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An proxy or proxy server. It is piece of software which acts as an intermediary for client and server on the internet. Without a proxy, a client could send a request for resources directly to a server, and it would deliver the resource directly back to the user. While this is a simple method to comprehend and implement, but the addition of proxy servers could bring benefits such as increased performance as well as privacy, security and more. As an additional layer of pass-through, the proxy serves as a security guardian of the internet between servers and clients.

Generally speaking, the bundled system of server hardware that is paired with installed proxy software is frequently referred to as a proxy server. This article will focus on the proxies that are usually considered to be software, as well as in relation to web servers. There will be a discussion of the two major types of proxies, one being one that is a forward proxy and the reverse. reverse proxy. Each type has its own application, and is frequently confused due to the resemblance of namesake convention.

This article will provide you with an understanding of different subtypes and proxies in terms of their value for common setups. If you read in this post, you’ll discern situations in which using proxies can be advantageous, and then choose the best choice between reverse proxy and forward proxy depending on the circumstance.

Understanding Forward Proxies

Forward proxy also known by the name of open proxy. An open proxy acts as the representative of a customer who wants to send an internet request to the server which originated it. In this situation any attempts to send requests made by the client’s side will be directed directly to the forward proxy. Forward proxy in lieu of the client, will examine the request. First, it will determine if this client is allowed to receive requests from this specific forward proxy. Then, it will deny any request or forward it to its origin server. The client does not have direct connection to the internet and can only access what forward proxy permits it to connect to.

The primary reason for people to utilize forward proxies is to increase privacy or security when surfing the web. Forward proxy connects to the internet as clients, and in this way it may utilize an IP address that is different from the original IP of the client.

Depending on the way it’s configured, forward proxy will grant a number of features as well as the ability to:

  • Beware of ads-trackers.

  • Circumvent surveillance.

  • Find restrictions that are based on your location.

Forward proxies are also employed in systems that offer central security and access to users based on permissions, for instance at work. If all internet traffic passes through a forward proxy, an administrator is able to allow only specific clients access to the internet via a common firewall. Instead of putting firewalls installed for the client layer, which can involve many machines with varying settings and environments and users the firewall is placed in a forward proxy layer.

It is important to remember that forward proxy settings need to be manually set up to permit the use of these proxy servers for use in reverse proxies, whereas forward proxies are able to not be detected by the user. Based on the IP address of a user is passed on to the server from which it originated via forward proxy, privacy and security settings, it can be granted or kept in the dark.

There are numerous options to think about when it comes to forward proxy alternatives:

  • Apache A well-known open source web server with forward proxy capabilities.

  • Nginx A renowned open-source server used for web hosting with forward proxy capabilities.

  • Squid is a free forward proxy that uses an HTTP protocol. It’s not the full Web Server System. We recommend our article on the most efficient method to set up Squid proxy to allow connection to private networks in Ubuntu 20.04.

  • Dante Forward proxy that makes use of the SOCKS protocol instead of HTTP and HTTP, which makes it better suited for scenarios such as peer-to-peer communication. You can also learn how to configure Dante proxy to allow secure connections within Ubuntu 20.04

Understanding Reverse Proxies

Reverse proxy functions as an intermediary between a web server, and takes care of requests from clients for the web server. The web server can serve as a single server, or multiple servers. Additionally, it can serve as an application server such as Gunicorn. In any case the request for an application comes from a user via the internet in general. The request will typically be sent directly to the web server that hosts what the client is looking for. The reverse proxy acts as a middleman to protect your server from interaction via the web’s public.

From a consumer’s point of the consumer’s perspective, working with reverse proxy isn’t different from connecting to your webserver directly. It’s functionally similar, however the client isn’t able to tell the difference. Client makes a request for an item, and is given it, without requiring any additional configuration from the user.

Reverse proxy providers provide features like:

  • The server on the internet is protected centrally.

  • Directing traffic according to rules you set.

  • The caching functionality was added to the application.

While centralized security is an advantage of both reverse and forward proxy, reverse proxy applications apply this function only for just the Web server layer but not the client layer. instead of maintaining firewalls on Web server layers that may contain multiple servers with various configurations, the bulk of firewall security is directed to the reverse proxy layer. Furthermore, taking the burden of interacting with firewalls and responding to requests from clients off web servers lets them focus on serving resources.

If there are more than one servers existing with a reverse-proxy in place, the reverse proxy is also responsible for controlling which requests are routed to the server. There could be multiple web servers that are running on the same server, all serving different kinds of resources or a combination of both. They could be using the HTTP protocol similar to a conventional web server. They can also include application server protocols like FastCGI. You can also set up a reverse proxy to route clients to specific servers based on the service they require or to adhere to certain traffic load rules.

Reverse proxies can also benefit from their position on top of web servers with the help of caching. The large static files can be configured using caching rules to prevent hitting web servers with every request, with some options even allowing the provision of static files in a direct manner without linking directly to the website server. Additionally, reverse proxy can handle compression of these assets.

The well-known Nginx web server has become a wildly popular reverse proxy solution. While it’s not a reverse proxy, the Apache web server is also available with a reverse proxy option as an additional function which is accessible for Apache whereas Nginx was designed initially for and is specifically designed for reverse proxy functions.

Differentiating Forward Proxy from Reverse Proxy Use Cases

Since “forward” in addition to “reverse” are associated with a sense of directionality as well as misleading comparisons with “incoming” and “outgoing” traffic, these labels can be confusing, since both types of proxy servers can be used to manage requests and responses. An alternative method to differentiate between reverse and forward proxy servers is to look at the specifications of the software you are developing.

Reverse proxy is a useful tool to use when creating a solution for serving applications that are on the web. They are your web servers when you interact with the Internet.

Forward proxy is a great tool to use if you’re facing clients to use for personal purposes or even in a business environment. They represent your client traffic whenever you connect to the internet.

A distinction based on use case instead of looking at the common naming conventions can assist you in avoiding confusion.

Conclusion

The article described what a proxy is along with two types being the forward proxy and reverse proxy. Practical examples of its use and a discussion of the most beneficial features was used to differentiate forward proxies from reverse. If you’re looking to learn how to implement proxies we suggest that you read our tutorial on how to set up Nginx as an internet server and reverse proxy on Apache running an Ubuntu 20.04 server.

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