A proxy often referred to as proxy servers is software that functions as a mediator between a client and server on the internet. Without the need for a proxy, an individual can send a request for the item to an online server, and the server will deliver the resource directly to the client. Although this method is easy to understand and implement, the addition of proxy servers can offer advantages in terms enhanced performance security, privacy, and many more. Apart from offering a security layer, proxies act as a security safeguard for the internet between servers and clients.

The general consensus is that the servers and the hardware that is used along with proxy software are also referred to proxy servers. But, this article will be focusing on proxies typically classified as software, and in the case of web servers. This article will give a synopsis of the two principal kinds, namely which are a forward proxy and a reverse proxy. Each type has its own use and can be confusing due to a similar naming convention.

This article will provide you with an idea of the what proxies are and the subtypes of them, as well as how they work in the common configurations. In in this post, you’ll discover how to identify the scenarios in which it is beneficial to use a proxy, and decide on the appropriate choice between reverse proxy and forward proxy in any circumstance.

Understanding Forward Proxies

In other words forward proxy also called an open proxy acts as a representative of a user who would like to forward a request via the internet to an source server. In this situation, any attempt to send requests from the client is instead directed direct to the forward proxy. Forward proxy acting on place of the client, will look into the request. First, it will decide if the user is authorized receive requests from this particular forward proxy. It then decides whether to refuse a request or transfer it onto the original server. The client isn’t able to access directly the internet. It is only able to access the internet that the forward proxy grants its access.

The primary reason for people to use forward proxies is to increase privacy or security when surfing the internet. Forward proxy allows you to access the internet in the place of a client and, in this way, it may utilize a different IP address than the IP address originally used by the client.

Depending on how it’s been configured in the past forward proxy servers are able to provide a range of options and allow you to:

Forward proxies are also employed in systems that offer central security and authorization based access, for example, at work. When all internet traffic passes through an open forward proxy layer administrators are able to restrict access to certain clients to the internet filtered through an common firewall. Instead of having firewalls installed for the client layer which could include a variety of devices that are different in environments and users, the firewall can be placed in the forward proxy layer.

Note that the forward proxy setting must be configured manually to function in reverse proxies, whereas forward proxies are able to be ignored by clients. Depending on whether the IP address of a user is transmitted to the source server through the forward proxy privacy and anonymity could be granted or denied.

There are many alternatives to think about for forward proxies

Understanding Reverse Proxies

A reverse proxy functions as a representation of web servers that handle the incoming requests of clients in its place. Web servers can comprise a server or multiple servers. It could also be used as an application server like Gunicorn. In any of these situations, the request for an application comes through the internet generally. In most cases the request is directed directly to the web server with the information the client is asking for. Instead, a reverse proxy serves as an intermediary securing Web server from any direct contact with the web’s public.

From a consumer’s point of view that is from a user’s perspective, working using a reverse proxy is identical to using an internet server direct. It’s exactly the same thing, however the client cannot be able to discern the difference. The client makes a request for the resource, and is then provided with it, with no additional configuration required by the client.

Reverse proxies offer features like:

While centralized security is an advantage of both reverse and forward proxy servers, reverse proxies offer this benefit only to the server layer and not the client layer. Instead of having firewalls running on the web server layer which can contain a variety of servers with different configurations, the bulk of the firewall security is targeted at reverse proxy layers. Furthermore, the elimination of the responsibility of interacting with firewalls and also interacting with client requests outside of web servers allows them to focus on meeting the requirements of their customers.

If there are multiple servers being hosted with a reverse-proxy the reverse proxy is responsible for directing what requests go to which server. There could be multiple web servers that provide identical content or offering various types of resources or a mix of both. These servers can be using the HTTP protocol exactly the same way as a standard web server however they could also include different protocols for application servers such as FastCGI. It is also possible to set up reverse proxy to redirect clients to specific servers based upon the requested resource or to comply with specific rules pertaining to traffic load.

Reverse proxies can also make use of their position ahead of web servers, by providing caching capabilities. The large static files can be configured with caching rules to avoid from hitting web servers on every request. There are solutions that permit the server to serve static assets directly without connecting to a web server even once. Furthermore reverse proxy is able to control compression of these files.

The popular Nginx web server also functions as a very popular reverse proxy solution. While Apache has a reverse proxy solution but it is not a reverse proxy solution. Apache web server is also equipped with reverse proxy function that is an added attribute of Apache while Nginx was designed initially to focus on its reverse proxy feature.

Differentiating Forward Proxy and Reverse Proxy Use Examples

Because “forward” and “reverse” are associated with directionality, as well as false comparisons to “incoming” as well as “outgoing” traffic the labels could be confusing, as both types of proxies handle responses and requests. A better approach to differentiate between reverse and forward proxy is to examine the requirements of the application you’re building.

A reverse proxy can be useful when designing an application that runs web-based services over the internet. They act as your web server for when you use the internet.

Forward proxy is useful when placed in front of customers to use for personal reasons or in an office environment. They represent your clients when you connect to the internet.

The use case-based differentiation instead of focusing on common naming conventions can aid in avoidance of confusion.

Conclusion

This article defined the meaning of a proxy using two kinds that are forward and the reverse proxy. Practical applications as well as a summary of the most beneficial characteristics were employed to identify between forward and reverse proxy. If you’re interested to learn more about how to implement proxy servers, you can refer to our guide on how to configure Nginx as a reverse and web server proxy with Apache using Ubuntu 20.04. Ubuntu 20.04 server.

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