What’s the difference between a forward and reverse proxy?
Well, A proxy is a server that acts as an intermediary between a device and the rest of the internet. Proxies accept and forward connection requests, then return data for those requests. They mediate all types of connections. Different types of proxy manage various dimensions of such online connections. While some point out what machines act as proxies and/or how they control data and privacy management, most types of proxy indicate the connection between users and proxy servers.
A proxy’s structural position makes it either a forward or a reverse proxy. You can easily figure out which is which once you understand the actual differences.
So, without further ado, let’s find out the actual difference between a forward and reverse proxy!
What Are Forward Proxies?
Forward proxies are what you’d typically refer to as “proxies.” You basically send a request through the proxy, and it brings data directly from the web. Usually, it lets users on a firewall-restricted connection access the internet.
A good demonstration of how forward proxies can assist you is circumventing a network ban. If the network you’re on blocks Facebook, you can bypass the ban with a forward proxy. You’ll connect to any proxy rather than Facebook’s services, and retrieve the info without having to alter the firewall.
Forward proxies can also provide anonymity. For example, an anonymous proxy will protect your IP from any network target.
What Are Reverse Proxies?
A reverse proxy controls access to a server from a personal connections perspective. Reverse proxies can do all sorts of authentication jobs. They can also decode or cache data. While many websites believe reverse proxies can do load-balancing, the idea is vague since they aren’t load-balancers. In essence, reverse proxies are intermediaries to a single or chunk of servers.
A reverse proxy provides anonymity only for back-end servers. It hides the actual location of servers that users are requesting information from.
Reverse proxies are necessary for websites with tons of visitors as they need to utilize many servers due to the vast amount of traffic. The entire traffic of the site then can go through a proxy and access the web servers to avoid overloading them—this also brings multiple servers to a similar URL space.
If you only have one server, reverse proxies can still be useful. It will then act as your service’s front-facing requests interceptor. Reverse proxies add flexibility and security to a website. As users are only able to access a connection via a proxy, it protects you from malicious attacks. Also, it allows owners to modify server configurations, and the visiting users aren’t impacted by it.
A reverse proxy can also increase the website’s speed by saving a cached site at the service’s front-end. So, if your back-end servers aren’t performing well, this will come in handy.
Forward and Reverse Proxies — What’s the Difference?
As we’ve mentioned earlier, forward and reverse proxies cannot be compared. Their names may indicate they fit in the same category, but it solely concerns the proxy’s position in the connection of client-service.
As intermediaries or gateways, they’re on opposite sections of the network. Forward proxies are gateways that the user puts forward among themselves and a server. On the other hand, reverse proxies are at the opposite end where the server conducts among itself and the client
In simple terms, forward proxies are the gateways on your end of the internet, and reverse proxies are the gateways on the end of the web server you’re connecting to.
Reverse and forward proxies perform different operations. However, they both:
- Can block or authorize access
- Moderate a user’s traffic
- Can be an individual access point toward both servers and devices
When Should You Use Forward Proxies?
As already mentioned, forward proxies are what we generically refer to as proxies. They are excellent for avoiding regional restrictions (i.e., China’s Great Firewall). So if you’re trying to stream Netflix US outside the US region, for example, you can simply do it by connecting to a forward proxy.
A forward proxy can also protect the location and identity of the user by showing the proxy IP instead of the real one.
When Should You Use Reverse Proxies?
Reverse proxies are great for serving cached website versions. They also balance server loads pretty well. As a gateway between the back-end of a server and the user, reverse proxies play a vital role in directing and/or handling incoming requests.
Do you own a server? If so, consider using reverse proxies to hide your server behind a robust firewall, which is accessible only through the proxy itself. That means, your users will view the proxy as a web server. It’s ideal for keeping cached data on your proxy server to enhance your page load speed.
If by any chance you are still slightly confused, we highly recommend checking out this blog post for more information about this topic. It covers what an IP address can reveal, and how regular internet users and businesses can hide their IP addresses by using forward or reverse proxies.
Proxies are vital for businesses of all shapes and sizes. They help protect the wide range of services and information that are exclusively available on your company’s private network for various in-house purposes. Therefore, it’s time you started using a proxy server to hide your business secrets and development from prying eyes.