An proxy often referred to as a proxy server is software that functions as an intermediary between client and server on the internet. Without a proxy, a user will send a request for the item to an online server, and the server would then deliver the resource directly back to the client. Though this approach is simple to comprehend and implement the addition of proxy servers can bring advantages in terms of increased performance security, privacy, and more. Alongside providing a layer of security, proxies act as a security guardian for the internet between servers and clients.

There is a general consensus that the collection of server hardware along with installed proxy software is often referred to proxy servers. But, this article will be focusing on proxies which are usually classified as software and within the web server context. This article will give a synopsis of the two main types, namely which are a forward proxy and a reverse proxy. Each has its own specific usage, which can be confusing because of a similar name convention.

This article will give you an idea of the what proxies are and what subtypes they are, as well as how they work in the common configurations. In the article you’ll discover how to determine the situations that are the best to utilize a proxy and choose the best option between forward and reverse proxy in any circumstance.

Understanding Forward Proxies

In the same way a forward proxy, also called an open proxy acts as a representative of a customer who wishes to forward a request via the internet to an source server. In this case, every request made by the client is instead directed straight through the forward proxy. Forward proxy acting on place of the client will examine the request. It will first determine if the client is authorized to receive requests from this specific forward proxy. Then, it decides if it wants to refuse a request or send it back to the original server. The client is unable to have direct access to the internet. It can only access what forward proxy allows it access to.

The primary reason for people to utilize forward proxy servers is to gain greater privacy or security on the internet. Forward proxy allows you to access the internet in the place of a client and as such, it may use an IP address that is different from the original IP address that the client uses.

Depending on how they’ve been configured in the past forward proxy servers may give you a variety of options and allow you to:

Forward proxies are also utilized in systems that offer centralized security and permission based access, like in the workplace. When all traffic on the internet passes via an open forward proxy layer, administrators are able to restrict access to specific clients on the internet that are filtered through a common firewall. Instead of having firewalls in place for the client layer that may comprise a range of machines that have different user and operating environments, the firewall can be placed into the forward proxy layer.

It is important to note that settings for forward proxy must be manually set up in order to be used and reverse proxies are able to be not recognized by clients. Based on whether the IP address of the client is transmitted to the source server through the forward proxy privacy and anonymity could be granted or denied.

There are several possibilities to consider for forward proxies

Understanding Reverse Proxies

A reverse proxy serves as a representation of web servers, which handles the incoming requests of clients on its behalf. The web server could comprise a server or multiple servers. Additionally, it can be a server for applications such as Gunicorn. In any of these scenarios, an application request is made by a user on the internet as a whole. In most cases the request is sent directly to the web server with the information the client wants. Instead, a reverse proxy serves as an intermediary protecting Web servers from direct contact with the public internet.

From a consumer’s point of view that is a user’s viewpoint, interfacing using a reverse proxy is identical to working with an internet server direct. It’s exactly the same thing, however the client cannot discern the difference. The client requests the resource, and is then provided with it, without any additional configuration needed on the part of the client.

Reverse proxies offer features like:

While central security is an advantage for both reverse and forward proxy servers, reverse proxies offer this benefit only to the server layer, not the client layer. Instead of managing firewalls at Web server layers, which can contain a variety of servers and different configurations, most of the firewall security is concentrated on the reverse proxy layer. Additionally, removing the responsibility to interact with firewalls as well as dealing with requests from clients outside of web servers permits them to focus on meeting the requirements of their customers.

When there is a multitude of servers being hosted using a reverse-proxy, the reverse proxy is also responsible to direct which requests are routed to the server. There could be multiple web servers providing identical content providing different types of resource or a mix of both. These servers can be using the HTTP protocol exactly the same way as an ordinary web server but they can include different protocols for application servers like FastCGI. You can also set up reverse proxy servers to redirect clients to specific servers based on the requested resource or comply with specific rules pertaining to traffic load.

Reverse proxies may also make use of their position before web servers by delivering caching capabilities. Large static assets can be set up by using caching rules in order to avoid hitting web servers with every request. There are even solutions that allow the server to serve static assets directly without connecting to a web server even once. Furthermore reverse proxy solutions can manage compression of these assets.

The popular Nginx web server also functions as a well-known reverse proxy option. While Apache has a reverse proxy solution, the Apache web server also comes with a reverse proxy feature as an additional characteristic of Apache however Nginx was initially designed to and is focused on its reverse proxy feature.

Distinguishing Forward Proxy from Reverse Proxy Use Examples

Since “forward” or “reverse” have a connotation of directionality, as well as false comparisons with “incoming” and “outgoing” traffic the labels could be confusing as both types of proxies deal with requests and responses. An alternative method to differentiate between reverse and forward proxy is to examine the requirements of the application you’re building.

Reverse proxy is helpful when building an application that runs web-based applications on the internet. They serve as your web servers for when you use the internet.

Forward proxy is useful when placed in front of clients for personal use or within the corporate setting. They represent your customers when you connect to the internet.

A case-based distinction instead of focusing on the standard naming conventions could help in avoiding confusion.


This article clarified the definition of a proxy with the two types that are forward and the reverse proxy. Practical applications and a discussion of the most beneficial features were utilized to differentiate between forward and reverse proxy. If you’re interested to learn more about the process of implementing proxy servers, you can refer to our guide on how you can configure Nginx as a web server and reverse proxy using Apache using Ubuntu 20.04. Ubuntu 20.04 server.

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