A proxy is a server or program that's part of the gateway or another computer that separates a local network from outside networks. You can think of it as an intermediary between your computer and the web pages you access on the Internet. Proxies are useful because they can protect your computer from malware and unwanted access from third-party users.
Types of proxies
Hardware proxies come in the form of a physical proxy server, which mediates all traffic going to and from your computer or mobile device. The main benefit of proxy servers is that they help keep your local IP address "hidden" from cyber attackers. Additionally, they cache all pages accessed through a network, providing users with faster load times upon subsequent visits to a web page, and reducing a network's bandwidth usage. When a page is accessed that is not in the proxy server's cache, it accesses the page using its own IP address. Then, it caches that page and forwards it to the user.
An application firewall is also considered a proxy as it filters the information and communication your computer sends and receives at the application layer. Software proxies are often downloaded and installed on a computer. However, the service itself, which may require a monthly subscription fee, comes from a provider. Web-based proxies perform a similar function, but they exist entirely in the cloud.