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An proxy or proxy server is a software which acts acting as an intermediary for client and server over the internet. Without the use of a proxy, users would send a request for an item directly a server, and then the server would provide that resource to its user directly. Although this method is easy to grasp and use but using proxies has advantages such as increased performance, privacy and security, and much more. As an additional layer being able to pass through, proxies function as a security layer for the internet between servers and users.

The bundled system of server hardware along with the software used to install proxy services is often referred to as proxy servers. This article will concentrate on the proxy servers that are usually described in terms of software as well as those that are used to complement web servers. This article will provide a brief overview of the two major types of proxies: the one that is forward and a reverse proxy. Each has their own use that can cause confusion due to the same terminology.

This article will provide you with an idea of the how proxies work and what their subtypes are, as well as their value in a variety of configurations. After reading this article, you’ll know what situations in which a proxy is useful, and choose the best choice for forward or reverse proxy depending on the situation.

Understanding Forward Proxies

Forward proxy, also referred to as open proxy. An open proxy serves as a representative for a client that is trying to send an online request to a server. In this situation the entire attempt to send requests from the client is instead controlled by the forward proxy. Forward proxy in lieu of the user will review the request. It will first check if the client been authorized to transmit requests using this particular forward proxy. It will then reject an demand and then forward the request to an original server. The client is not able to have direct access for the web. It is able to access only what the forward proxy allows it access to.

One of the most common uses for forward proxy is increased privacy or security on the internet. The forward proxy can connect to the internet instead of a client. as a result it utilizes an alternate IP address to the client’s initial IP address.

Based on how it is set up in accordance with the method of configuration, a forward proxy could provide a variety of functions dependent on the way it’s configured, which allows users to:

  • Avoid ad tracking.

  • Circumvent surveillance.

  • Find out the restrictions that apply to your area.

Forward proxies are also utilized in systems that use centralized security and based access, for instance in workplaces. When all internet traffic is routed through a common forward proxy, an administrator can limit access to only a small set of users to the internet filtered by a common firewall. Instead of putting firewalls in place on the client layer, which could comprise a range of devices with various environments and users, it is possible to install a firewall at the layer that forwards proxy traffic.

It is crucial to keep in mind that forward proxy servers need to be manually configured for use, whereas reverse proxies may be hidden from clients. Depending on the type of IP address the client, it will be passed to the server that originated it via the forward proxy privacy and security is granted or left hidden.

There are a variety of alternatives to consider for forward proxies:

  • Apache is a well-known open-source web server that provides forward proxy capabilities.

  • Nginx: Another well-known open source web server that has forward proxy capabilities.

  • Squid: A free forward proxy that utilizes the HTTP protocol. This doesn’t offer an entire website server software. We have instructions on how to set-up Squid proxy to allow private connections with Ubuntu 20.04.

  • Dante Forward Proxy that utilizes the SOCKS protocol rather than HTTP and is better suited to use in instances like peer-to-peer communication. It is also possible to understand how to configure the Dante proxy for private connections on Ubuntu 20.04

Understanding Reverse Proxies

A reverse proxy acts as an intermediary for web servers that handle incoming requests by clients on its behalf. The web server could consist of a single server, or a number of servers. Additionally, it could be an application server such as Gunicorn. In both cases, the request comes from an internet user generally. In the majority of cases, requests will get made directly to the server which has all the resources the client in need of. Contrarily reverse proxy acts as an intermediary and isolates Web servers and their direct communication with the internet.

From a consumer’s point view, interacting with reverse proxy is not different from interacting with an internet server direct. It’s basically the same, and the client cannot discern the distinction. The client makes a request for the resource, and then gets it without any additional configuration needed to be done by the customer.

Reverse proxies can provide features such as:

  • A centralized layer of security to protect the server.

  • Controlling traffic that is inbound on rules that you can establish.

  • A new feature to cache has been added.

While central security is an advantage of both reverse and forward proxy servers, reverse proxies offer this feature only to the server layer and not the layer that clients use. instead of maintaining firewalls at Web server layers that can contain many servers and different configurations, the majority of firewall security is targeted at the reverse proxy layer. Additionally, removing the burden of interacting with a firewall and communicating with clients outside of web servers allows the firewall to focus on delivering the needs of their customers.

In the case of several servers running in a reverse proxy, it manages controlling which requests go to which servers. There are many web servers running from the same host, providing various kinds of services or a mix of both. These servers utilize the HTTP protocol like a traditional web server. They can also be equipped with applications server protocols such as FastCGI. You can set up a reverse proxy to direct the clients to specific servers based on the type of resource they’re searching for, or comply with certain rules for traffic load.

Reverse proxies are also able to gain advantage from their position ahead of web servers by providing caching functionality. Large static assets are able to be configured with caching rules, so that you do not need to call web servers every time you request. Some solutions offering an option to deliver static files directly without touching the server once. Additionally reverse proxy is able to manage compression of these files.

The renowned Nginx web server can also function as a powerful reverse proxy option. It is true it’s true Apache web server is equipped with a reverse proxy, it is an additional option for Apache but Nginx was designed originally for and is focused on the reverse proxy feature.

Distinguishing Forward Proxy from reverse Proxy Use Examples

Because “forward” and “reverse” come with connotations of directionality and false comparisons to “incoming” and “outgoing” traffic. It can be confusing as both types of proxies handle requests and responses. An alternative approach to distinguish between reverse and forward proxy is to consider the needs of the application that you’re working on.

A reverse proxy is useful when you’re developing a solution to offer web-based solutions on the internet. They serve as your servers for any interaction with the Internet.

Forward proxy software is useful when they are presented to the client for personal use or in a professional setting. They are your client’s representative when you connect to the internet.

Utilizing case-based differentiation instead of focusing on the common naming conventions can assist in avoiding confusion.

Conclusion

This article defined what a proxy is along with two kinds: forward proxy and the reverse proxy. Practical applications and an examination of useful features were utilized to distinguish between forward and reverse proxies. If you’re interested to learn more about the use of proxy servers, you can read our tutorial on how to set up Nginx as a reverse proxy with Apache using an Ubuntu 20.04 server.

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