Choosing the right proxy provider often seems like a daunting task. The rapid growth of the data collection industry has created a deep market full of players competing to offer the best proxy services. But which one is right for you, and what’s the best way to compare the different offerings? In this article, we’ll cover 6 key factors to consider when selecting a proxy provider:
1. Types of IPs
2. IP Reputation
3. Advanced Features
4. Usage Statistics
5. Quality of Support
6. User Friendliness
Types of IPs
In recent years, proxies have been used in more ways than ever to accomplish new and specific goals, and as a result, the number of proxy services and types used to carry out those goals has also grown. Although there are many kinds of proxies, the three major ones are:
- Datacenter IPs – these proxies are provided by cloud hosting services and data centers, and are not associated with an internet service provider (ISP). They offer high performance, reliability, stability, and predictability. However, because they are not affiliated with an ISP, they can be easily detected and flagged, leading to more challenges, blocks, and an overall lower success rate.
- Residential IPs – real IP addresses that are connected to a physical device, provided by an ISP. Residential IPs are excellent at facilitating web data collection because they are indistinguishable from ordinary web users as a result of originating from a verifiable device and being connected to a legitimate ISP. However, these strengths also mean residential IPs are more expensive, their network connections can be slower than datacenter IPs, and the physical devices they depend on can behave less predictably than a datacenter.
- Mobile IPs – like residential IPs, mobile IPs are also connected to a physical device, however, they are exclusively connected to mobile devices that use a cellular network connection, such as 3G or 4G. Mobile IPs are the hardest to source, and thus are the most expensive to use, and their performance is typically slower than residential or datacenter IPs. However, mobile proxies offer the best solution for those interested in collecting data from websites designed for mobile devices, as the combination of a legitimate mobile connection combined with a physical mobile device is very difficult to replicate.
Selecting a proxy provider that supports the type of IP that best suits your needs can save you significant amounts of time and resources!
Regardless of the type of proxy you’re using, the reputation of each IP address will be a significant factor in determining the success rate of your requests. If the IPs your provider serves are frequently used to conduct nefarious activity before they reach you, your requests will be challenged and blocked much more frequently.
We recommend checking out our blog on the subject to learn more but suffice to say that IP reputation is a very important factor when choosing a proxy provider.
Different proxy providers support different features, and it’s important to ensure that the provider you choose supports the features you need for your current and future use cases. Some key features to look out for include:
- IP Rotation – defines how often a new IP is served. This ranges from rotating for every request (never using the same IP twice), to a sticky session that permits the same IP to be used and retained for longer periods of time. If your implementation requires a multi-step process, such as searching for a product and then viewing its product page or logging in to a system, sticky sessions are indispensable.
- Geotargeting and Spread – allows for the targeted selection of IPs from a particular geographic area. The level of granularity will vary from provider to provider. Targeting by country is the standard, but targeting specific cities or US states is even better. Also, how wide the geographic spread supported by a provider is very important. Websites will often localize their content or serve some content only to visitors from specific regions or countries, thus it’s valuable to have access to as many different countries available.
- API – control proxy settings programmatically. Although dashboards are easy to operate manually, having the ability to manage your proxy through an API often has a big impact. An API allows your application to view and modify proxy settings, potentially including the IP rotation and geotargeting settings mentioned above amongst others, and to make changes in accordance with your business logic.
Once built, your application will start making requests, retrieving data, and executing your business logic. Usage statistics play a key role in verifying that your application is working as expected, and not making repeated, unnecessary, or undesirable requests.
Usage statistics also help with budget management. By keeping track, displaying, and notifying you regarding how much budget has been spent, usage statistics keep you informed and help safeguard against overspending.
A quality proxy provider will provide reports that both outline and detail the requests made, the data transferred, and the budget used over short, medium, and long timeframes.
Quality of Support
Proxy networks have a lot of moving parts, and over time it’s guaranteed that you’ll encounter technical difficulties regardless of who your provider is. With modern businesses operating at breakneck speeds, having responsive and effective customer support makes the difference between getting back on track and being mired in issues for extended periods of time.
Things to look for when evaluating customer support include:
- 24/7 working hours
- Email support
- Chat support over Slack, live chat, Skype, etc.
- Phone support during business hours
- An account manager
An account manager in particular can make all the difference. Support teams often feel cold, indifferent, or disinterested in the customer’s success. An account manager establishes a professional relationship with the client and has insight into a client’s unique needs and situation.
Lastly, it’s also worth taking into account the breadth of documentation. Well-updated, thorough documentation empowers you to make progress without being held up waiting for answers from customer support. You can get answers quickly and independently, and fully capitalize on the capabilities of the platform.
Regardless of how responsive the support team is or how thorough the documentation is, there’s no replacement for an intuitive, user-friendly product. A well-designed service makes a huge difference in how easy it is for your team to get started and how many team members are required.
An intuitive user interface allows team members who are less technologically inclined to participate and work independently, instead of relying on others to perform basic tasks or bogging down the dev team with building in-house dashboards. Furthermore, some providers overcomplicate the process by being too flexible and offering fine-grained control over settings that could easily be determined automatically by the product.
There are many proxy providers to choose from, and while making a decision can feel overwhelming, we hope this list helped give you some insights to make the process easier.
When designing Nimble’s IP Infrastructure, our goal was to be more than another proxy provider by providing real proxy network infrastructure with IP monitoring, advanced configuration, and a unique IP^2 optimization engine. If you’d like to learn more about how Nimble’s IP Infrastructure can transform your proxy projects, contact us today!