The Internet is an essential tool for just about everyone, including virtually all types of businesses. While the benefits of having access to the Internet are obvious, the potential risks of using it should be clear as well. For businesses, the downsides of providing Internet access to employees include the fact that company data could be at risk, the costs of viruses can be high, and employees may waste time browsing the web for things that are not work related.
One of the best things that you can do to minimize all three of these potential concerns is to set up a proxy. A proxy is a device that is between your company network and the public Internet. This device can be used to keep your information safer and more private and can also help to block access to many types of sites. While some larger organizations will set up entire servers to act as a proxy, it is often easier and less expensive to simply configure your router to function in this way.
Choose a Quality Router
The first step in this process is going to be to make sure that you have a good router that will allow you to make configuration changes. While most internet service providers will provide you with a router, these are often either lower quality options or may be locked down so you cannot make the configuration changes that are necessary.
Fortunately, you can buy great routers at a relatively low price, which makes this an excellent investment. When upgrading to a better router, you will not only make sure you can configure it to work as a proxy, but you will also likely get improved overall performance. This is especially true if you want to enable Wi-Fi connectivity for your business.
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Choose the Right Proxy
There are quite a few different options when it comes to proxies that will give you added protection, privacy, and control over what is accessible through your internet connection. For most small businesses, the easiest and most effective option is going to be simply directing traffic through a DNS server of your choice. DNS is the Internet service that translates a website address into an IP address.
All Internet service providers will have a default DNS service that is used, but you can change that in your router (see below) to access one that is safer and has more proxy services. You can choose from either free or premium DNS services that will allow you to set up additional security, block specific sites (or categories of sites), and much more. You can also create your own DNS server, though that is much more complex and costly and only makes sense for larger corporations.
Do some research to find out which of the many DNS solutions will be right for your company. Once you sign up for the one you want, you will be provided with IP addresses that are used to connect to the service. Take note of those IPs so that you can configure your router to direct traffic to them going forward.
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Configure the Router
Once you have your new router purchased and hooked up, any devices that are connected to it should be able to connect to the Internet. By default, however, the router will not function as a proxy in the way that you need. Instead, it will simply take all of the traffic from connected devices and forward it out to your ISP to be sent on to the website or service that you are trying to access.
In order to setup your router to use a proxy, you will need to connect to the device and adjust its configuration. Each router is going to have a different way to do this, though they will all follow the same basic instructions:
- Connect to the Router – Once the router is up and running, you will need to connect to it to begin configuration. This is done with a web browser on a computer that is connected to the router. The IP address needed to connect to the router will be listed in the documentation that comes with the device. Once you have it, you will type the IP (192.168.1.1 for example) into your browser’s address bar and hit enter.
- Login to the Router – Once you connect to the router, you will have to log in with administration credentials. These credentials will be provided to you in the documentation, though you should always change your default administration credentials when you first setup the router.
- Find WAN Settings – While each router interface is going to be a little different, you will typically be looking for the place to configure WAN (Wide Area Network) settings. In most cases, it will be obvious where this is located, but if you can’t find it, look in your router’s documentation.
- Adjust DNS Servers – One of the options that you can configure in this area is the DNS server addresses. By default, they will point toward your ISP’s main DNS servers. If you disable the ‘connect to DNS server automatically’ option, you will be able to manually enter the DNS server addresses from the DNS solution you picked above.
- Save and Reboot – Once you have entered the DNS server IPs, you will need to save your changes. After saving, it is generally a good idea to reboot your router to ensure all connections are using the updated configuration.
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At this point, all of your web traffic will be directed through your new DNS solution, which will act as a proxy. This is an important step in protecting your business while still taking advantage of all that the Internet has to offer.
Of course, this is just one important step in ensuring your computer systems are able to safely access the web. You will also want to do things like install antivirus software, monitor web usage, and much more. When done properly, you can be confident that your computer systems are safe and can be effectively used by everyone in your organization.
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