There are many different reasons why you may need access to residential IP addresses. Besides being more secure than datacenter proxies, residential IP proxies offer more versatility and are almost impossible to detect, if used properly. But, how do residential IP proxies actually work? What are their drawbacks and disadvantages? And when are residential IP proxies the best course of action? In this article, we’ll be answering all these questions and much more.
Luminati was the first company to identify the need for and provide access to residential IP proxies. Moreover, because it was the first mover in the market, it has managed to gather the largest pool of residential IPs available today. The company has created a convenient service that is easy to integrate with web automation applications and that has great scaling potential, making it perfect for bigger companies that need to process large volumes of information.
In one of our previous articles we discussed how residential IPs are superior to traditional datacenter proxies. Although residential IP proxies offer a much better alternative than datacenter proxies, this superiority comes at a high price. With their packages starting at $500 per month for 20 GBs of traffic, Luminati is out of the reach of smaller marketing companies and organizations.
Luminati offers services that are intended for companies operating in fields such as web scraping, web data mining, large scale online marketing, and online privacy, just to name a few Common uses for Luminati include but are not limited to:
Sales Intelligence: Collect valuable information about customers to determine who is the best target for your service.
Comparative Intelligence: Gather and analyze information about competitor prices and offers without being blocked or misled.
Brand Protection: Monitor the web and make sure your intellectual property, trademarks, and pricing strategy are not being used without your consent.
Ad Verification: Check the integrity of ads through millions of available residential IPs and eliminate misleading advertisement and backlinks.
Talent Sourcing: Connect with a larger talent pool faster and more effectively.
Self-Testing: Test your website from any country in the world and see it as your visitors do.
What You Need to Know Before Using Luminati
Although Luminati looks similar to other proxy and VPN services, don’t let its appearance fool you. The company behind Luminati, Hola Networks Limited, also offers another popular service called Hola VPN.
Hola VPN is a free browser add-on that users can install in order to change their IP address. This helps maintain high levels of privacy or bypass access restrictions that are imposed by an internet service provider or ISP.
Although Hola VPN doesn’t cost money to use, all things in life come at a price. In the case of Hola, the price for usage is allowing the add-on to route traffic that is not related to your activities through your computer. In other words, your device will become part of the Hola P2P network, so Luminati users will be able to route their traffic through your residential IP.
Is this a big or a small price to pay? That depends on each specific user. Some say this business model is hands down unethical, whereas others consider it business as usual. Regardless of what side of the debate you agree with, this practice is completely legal as users give their consent when installing Hola VPN. If you think about it this way, this business model is not that different from the one implemented by Tor Browser, with the exception that users need to proactively allow their computer to be used as an exit node for Tor traffic.
Putting aside the ethical debate, Luminati has a lot to offer, so let’s take a look at more specific details about their services.
Is It a Proxy or VPN? It’s Luminati!
As mentioned before, Luminati works through a network of residential IP, and the concept behind it is pretty simple. First, you create a connection to a so-called super proxy. Rather than routing your traffic directly to the requested website, the super proxy chooses another point in the connection chain. But, how does it know which proxy to choose?
Instead of choosing a random exit node, you can tell Luminati which geo location you would like to exit through. The exit node will be the last connection in the chain, so websites will communicate exclusively with that specific node. In addition, sites will only be able to see the IP address of the last node, and as you could imagine, it’ll be a residential IP.
For example, if you need to create a connection that appears as if it’s made from New York, Luminati’s super proxy already has a list of all exit nodes currently available in that area. It then selects one of these nodes at random and directs your traffic to it. Next, the exit node will route your traffic to the requested website, and once the site answers, the response is routed back through the entire chain.
The idea behind it is easy to understand, but the difficulties you will find come in the form of little nuances you encounter when developing actual applications integrated with Luminati.
One of the main things you need to think about is whether you need to rotate IPs and how. When you connect to a super proxy, you create a connection with a unique identification number, which is called a session. Depending on your specific case, you may or may not want to preserve the same IP address during the whole time the session remains active.
Creating sessions with rotating IP address in Luminati is relatively easy as there are several options to choose from. You can close a session and start a brand new one that will give you a new IP address. You can configure a session to rotate IP addresses automatically after a number of requests are made or after a certain amount of time, all within the same session.
