Especially since for most business and private use cases related to web scraping, rotating datacenter and residential proxies provide all the anonymity needed while being cheaper and faster.
How to use rotating proxies?
In order to use a rotating proxy, first you need a proxy service provider. You can find free proxy lists online, that you could make use of. Alternatively, you can try Webshare's proxies free of charge when using up to 10 proxies. Rotating the 10 proxies is included free of charge and you may easily setup the rotatong using the rotating proxy endpoint.
However, there are multiple reasons to avoid using proxies from an online free proxy list. Firstly, you cannot trust the provider. You cannot be sure if the free proxies have not been acquired illegally which could put the end user - yourself - at legal risk. Additionally, free proxy lists might be a trick to lure you into sharing your data or downloading malware.
Secondly, even if free proxies are legitimate, as they are on a public proxy list, they are available to anyone. Thus, it is likely that many users connect to a single proxy server, slowing down the speed of connection or disconnecting one another. Also, this makes publicly available free proxies much worse for web scraping tasks as these IPs are the easiest to track down for anti-scraping tools employed by websites.
Thirdly, nothing is really free, the proxy list providers are making their money somehow most likely. Thus, a legitimate proxy might be filled with commercials, distorting both speed and user experience.
For all these reasons, it is much more recommended to find a reputable rotating proxy service provider. If you want to try free proxy services first, professional rotating proxy service providers are still the way to go. Such providers will often offer either free trial or freemium proxy services.
After you have chosen your rotating proxy service provider, in order to use automatic proxy rotation for web scraping, you will need to configure them in the programming language you use.
Below are configuration examples for using Webshare’s rotating proxy endpoint service, which allows to automate proxy rotation. With it, you can avoid the headaches of setting up rotating proxies manually. You can also find these examples after creating a free account on Webshare.
cURL example configuration
Python example configuration
Java example configuration
You can access other popular configuration setups for C#, Node.js, PHP, Ruby and VB by registering on Webshare and going to the setup help section on your proxy setup dashboard.
Pros and cons of using rotating proxies
Just like everything else, using rotating proxies has its advantages and disadvantages. Both static and rotating proxies have use cases at which they are the better choice.
Pros of rotating proxies
These are the 6 main pros of using rotating proxies:
- Ease-of-use. As shown in the examples above, rotating proxies are very easy to configure with different programming languages. This makes web scraping with rotating proxies simple and effective.
- Higher immunity to IP bans. Rotating proxy servers do not make many requests from one IP. Thus, it is less likely to get an IP ban. Even if some proxy IPs do get banned, due to the automatic IP rotation process it is not a big problem.
- Diverse proxy pools. Best proxy service providers like Webshare have many different proxy IP addresses. Thus you can rotate the user agent’s IP address with proxy IPs from all over the world.
- Highly scalable. Another benefit of using professional rotating proxy services is that you can scale up and down the number of proxies you need depending on the project. Proxy providers will allow you to adapt the IP address pool you use and only pay for what you need.
- More secure and anonymous. Rotating proxies provide more security and anonymity than using static IPs. By constantly changing the IP address you use, a rotating proxy server makes you more secure from malware attacks and being tracked.
- Bypassing CAPTCHAS. Rotating proxies are great for bypassing CAPTCHAS and accessing well-protected websites.
Cons of rotating proxies
These are the 3 main cons of using rotating proxies:
- They are slower than static proxies. Due to proxy rotation, internet connection might be slower than that of static proxies.
- Unsuitable for sticky sessions. Sometimes you might need a sticky session, meaning the kind of session where your IP address does not change. For example, you might need it for managing a social media account with a proxy or you're running automated tests to inspect how your application handles a longer, more detailed session of a single user. IP address rotation in this case would not benefit you. For such sticky sessions, you need static, in other words, sticky proxies.
- They are often more expensive. Since to use a rotating proxy server you will need more IP addresses, it is likely that you will also have to pay more than for one static proxy IP.
Alternatives to using rotating proxies
Depending on the use cases at hand, you might prefer using some alternative solutions to rotating proxies. We have already covered static proxies, which are best used when you need a sticky session.
Alternatively, you might want to have a proxy rotator as an add-on in order to expand your options. A proxy rotator is an additional tool to use to rotate between otherwise static IP addresses.
Automatic proxy rotation might become an issue when it is impossible to turn it off. However, if you use a static proxy server with a proxy rotator as an additional tool, you can cover the whole range of use cases. Of course, such a dual service is also more expensive.
Another alternative to using rotating or static proxies is a virtual private network (VPN). VPN services also hide your IP address and encrypt your traffic, thus allowing you to stay secure and anonymous online. Most VPN services, however, cannot offer automatic IP rotation and they are more suited for personal use and single user applications.
Some VPN services offer scheduled IP rotation, which would be an alternative to using rotating proxies. Yet, VPN rotation slows down operations more than proxy IP rotation. Thus, for most tasks requiring effective IP rotation, rotating proxies remain the optimal choice.
Finally, you might not even need rotating proxies depending on your use case, as discussed earlier. So if you are using proxies for managing social media accounts, web application testing automation or you are simply scraping websites without anti-scraping measures - sticky IP address proxies will do the job just fine at a significantly lower cost.
Rotating proxies with every connection request or after a pre-scheduled period of time automatically assign a new IP address to the user agent. Such proxy IP rotation increases security and anonymity and better protects from getting your IP address blocked. All this makes rotating proxies perfect for business-related and private web scraping projects.