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An proxy is also known as proxy servers is software that acts as a mediator between a client and server over the internet. Without a proxy, an individual can send a request for an item directly to a server, and the server will deliver the resource directly back to the user. While this is a simple method to understand and implement, the addition of proxies can bring advantages in terms of enhanced performance, privacy, security, and much more. Alongside providing a layer of security proxy servers also act as a security guardian for the internet between servers and clients.

The general consensus is that the collection of server hardware and proxy software is also frequently called proxy servers. But, this article will concentrate on proxies typically classified as software and within the context of web servers. This article will give a synopsis of the two main types that are forward proxy and a reverse proxy. Each type has its own use that can cause confusion due to the same name convention.

This article will provide you with an understanding of proxy’s purpose and what subtypes they are and how they work in the normal configurations. In the article you’ll learn to determine the situations in which it is beneficial to use a proxy, and decide on the appropriate choice between forward and reverse proxy in any circumstance.

Understanding Forward Proxies

In the same way a forward proxy, also referred to as open proxy. In other words, an open proxy is a proxy of a user who would like to send an internet request to an origin server. In this scenario every request from the client will instead be directed directly via the forward proxy. The forward proxy, acting in the instead of the user will look into the request. It will first determine if this client has the right to receive requests from this particular forward proxy. It will then decide if it is authorized to refuse a request or 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 the forward proxy permits it access to.

The primary reason for people to use forward proxies is to improve privacy or security on the internet. A forward proxy can be used to connect to the internet in place of a client, and in this manner, it may utilize a different IP address than the original IP address utilized by the client.

Based on the way it was configured in the past forward proxy servers may give you a variety of choices and permit you to:

  • Avoid ad tracking.

  • Circumvent surveillance.

  • You will be able to identify any limitations based on your geographic place of residence.

Forward proxies may also be utilized in systems that offer central security and authorization based access, for example, in a workplace. When all traffic on the internet passes through an open forward proxy, administrators can limit access to those clients who are and filter it through a standard firewall. Instead of putting firewalls to protect the client layer, which could include a variety of machines that have different user and operating environments, the firewall could be put within the forward proxy layer.

It is important to note that settings for forward proxy have to be manually configured for use to function and reverse proxies are able to be not recognized by clients. Depending on whether the IP address of a user is passed to the original server via the forward proxy, privacy and anonymity could be granted or not.

There are several options to take into consideration for forward proxies:

  • Apache The Apache is a popular open-source web server with forward proxy features.

  • Nginx: Another popular open-source webserver, this one with forward proxy features.

  • Squid: A free forward proxy that uses the HTTP protocol. Squid isn’t a complete internet server. Follow our step-by-step instructions to create Squid proxy to allow private connections in Ubuntu 20.04.

  • Dante forward proxy, which uses on the SOCKS protocol instead of HTTP which makes it better suited to situations such as peer-topeer traffic. You can also look into how you can install the Dante proxy to connect privately in Ubuntu 20.04

Understanding Reverse Proxies

A reverse proxy functions as a representation of web servers, which handles any requests that come in from clients on its behalf. The web server could comprise a server or multiple servers. It could also be used as an application server such as Gunicorn. In any of these situations, the request for an application comes from a user via the internet as a whole. In most cases the request is directly sent to the server that hosts the information that the client is seeking. A reverse proxy works as an intermediary, protecting Web server from any direct interactions with the internet’s public.

From a consumer’s point of view that is from a user’s perspective, working using a reverse proxy is no any different from using direct connections to an internet server. It’s exactly the same however the client is unable to be able to discern the differences. The client makes a request for the resource, and is then provided with it, without any additional configuration required on the part of the client.

Reverse proxies provide features such as:

  • Secured centrally for Web Server Layer.

  • Controlling traffic inbound based on rules you can design.

  • The caching function is now available to users.

While centralized security is an advantage of both reverse and forward proxy servers, reverse proxies provide this feature to only the server layer and it is not available to the client layer. Instead of maintaining firewalls for servers on the internet, that could contain multiple servers and various configurations, most of the firewall security is targeted at the reverse proxy layer. Furthermore, the elimination of the responsibility of interfacing with a firewall as well as dealing with client requests without the need for web servers enables them to focus on meeting the requirements of their customers.

In the event that there’s multiple servers being hosted with a reverse-proxy the reverse proxy will also be responsible to direct which requests are routed at which server. There could be multiple web servers providing identical content providing various types of resources or a mix of both. These servers can be using the HTTP protocol similar to a traditional web server, however, they may also use different protocols for application servers such as FastCGI. You can also set up a reverse proxy to redirect clients to specific servers based upon the requested resource or adhere to specific rules for traffic load.

Reverse proxies also can make use of their location prior to web servers by providing caching capabilities. Massive static resources can be configured by using caching rules in order to avoid hitting web servers with every request. There are solutions even allowing 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 is also used as a well-known reverse proxy service. Although Apache is also a reverse proxy service, it is not a reverse proxy solution. Apache web server also comes with reverse proxy functionality as an additional feature of Apache however Nginx was initially designed to focus on the reverse proxy feature.

Differentiating Forward Proxy and reverse Proxy Use Examples

Since “forward” as well as “reverse” have a connotation of directionality, as well as false comparisons with “incoming” and “outgoing” traffic the labels can be confusing because both types of proxy are able to handle requests and responses. An alternative method to differentiate between reverse and forward proxy is to examine the requirements of the application that you are building.

A reverse proxy could be helpful when building a solution to provide web-based applications on the internet. They serve as your web servers whenever you connect to the web.

Forward proxy can be useful when placed before clients for personal use or within an office environment. They represent your customers when you interact with the internet.

The use of case-based differentiation instead of focusing on the commonly used naming conventions can help in eliminating confusion.


This article clarified the definition of a proxy with the two types: the forward proxy and reverse proxy. Practical applications and a discussion of beneficial features were utilized to differentiate between forward and reverse proxies. If you’re interested in knowing more about the process of implementing proxies you can check out our guide on how to set up Nginx as an internet server and reverse proxy using Apache in an Ubuntu 20.04 server.

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