A proxy or proxy server is a program that sits acting as an intermediary for client and server via the internet. Without the use of a proxy, users will send a request to the resource directly to the server, and then the server would serve direct to the client. While this is a simple method to grasp and use but the addition of proxies can provide advantages such as greater performance, privacy, security, among others. As an additional layer being able to pass through, proxies function as a guardian for the internet between servers and clients.

In general, the combination of server hardware and the software to install proxy servers is usually referred to as proxy servers. But, this article will concentrate on proxy servers which are generally described in terms of software as well as those that are used in conjunction with web servers. We will give a synopsis of the two main types of proxies, the forward proxy and a reverse proxy. Each has their own use which may be confusing due to a similar terminology.

This article will give you an understanding of what proxies and their subtypes are, and their benefits in a range of configurations. After reading in this post, you’ll know what situations that a proxy can be advantageous, and decide on the best option for forward proxy or reverse proxy based on the specific situation.

Understanding Forward Proxies

Forward proxy, also known as an open proxy is a proxy for a client that is trying to make an online request to an source server. In this case, the whole request sent by the client is instead directed by the forward-proxy. The forward proxy, acting in lieu of the user will examine the request. First, it will check if the client been authorized to transmit requests using this particular forward proxy. It will then deny a application and send it back to its source server. The client is not able to have direct access for the web. It can access only what the forward proxy allows it to access.

A common use case of forward proxies is to provide greater privacy or security on the internet. Forward proxy connects to internet in place of a client, and in this process it is using an alternative IP address from that of the client’s original IP address.

Based on how it has been set up in accordance with the method of configuration, forward proxy may offer a range of features depending on how it’s set up, allowing users to:

Forward proxies can also be used in systems that rely on central security and permission -based access, like in workplaces. If all internet traffic flows through an common forward proxy, the administrator can restrict access to a specific group of users to the internet filtered by a common firewall. Instead of putting firewalls in place for the client layer that may comprise several devices with various environments and users, there is the possibility to set up an firewall that is located in the front proxy layer.

It is important to remember to remember that forward proxy servers have to be manually configured for be utilized, whereas reverse proxy servers are often not noticed by clients. Based on the type of IP address of the client is passed on to the server that created it via forward proxy, privacy and security is granted or kept hidden.

There are a variety of alternatives to consider for forward proxies:

Understanding Reverse Proxies

A reverse proxy functions as an agent for a web server, which handles any requests made by clients on behalf of. Web servers can comprise a single server or several servers. In addition, it could be an application server, such as Gunicorn. In any case, the request will come from an internet user in general. The majority of the time requests will get made directly to the server that has all the resources that the user is in need of. However reverse proxy functions as an intermediary, and separates Web servers from direct contact with the internet.

From a consumer’s point of perspective, using reverse proxy is not any different from using an internet server direct. It’s the same thing, and the client cannot discern the distinction. The client asks for this resource and it receives it without additional configurations that need to be done by the customer.

Reverse proxies provide features such as:

While centralized security is a benefit of both reverse and forward proxy servers, reverse proxies offer this only to the server layer but not to the layer that clients use. Instead of establishing firewalls on Web server layers that can comprise multiple servers and different configurations, most security measures for firewalls are targeted towards the reverse proxy layer. Furthermore, taking the burden of interfacing with firewalls and communicating with customers who aren’t connected to web servers permits the firewall to focus on addressing the needs of their customers.

In the case of multiple servers operating within reverse proxy, it manages controlling which requests go to which servers. A number of web servers could be running within the exact same system, serving various kinds of services or a combination of both. They use the HTTP protocol just like a conventional web server. However, they could also be equipped with application server protocols such as FastCGI. You can set up reverse proxy servers to guide the clients towards specific servers according to the kind of resource they are looking for, or to follow certain rules regarding traffic load.

Reverse proxies also have the ability to gain advantage from their position prior to web servers, through offering caching capabilities. Large static assets are able to be configured using caching rules so that they do not have to contact web servers for every request. Certain solutions offer the option to deliver static files directly without having to contact the web server for even one time. In addition reverse proxy is able to manage compression of these assets.

The well-known Nginx web server is also used as a reliable reverse proxy solution. It is real it’s true Apache web server is also equipped with a reverse proxy that is a different option to Apache but Nginx was originally built to and is primarily focused on reverse proxy functionality.

Differentiating Forward Proxy and Reverse Proxy Examples

Because “forward” as well as “reverse” have connotations of directionality and misleading comparisons to “incoming” and “outgoing” traffic and can be confusing since both types of proxies process requests and respond. An alternative approach to distinguish between reverse and forward proxy service is to think about the requirements of the app that you’re developing.

A reverse proxy is a great option in the case of developing a solution to offer web-based services via the internet. They serve as your servers in any interactions through the Internet.

Forward proxy applications are useful when they are put in front of a client for your personal usage and in the professional context. They are your client’s representative when you interact with the internet.

A case-based distinction instead of focusing on the common naming conventions can assist you to avoid confusion.

Conclusion

This article explains the definition of a proxy along with two types: the forward proxy and reverse proxy. Practical applications and an exploration of beneficial features were used to distinguish between forward and reverse proxy. If you’re interested in learning more about the implementation of proxies, you can read our tutorial on how to set up Nginx as a web server and reverse proxy using Apache using the Ubuntu 20.04 server.

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