The problem with Luminati is that it can’t preserve the same IP for a long period of time, and this is due to the architecture of the network. Remember that the exit nodes are actual residential IPs that are assigned to residential machines, and people tend to turn off their computers at random times. Simply leaving a laptop idle for a few minutes can shut off its internet connection, which in turn can deteriorate the connection between the super proxy and the exit node.
A weak connection will likely result in an exit node shutting off randomly during a session. Luminati immediately chooses another node that matches the criteria you specified at the beginning of the session so you don’t lose connection. The problem is that the new exit node may appear to be in a completely different location or may have an IP belonging to a different internet service provider.
In some cases this is not very important, like with web scraping for instance. However, there are cases where the consistency of the IP information is important, so a sudden change of region or ISP can result in a terminated connection on behalf of the website you’re visiting.
To prevent this from happening, Luminati offers two premium features that allow you to select IP addresses at a city or ISP level. So, every time an exit node drops, you will be assigned a new IP address within the same city or from the same ISP. Note that we haven’t verified if both city and ISP restrictions work together, but they work seamlessly when used individually.
How Reliable is Luminati?
When you take into account the relatively high price of the service and the costs associated with integration development, this question needs to be answered based on your specific case. That being said, we can help you answer that question depending on what’s important to you.
Technically speaking, Luminati is extremely reliable. It features tens of millions of IP addresses, multiple super proxies, and thousands of both free and paid users that connect daily to its network. The company has also managed to polish the system and remove all major setbacks, resulting in a smooth user experience. There are some problems that are rooted in the network architecture but you can mitigate these negative effects, for the most part, at the application development stage.
However, enterprise-level customers not only need technically advanced platforms but also swift and efficient solutions when they face an issue. Unfortunately, customer support is not one of the strongholds of Hola Networks Limited. While they do provide customer support, we found that it may come with a delay or lack viable solutions when faced with certain difficulties. But, to be fair with Luminati, their customer support quality has improved over the past months so they seem to be addressing their weaknesses at a steady pace.
Generally speaking, there are no other companies directly competing with Luminati. This is mainly because they use an extensive network like that of Hola, making their business model impossible to copy overnight. Developing such a big network alone would be a challenge, let alone competing with a well-established entity like Hola Networks.
Nevertheless, other companies that offer residential IP services have surfaced over the years. Affiliate Stealth is one of the few organizations worth mentioning, but unlike Luminati, it does not offer an API. This means that it’s not feasible to use with heavily automated and scalable applications. On the other hand, if your task is more humble, like managing different social media accounts for your clients or manually conducting price intelligence research in a specific area, Affiliate Stealth offers a good alternative option.
With Affiliate Stealth, you can use pre-installed software to gain access to a remote desktop. You have the ability to change your IP address manually, and because every remote desktop is connected to the same ISP, you won’t encounter problems with managing exit nodes. Lastly, Affiliate Stealth features an IP address that remains stable throughout the length of your session and a top-notch customer support team.
Despite multiple setbacks, Luminati still provides the best solution for when you need to build an automated scalable application that works through residential IP proxies. If the task you have at hand can be accomplished manually, and you don’t need access to multiple cities simultaneously, you may consider using alternative solutions such as Affiliate Stealth. However, Luminati still offers the most effective and widely used solution for companies that require access to a large set of residential IPs with heavily automated and scalable applications.
If you feel like Luminati might be the solution you’re looking for, click here to sign up to their service, or request a 7-day free trial.
Also, keep in mind that Multilogin can be integrated with Luminati, and we provide extensive technical support for this. When combined, Multilogin and Luminati offer a complete solution to managing both browser fingerprints and IP addresses.
Keep in mind that individual computers, or servers, can be identified and tracked by reading parameters other than cookies or IP addresses, which are known as browser fingerprints. If you use Luminati to access a website that implements browser fingerprinting techniques, your server may still be identified and tracked, which will effectively link all of your sessions.
The best way to prevent tracking is by rotating both IP addresses and browser fingerprints. Multilogin can help you create and automate individual browser sessions that have a unique set of fingerprints. You can then request a Luminati exit node that is attached to this session, creating a unique connection from a website’s point of view.
If you have any questions regarding the integration of Multilogin with Luminati, click here to get in touch with us and we’ll be more than happy to answer them for you promptly.