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Reverse Proxy VS Forward Proxy: Understanding the Difference

A proxy server acts as a middleman between a client (like a web browser) and a server. It helps facilitate communication between them. When a client makes a request to a server, the request is first sent to the proxy server.

Carl Gamutan

by Carl Gamutan

Publishing Date: July 25, 2022


What are forward proxies?

Forward proxies are used when the user's outgoing data is routed through the proxy server. This gives the user improved personal security, anonymity, and the ability to change locations. Every web request the user makes must pass through the forward proxy, which forwards the request to the internet via a firewall. The website or web application you use will only see the IP address of the proxy server, not your actual address.

Types of forward proxies

Residential Proxies. Residential proxies are the most common type of forward proxy. These proxies have real IP addresses assigned to them by an Internet Service Provider (ISP) and come from a physical location. Residential proxies are significantly slower than datacenter proxies. This is because their creation requires significant effort when setting up systems, buying servers, etc., and managing maintenance and cost associated with each residential address.

Datacenter Proxies. The second type of forward proxies is known as datacenter proxies. These don’t have any legitimate location or address. Instead, they redirect their internet traffic through other servers using virtual locations. Datacenter proxies help reduce latency and allow access to restricted websites that filtering based on IP addresses would usually block. However, they tend not to be as reliable as residential ones due to their shared nature. This is why users should be cautious when using them for anonymity needs. Additionally, firewall settings can easily block them, making them ineffective against certain sites.

Why use forward proxies

Forward proxies offer several benefits and are best used for personal tasks. This includes enhancing privacy and anonymously browsing the internet, accessing geo-restricted content, and using automation tools for web scraping. They can also be used to bypass bans and blocks on websites.

What are reverse proxies?

Reverse proxies are used to route incoming traffic to the proxy server instead of outgoing traffic. This allows the server to hide its identity from clients or users. When a web request is received, it goes through the reverse proxy before being sent to the backend server. The website or client that sent the request will see the proxy server as the receiver, not the backend server.

Types of reverse proxies

Regular reverse proxies are a powerful tool for protecting web servers, servers, and networks from malicious attacks. They act as an intermediary between client applications and the server that hosts the requested resources. The proxy filters incoming requests, performs authentication tasks, and blocks malicious activity. They also help enforce various security policies. As a result, it effectively shields the targeted back-end systems from all sorts of unauthorized access and malicious activities.

Regular reverse proxies enable an organization to provide scalable services with increased efficiency. A proxy can cache content which helps reduce latency. This increases the overall turnaround time for each request. It can also filter out unwanted elements, such as ads or malware attempts in website assets, before these reach the visitor's browser. These make it an optimal solution for securing resources and improving application performance.

Why use reverse proxies

Reverse proxies provide increased security for backend servers by hiding their information from clients or users. This helps prevent cyber attacks and malicious intent. They're also best used to balance incoming traffic on multiple servers to prevent website crashes. This makes them ideal for organizations that handle sensitive information.

Reverse proxies VS Forward proxies

Forward Proxies

  • Direction: Outgoing traffic
  • Purpose: Hide the user's identity
  • Location: Between the client and the internet
  • Benefits: Enhanced personal security and anonymity
  • Use cases: Personal browsing, web scraping, geo-restricted content
  • Example: Used by users to access blocked websites

Reverse Proxies

  • Direction: Incoming traffic
  • Purpose: Hide the server's identity
  • Location: Between the internet and server
  • Benefits: Increased server security and load balancing
  • Use cases: Load balancing, security for sensitive information
  • Example: Used by websites to handle incoming traffic efficiently

Can a forward proxy act as a reverse proxy?

Forward and reverse proxies have a lot of similarities. But they are vastly different in terms of intended use. A forward proxy is an organization or individual’s computer, acting as an intermediate between the end user and another server on the internet. It is mainly used by companies to filter requests from users and block malicious traffic that may come through it. While a reverse proxy is typically used to provide better performance and security for server-side applications that are running on clients due to its ability to cache requests.

Simply put, a forward proxy cannot act as a reverse proxy as they each have separate software designed to support them in their respective roles. A forward proxy could use something like NGINX for load balancing and caching services, while a reverse proxy requires something like Apache HTTP Server for web application acceleration. So even if they might resemble each other from the outside, what makes them unique lies within their dedicated software components, which are tailored for particular tasks that these servers must perform.

Ensuring using the correct proxy type for your needs is essential for maximizing their benefits. If you’re looking for a reliable and efficient solution for web scraping and enhancing your online security, consider Geonode’s residential proxy offers.

People Also Ask

1. What is the purpose of a reverse proxy?

A reverse proxy is a server that sits between client devices and backend servers, forwarding client requests to the appropriate server and returning the server's response to the client. The purpose of a reverse proxy is to provide additional security, scalability, and performance benefits to a web application by intercepting incoming requests and distributing them to multiple backend servers.

2. Is a VPN a forward proxy or a reverse proxy?

A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is neither a forward proxy nor a reverse proxy. A VPN is a secure tunnel between a client device and a server that encrypts all data passing through it, providing privacy and anonymity for the user.

3. Why are reverse proxies better than port forwarding?

Reverse proxy provides several advantages over port forwarding. Reverse proxy provides additional security by hiding backend server details and preventing direct access to the backend servers from external clients. Reverse proxy also enables load balancing across multiple backend servers, providing better performance and scalability for web applications.

4. What is the purpose of a forward proxy?

A forward proxy is a server that sits between client devices and the internet, forwarding client requests to the appropriate web server and returning the server's response to the client. A forward proxy provides privacy and anonymity for the user by hiding the user's IP address and providing access to restricted content.

5. What are the risks of reverse proxies?

The risks of using a reverse proxy include misconfigured routing rules that could lead to unauthorized access to backend servers, the potential for DDoS attacks against the reverse proxy, and the need for SSL termination on the reverse proxy that could expose sensitive information.

6. Is a reverse proxy good or bad?

A reverse proxy is a tool that can provide significant benefits to web applications, including increased security, scalability, and performance. However, like any technology, it must be implemented correctly to avoid potential risks and vulnerabilities. Whether a reverse proxy is good or bad depends on its implementation and use.

References and further reading

Guoan, X. (2022, September 3). Differences Between Forward Proxy and Reverse Proxy. LinuxBabe. Retrieved April 4, 2023, from https://www.linuxbabe.com/it-knowledge/differences-between-forward-proxy-and-reverse-proxy

McKenzie, C. (2022, September 21). Forward proxy vs. reverse proxy: What's the difference? TheServerSide. Retrieved April 4, 2023, from https://www.theserverside.com/feature/Forward-proxy-vs-reverse-proxy-Whats-the-difference

Zalman, L. (2023, January 12). Forward Proxy vs. Reverse Proxy: The Difference Explained. StrongDM. Retrieved April 4, 2023, from https://www.strongdm.com/blog/difference-between-proxy-and-reverse-proxy

Zhou, Y. (2022, March 2). Forward Proxy and Reverse Proxy: The Differences | by Yang Zhou | TechToFreedom. Medium. Retrieved April 4, 2023, from https://medium.com/techtofreedom/forward-proxy-and-reverse-proxy-the-differences-8530a195cb2d