An proxy can also be referred to as a proxy server. It is a program that acts to act as an intermediary for a client and server on the internet. In the absence of a proxy server, a customer would be able to send a request to any resource directly to the server, and servers would provide the requested resource directly to the user. This is a simple method to understand and use, however using proxy servers could provide advantages such as more performance, privacy and security, and so on. As an additional layer of protection proxy servers act as a guardian for the internet between clients and servers.

There is a general consensus that the hardware for servers, paired with proxy software is also often referred as proxy servers. However, this article will concentrate on proxy servers that are typically categorized as software, and more specifically in relation to servers on the internet. We will present a summary of the two main kinds of proxies which are forward proxy and a reverse proxy. Each has its own use, and can be confusing due to the same name convention.

This article will provide you with an idea of different types of proxy and subtypes, and their value in common configurations. After reading this article you’ll be able understand the situations when you could benefit from a proxy, and make the right alternative between reverse proxy or forward proxy depending on the scenario.

Understanding Forward Proxies

Forward proxy, also known as the open proxy serves as an agent for the user who wishes to send a request via the internet to a source server. In this case every attempt to send requests made by the user will be directed via an forward proxy. A forward proxy acting in position of the customer will look into the request. It first will determine if the client is allowed to accept requests via this specific forward proxy. It will then either refuse any request, or redirect it to the server that originated it. The client will not be allowed an internet connection directly. it can only be capable of accessing the information that forward proxy grants the access.

One of the most frequent applications for forward proxy servers is to provide greater security or privacy on the internet. A forward proxy accesses the internet instead of a client’s individual account, and in the process, it can use another IP address as opposed to the original IP address used by the user.

Depending on how it’s set up, and how it is configured forward proxy can provide a range of features that allow you to:

Forward proxies can also be used in systems that provide central security and permission based access, such as in a workplace. If all internet traffic is routed through an open forward proxy layer, an administrator is able to restrict access to only certain clients to the internet. The web is blocked by a common firewall. Instead of putting firewalls on the client layer that could comprise a variety of machines with various user configurations, firewalls may be placed on an intermediary layer.

Be aware that forward proxies should be set up manually for use while reverse proxies could be disregarded by the client. Based on the kind of IP address a client is sent to the server which originated it through the forward proxy, security and privacy can either be provided or rendered clear.

There are many choices to be considered for forward proxy:

Understanding Reverse Proxies

Reverse proxy is a web server, which handles the requests of customers on its behalf. It can be used as a single server or a number of servers. In addition, it could comprise an application server, such as Gunicorn. In all of these scenarios it is possible to send a request through the internet at large. In the majority of cases, the request is sent directly to the web server with all the resources the client in need of. Reverse proxy acts as an intermediary, segregating your server from communications with the internet’s public.

From a consumer’s point of view from a client’s perspective reverse proxy is not different from connecting to an internet server direct. It’s functionally the same but the client isn’t able to discern the distinction. The client requests the resource and is then granted access, with no additional configuration required by the client.

Reverse proxy providers offer options like:

Although central security is an advantage of both reverse and forward proxy service, reverse proxies provide this benefit only to the server layer and it is not available to the client layer. In lieu of maintaining firewalls at the server level which could include multiple servers with different configurations, the majority of firewall security can be concentrated on the reverse proxy layer. Furthermore, taking the burden of communicating with firewalls and responding to requests from clients outside of web servers allows them to concentrate solely on delivering the needs of their customers.

In the event of multiple servers being hosted through reverse proxy the reverse proxy manages the routing of requests to the servers. Multiple web servers could be providing the exact same service, serving different kinds of resources or a mixture of the two. They may utilize the HTTP protocol to function as a normal web server, however they could also incorporate protocols for application servers like FastCGI. You can create reverse proxy that routes clients to specific servers according to the requested source, and to follow certain guidelines for traffic volume.

Reverse proxies can also benefit from their position before web servers by providing caching capabilities. Large static assets can be set using caching rules to prevent reaching web servers every time you request. There are solutions offering an option to serve static content directly without having to communicate with a webserver. Additionally, reverse proxy can handle compressing these assets.

The renowned Nginx webserver is known as a well-known reverse proxy choice. Although the Apache web server does have reverse proxy capabilities, it is an added feature for Apache however Nginx was designed originally to and focuses on the reverse proxy function.

Distinguishing Forward Proxy from Reverse Proxy Examples

Because “forward” and “reverse” are associated with a sense of directionality and inaccurate comparisons to “incoming” and “outgoing” traffic could be confusing because both kinds of proxies handle requests and respond. Instead, a better way to distinguish between forward and reverse proxy servers is to study the requirements of the application that you are building.

Reverse proxy is a vital element in the creation of a method to run web-based applications via the internet. They serve as servers whenever you connect to the Internet.

Forward proxy can be helpful in displaying customer information to your personal use or for use in a working environment. They are a way to display the information of your client every time you interact with them on the internet.

A distinction based on use cases instead of focusing on similar naming conventions will help avoid confusion.

Conclusion

The article clarified meaning of a proxy, with two types of them being the reverse and forward proxy. Practical applications as well as an exploration of the beneficial attributes were utilized to determine forward proxies as well as reverse proxies. If you’re interested in exploring the use of proxy servers, you can read our guide on how to set up Nginx as a web server as well as reverse proxy within Apache in the Ubuntu 20.04 server.

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