Forward Proxy Vs Reverse Proxy: Key Differences

Forward Proxy Vs Reverse Proxy

Since cyber-crimes are always on the rise, businesses resort to varied ways to secure their networks and data. One such way implemented by businesses is the utilization of proxy servers.

About Proxy Servers:

Proxy Servers

Proxy Servers help in providing a secured gateway between the internet and the users. This in turn prevents cyber criminals from penetrating your network. It helps in streamlining the network traffic as per the defined policies, conceals clients’ IP addresses, imposes securities, and blocks suspicious traffic. They are usually used in external networks.

Proxies help in enhancing user experience by conciliating varied online transactions, network traffic, and client requests. There are multiple proxies available for data privacy and user data management.

Varied types of proxies are also used to govern the client–proxy server relationship. This structural positioning of a proxy decides whether it is a reverse proxy or a forward proxy.

We receive many queries regarding these two servers since many web owners are under the misconception that both these servers are the same and function similarly.

This blog is all about reverse proxy servers and forward proxy servers, their functioning, their benefits, their uses, similarities and their differences. At the end of this article, you will be clear in your views and understand how these servers are poles apart since they have major differences.

What is a Forward Proxy?

Forward Proxy

Usually, when the communication includes a proxy server, it’s mostly a forward proxy. It is the most basic type of proxy server and is used to communicate requests from external, isolated, or private networks to the internet via a firewall.

The forward proxy works as an extra layer of security because it masks the IP address of the web server with its address. This concealment of IP address helps in ensuring high security and confidentiality and hence proves to be the main reason why forward proxies are used.

Forward proxies are used to serve an individual client or groups of clients.

How does Forward Proxy Work?

  • Any connection attempt made by the client or groups of clients to the file transfer server on the internet must be first tunneled through the forward proxy.
  • Based on the settings of this proxy server, the client request will be accepted or rejected. If it is accepted, it will be forwarded to the firewall and later to the file transfer server.
  • The file transfer server thinks that the request is initiated by the proxy server and hence it responds and addresses it.
  • The proxy server later sends the response to the client who made the request.
  • These proxy servers maintain a list of all requests, their sources, and their responses. Varied clients send varied requests to multiple servers and this forward proxy server becomes a mediator for all of them.

Benefits:

  • Since proxies are a sole point of access, securities including SSL (Secure Socket Layers) encryption securities and other authentications can easily be incorporated.
  • It helps reduce network traffic since it checks whether the client request is valid or not. In case of an invalid request, it rejects the same, thus lessening the network traffic by ensuring authenticity.
  • It also blocks infected files from being uploaded to the cloud.

Why use Forward Proxy?

  • Cure for Geo-Restrictions:

A forward proxy surpasses geo-restrictions. Firewalls or any other country restrictions are eliminated when the forward proxy is in use.
Example: Suppose you need to access content in USA servers. Go for a USA proxy and access your desired content.

  • Anonymity:

Since the identity and the location of the client are hidden due to the masking of the IP address, client anonymity is maintained.

  • Web Scraping:

Web scraping is essential for gathering information from relevant sources to stay ahead in the competitive market. A forward proxy server can be used for web scraping.
In a nutshell, a forward proxy is focused on executing security basically on client computers in a secured (private) network. But the private network comprises servers also, apart from client computers.
For these servers to serve their external clients, the use of a reverse proxy is advisable.

What is a Reverse Proxy?

Reverse Proxy

As the name signifies, reverse proxy functions in contrast to the forward proxy. We are now aware that a reverse proxy is used to serve servers. In contrast to them, the forward proxies serve clients.
A reverse proxy safeguards server from cyber threats and offers reliable performance and other benefits. It forwards clients request to the server. It is placed in front of web servers.

How does Reverse Proxy Work?

Reverse proxies are gateways to a server or a group of servers. They can directly encrypt/decrypt information, cache/cookies information, etc.

  • These proxies mask the original location of the servers they represent.
  • Even if there is a single server, reverse proxies prove to be a front-end warrior, thus enhancing site security. This in turn prevents cyber-attacks, since clients can ingress your network via reverse proxy only.

Benefits:

  • Reverse proxies are beneficial and essential for sites having thousands of visitors since many servers are involved. This proxy ensures that all the network traffic moving to the website passes this proxy.
  • The best benefit of using a reverse proxy is that it permits the site owners to modify the platforms or any other configurations easily with nil impact on users.
  • These proxies also serve as load balancers for servers by distributing incoming client requests to multiple servers which offer the same services.

Why use Reverse Proxy?

Reverse proxy servers have varied capabilities, but let’s indulge in a few best reasons for using the same.

  • Load Balancing:

In the current era, the network traffic is heavy with millions of visitors viewing sites. A single server may not be able to manage such a heavy incoming traffic load.
Distribution of traffic to a group of servers is essential to balance the loads, and as stated above, reverse proxy servers serve as excellent load balancers by equally distributing the network traffic amongst the servers.
In case of a server crash, other servers can effectively manage the traffic.

  • Security:

Since the IP address of the original server is masked, intruder penetration is prevented. You can also utilize a reverse proxy server to conceal your other servers behind the reverse proxy firewall. This secures your servers and keeps them anonymous.

  • Speed:

Your site speed and performance are enhanced when reverse proxy servers are in use. Not only do they help increase the network traffic, but they also perform other duties like SSL encryption and authentications, thus reducing server loads.  SSL encryption can be achieved with either DV SSL certificate, OV SSL certificate or EV SSL certificate. All these three types of SSL certificate represent validation methods.

Difference Between the Forward Proxy and the Reverse Proxy:

  1. A forward proxy masks the client’s identity, whereas a reverse proxy masks the server’s identity that is serving the requests.
  2. A forward proxy plays a pivotal role at the frontend level in offering huge network services in case of client requests. A reverse proxy on the other end performs the same function at the backend level.
  3. Though both these proxies are stationed between the client and the server, a forward proxy is located in front of the client, whereas the reverse proxy is located in front of the server.
  4. The forward proxy is used by the client, whereas the reverse proxy is used by the server.
  5. A forward proxy prevents direct communication of websites with its users. A reverse proxy prevents direct communication of users with the backend server.
  6. Connection of the forward proxies are initiated from internal secured zones and are fated to outside unsecured networks. Connection of the reverse proxies are initiated from outside networks and are fated to internal secured zones.
  7. Forward proxies are not meant for application delivery, whereas in the case of reverse proxies, they are built and meant for application delivery.
  8. Forward proxies are used for ensuring privacy and security, accessing restricted content email security, content filtering, etc. Reverse proxies are used by servers to prevent overloading and add extra security layers like SSL encryption, server obfuscation, compression, caching, content switching, application firewall, etc.

Similarities:
A few similarities between these proxies are:

  • Both these proxies handle client requests.
  • Both proxies help in mediating network traffic.
  • Both proxies are capable of blocking suspicious traffic or requests.
  • Both proxies act as a single point for access and control either for the client or for the server.

Wrapping Up:
Both proxies come with their benefits. They come in varied types and it’s for you to decide which one is beneficial for your site and business. Incorporate the same for handling client requests and for balancing network traffic to prevent server crashes.

Go for single-point access by using proxy servers to enhance your digital security and save your bandwidth by compressing incoming traffic load.