Proxy Servers FAQ

Modified on Fri, 30 Sep 2022 at 10:32 AM

What proxy servers do you support?

We support all types of proxy servers in common use by libraries including EZProxy, LibLynx, WAM Proxy, PAC Proxy and other systems. We do not support OpenAthens natively, but we do support the OpenAthens Redirector service.


More information on the setup requirements for these systems are available in their respective articles:


If you have further questions or concerns about your authentication system and BrowZine compatibility, please contact support@thirdiron.com for more information.




About Proxy Servers


Proxy servers are a standard method of providing library users with remote authentication to library resources.  Some common brand names include EZProxy (OCLC)WAM Proxy (III)OpenAthens Proxy (EduServ)MUSE Proxy (Edulib) and others.  Similar to this is also the BrowZine Pairing Service which works on similar proxy technology but is specifically designed to be used only with BrowZine while others enable remote use of BrowZine as well as other resources accessible via the web.


While each of these systems provides unique features, they all rely on providing access to content via IP recognition.  This method takes advantage of the uniqueness of public IP addresses that are registered to a particular institution.  Because these are unique and cannot be impersonated, they provide a unique and reliable way to ensure that requests for content coming from computers at those IP addresses indeed belong to the institution and therefore the user is a member of this institution.  This is similar to providing the content provider with a unique phone number.  Therefore, whenever they see an incoming "call" from that phone number, they have "Caller ID" to identify who is requesting the content, and if they indeed have valid permission to do so, they can provide this content back to the "caller".


However, these IP addresses typically are restricted to the physical grounds of the institution.  This provides a challenge then for users wanting to access IP-authenticated resources from home or via a mobile device connected to a cellular data network!


The solution is a proxy server which makes the request for content "by proxy" for the user who is outside the IP range by relaying that request through an IP that is inside the IP range.  To continue the use of the phone analogy from above, if only you have the ability to call and request information because your phone number was recognized by the content provider, but your colleague was at home and wanted some information, they could call you and you could then relay this request to the provider, and then, in turn, relay this information back to your colleague.  Proxy servers work in much the same way.  But how does the proxy server know if the user outside the IP range should be allowed access?


This is where authentication comes in.  Authentication to the proxy server can take many forms.  For example, EZProxy provides access via a wide range of authentication methods and the other proxy servers have similar lists of supported techniques.  A very common option is to link the username/password boxes seen on a proxy server login screen to that of the LDAP/Active Directory database for the institution.  This would be a "master list" of usernames/passwords that access other types of accounts for individuals on campus, typically including things like email accounts or links to student accounts or human resources information.  This way, the user doesn't need a "special" login to sign into the proxy server to access library materials.  This provides the best possible user experience.  Another popular method is to authenticate via Shibboleth which provides single sign on (SSO) capability to a wide variety of technology systems popular in universities.


Each proxy server has a unique IP address assigned to it.  Sometimes this proxy server will already exist within your institution's IP range and if you have already registered these IP ranges with your provider then you do not need to contact your content providers with this new IP address.  However, some content providers require that you designate if you have a proxy server and the exact IP address of that proxy server.  Be sure to check your license agreements for each content provider for details!


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