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A proxy often referred to as a proxy server is software that functions as an intermediary between client and server over the internet. Without the need for a proxy, a user will send a request for something directly through a server, and the server would deliver the item directly to the user. Although this method is easy to comprehend and implement the addition of proxies could provide advantages in terms of increased performance and privacy, security and many more. In addition to adding a layer of security they also serve as a security guardian for the internet between clients and servers.

There is a general consensus that the collection of server hardware and proxy software is also frequently called proxy servers. This article will concentrate on the proxies that are typically categorized as software and within the web server context. We will present a summary of the two primary types that are forward proxy and a reverse proxy. Each type has its own use and can be confusing due to a similar name convention.

This article will give you an understanding of proxy’s purpose and what subtypes they are, as well as how they function in typical setups. In this article, you’ll discover how to recognize the circumstances that are the best to use a proxy, and make the right choice between reverse proxy and forward proxy in any circumstance.

Understanding Forward Proxies

In other words a forward proxy, also known as an open proxy serves as the representative of a user who would like to make an internet-based request to an the server that originated it. In this situation, any attempt to send requests from the client will instead be sent direct via the forward proxy. The forward proxy, acting in the in the place of the customer will examine the request. First, it will determine if the client is authorized to accept requests from this specific forward proxy. It then decides whether to deny a request and transfer it onto the server that originally received it. The client isn’t able to have direct access to the internet. It is only able to access the internet that forward proxy allows its access.

The primary reason for people to utilize forward proxy servers is to increase privacy or security when surfing the internet. Forward proxy allows you to connect to the internet in instead of a client and as such, it may utilize a different IP address than the IP address originally utilized by the client.

Depending on how they’ve been configured in the past, forward proxy servers can give you a variety of options. They allow you to:

  • Avoid ad tracking.

  • Circumvent surveillance.

  • You can determine restrictions based upon your geographic location.

Forward proxies can also be utilized in systems that offer central security and permission-based access, for example, at work. If all internet traffic flows through an open forward proxy layer administrators can restrict access to only those clients who are and filter it through a standard firewall. Instead of putting firewalls installed for the client layer that could include a variety of computers with different user and operating environments, the firewall could be placed within the forward proxy layer.

Note that the forward proxy setting need to be manually configured for use in order to be used and reverse proxy settings can be ignored by clients. Based on whether the IP address of a user is transmitted to the source server via forward proxy privacy and anonymity may be granted or not.

There are several options to take into consideration when it comes to forward proxy options:

  • Apache The Apache is a popular open-source webserver that includes forward proxy functions.

  • Nginx: Another renowned open-source webserver that has forward proxy capabilities.

  • Squid: A no-cost forward proxy that utilizes an HTTP protocol. This doesn’t offer an entire web server solution. Check out our step-by-step guide to set up Squid proxy to permit private connections within Ubuntu 20.04.

  • Dante forward proxy which runs using the SOCKS protocol rather than HTTP this makes it more suited to situations such as peer-to-topeer traffic. It is also possible to look at the steps to install a Dante proxy for private connections in Ubuntu 20.04

Understanding Reverse Proxies

A reverse proxy acts as a representative of web servers, which handles the incoming requests of clients in its place. The web server could comprise a server or multiple servers. It could also be a server for applications like Gunicorn. In any of these scenarios, an application request is made through the internet in general. In most cases the request will be directly sent to the web server along with the information the client wants. Reverse proxy, however, acts as an intermediary, protecting Web servers from direct interaction with the internet’s public.

From a consumer’s point of viewpoint, or from a user’s perspective, working using a reverse proxy is no any different from working with an internet server direct. It’s exactly the same thing, however the client cannot discern the distinction. The client makes a request for an item and receives it without any further configuration needed by the client.

Reverse proxies provide features such as:

  • Secured centrally for Web Server Layer.

  • Controlling traffic coming inbound according to rules that you can set up.

  • The caching functionality has been added to the app.

While central security is an advantage for both reverse and forward proxy servers, reverse proxies provide this benefit only to the server layer, not the client layer. Instead of managing firewalls at servers on the internet, which can contain a variety of servers and various configurations, the majority of firewall security can be focused at the reverse proxy layer. Furthermore, the elimination of the responsibility to interact with a firewall as well as dealing with clients’ requests outside of web servers allows them to concentrate on serving the requirements of their customers.

When there is a multitude of servers hosted by a reverse proxy, the reverse proxy is responsible for directing which requests go at which server. There may be several web servers offering the same content, or offering various types of resources or a mixture of both. They can use the HTTP protocol exactly the same way as a standard web server however they could also include additional protocols for applications servers, such as FastCGI. You can also configure a reverse proxy to redirect clients to specific servers based on the requested resource or follow specific rules regarding traffic load.

Reverse proxies can also make use of their position before web servers by delivering caching capabilities. Massive static resources can be configured by using caching rules in order to avoid the web server from being hit with each request. There are solutions that permit the server to serve static assets directly without having to connect to the web server even once. In addition reverse proxy solutions can control compression of these files.

The well-known Nginx web server can also function as a well-known reverse proxy option. Although Apache has a reverse proxy solution, the Apache web server is also equipped with reverse proxy function as an additional feature of Apache while Nginx was initially designed to and is focused on the reverse proxy feature.

Differentiating Forward Proxy and reverse Proxy Use Examples

Because “forward” or “reverse” have connotations of directionality, and false comparisons with “incoming” as well as “outgoing” traffic the labels can be confusing as both types of proxies handle responses and requests. A better approach to differentiate between forward and reverse proxy is to look at the specifications of the application that you are building.

A reverse proxy can be beneficial when creating a web-based services over the internet. They act as your web server whenever you connect to the web.

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

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

Conclusion

This article defined the meaning of a proxy, which includes two types of proxy: the forward one and reverse proxy. Practical applications and a review of the beneficial features were utilized to differentiate between reverse and forward proxies. If you’re interested to learn more about how to implement proxy services, check out our guide on how you can set up Nginx as a web server and reverse proxy using Apache using Ubuntu 20.04. Ubuntu 20.04 server.

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