An proxy is also known as a proxy server is a software that functions as mediator between client and server on the internet. Without a proxy, a client will send a request directly to a server and it would deliver direct to users who requested the resource. Although this is a simple process to understand and implement using proxies, it can bring benefits in the form of improved performance, privacy, security, and many more. As an additional layer of protection proxy, it acts as a gatekeeper to the internet between servers and users.

The general bundle of server hardware with installed proxy software is often called a proxy server. In this article, we will examine proxy servers, which are generally classified as software as well as when it comes to web servers. You will get a breakdown of the two major kinds of proxy servers: a forward proxy and a reverse proxy. Each kind has its own application, and is frequently confused due to a similar the naming convention.

This article will give you an understanding of what proxy services and their subtypes, and their importance in standard setups. Through this article, you’ll know what circumstances in which an effective proxy can be beneficial, and choose the correct option between reverse and forward proxy depending on the circumstance.

Understanding Forward Proxies

A forward proxy, sometimes called an open proxy, also known as an open serves as an intermediary for a client that is trying to transmit a request over the internet to a source server. In this scenario, every request sent by the user will be sent directly to the forward proxy. A forward proxy, acting in the client’s stead, will scrutinize the request. The first step is to determine whether the client is allowed access to requests made by this specific forward proxy. Then, it will deny any request, or send it to the original server. The client is not able to have connection to any internet. It can access only the web pages that forward proxy grants the client access.

A very popular applications of forward proxies is to gain greater privacy or security when using the internet. Forward proxy utilizes the internet as the client, and in that process, it uses an alternative IP address to the client’s IP address.

Based on how it was configured, based on how it is configured forward proxy could provide various features based upon the configuration, which allows you to:

Forward proxies are also utilized in systems that offer central security and permission-based access, like at an office. The entire internet can be passed through an open forward proxy, an administrator is able to restrict access to only certain clients to the internet that is protected by a standard firewall. Instead of having firewalls installed on the client layer, which may include multiple computers that have different configurations and users it is possible to install a firewall located at the front proxy layer.

Be aware to note that settings for forward proxy need to be set manually for use however reverse proxies will be ignored from the clients. Depending on whether an IP address belonging to a user is transmitted to the server from where it originated by the forward proxy, privacy and security could be granted or kept in the dark.

There are a variety of alternatives to think about when it comes to forward proxy options:

Understanding Reverse Proxies

Reverse proxy functions as the web server which handles the incoming requests of customers on its behalf. The web server can represent a single, or a number of servers. It may even be an application server, such as Gunicorn. In any of these cases, the request for an application is received from a user via the internet. Most of the time, the request would be sent directly to the server with the resources the client is requesting. A reverse proxy functions as an intermediary that isolates your web server from contact with the internet’s open.

From the perspective of the individual client’s point of view, the process of using reverse proxy is similar to communicating with Web server in direct contact. It’s the same process, and the client cannot discern the distinction. The client requests the resource, which is followed by its receipt with no additional configuration needed for the end-user.

Reverse proxy providers offer functions like:

While central security can be a benefit of both forward and reverse proxy, reverse proxies apply this for just the layer of web servers but not the client layer. instead of being focused on upkeep of firewalls on the web server layer which can contain a variety of servers and different configurations, most of the firewall security is aimed at the reverse proxy layer. Also, the removal of the responsibility of interfacing with firewalls and interacting with clients distant from web servers permits them to focus on meeting the requirements of their clients.

In the case of multiple servers running through reverse proxy, the reverse proxy is also responsible for directing what requests are routed via which server. There could be multiple web servers offering the same content, each offering different kinds of services or a combination of both. These servers can be using the HTTP protocol that is the standard web server, however they could contain other protocols used by applications servers such as FastCGI. It is also possible to set up reverse proxy servers to redirect visitors to specific server depending on the service requested, or to follow specific guidelines on the volume of traffic.

Reverse proxies can benefit from their location over web servers by giving them the capability to store data. Massive static resources can be configured with caching policies to avoid hitting web servers on every request. Certain applications allow users to directly serve static assets without contacting the web server in any way. Furthermore reverse proxy solutions can handle compressing these assets.

The popular Nginx web server is also used as a well-known reverse proxy option. While there is an equivalent feature available in the Apache web server does have a reverse proxy features as an added feature available to Apache whereas Nginx was originally designed for and is focused on the reverse proxy feature.

Distinguishing Forward and Reverse Proxy Usage Situations

Since “forward” along with “reverse” conveys the notion of directionality and misleading comparisons with “incoming” as well as “outgoing” traffic These labels could be confusing since both types of proxy systems process requests as well as responses. Better yet, the best method to distinguish between both reverse and forward proxies is to study the specifications of the application that you’re building.

A reverse proxy can be helpful when building a solution for serving applications that are via the internet. They act as your web servers whenever you connect to the internet.

Forward proxy is useful when placed in front of customers for the purpose of your own use or even in a work setting. They are a representation of your customer’s traffic when they interact with the internet.

The use case-based differentiation instead of focusing on standard naming conventions could help in avoidance of confusion.

Conclusion

The article clarified the meaning of a proxy is with the two main kinds that are forward and the reverse proxy. Practical applications and a review of the beneficial attributes were used to distinguish forward proxies and reverse proxy. If you’re looking to know more about the implementation of proxy servers then you should check out our tutorial on how you can set up Nginx as reverse proxy and webserver proxy using Apache on one Ubuntu 20.04 Server.

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