Proxy servers are often used by businesses or large organizations as mediators among individual users and the Internet. The system administrator sets the guidelines for the network's users, and the proxy server enforces them. A proxy server can then regulate such tasks as network security, administrative control and caching service. Although nearly invisible to the individual user, proxy servers verify that the user is allowed to access the information he or she is requesting. Once the request has cleared the filtering requirements set by the system administrator, the proxy server checks to see if the Web site being requested is stored in its local cache . A local cache is a list of previously downloaded Web pages that can be accessed faster than pages on the entire Internet. If the requested page is in the local cache, the proxy server forwards it directly to the user, which increases the access time. This allows multiple users on the same network to access the same page simultaneously with little or no access time. If the page is not in the cache, the proxy server forwards the request through what is known as a 'gateway' to the external Internet. A proxy server can also act as a 'firewall,' or protective barrier, that insulates the network from intrusion or hacking from outside sources. For more information, consult a computer professional.
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