If you are new to the proxy world, you must have come across two terms – reverse proxy and forward proxy. In fact, they are not the same concept. I’ve seen people mistake one for the other, and this stems from the fact that they don’t really understand both.
This is why I wrote this article; to find out what makes a reverse proxy different from a forward proxy and how they perform the same function in different environments. Before that, let’s see what each of them is.
Defining reverse and direct proxies
I know you might be wondering why bring this up; this is because you must be given a clear definition of a proxy. Most people think of a proxy as a server through which clients send their web requests to websites.
Well, that’s not all about proxies. Unlike most of our articles, we have to move on to more technical aspects and override the proxy for you. A proxy server is simply a server acting on the behavior of another computer, which can be a client or a server. This means that in addition to you as a client who needs proxies to hide, the web server you are requesting resources from may also be hiding behind a proxy.
What is a direct proxy?
When you hear people mention the word “proxy” in web technologies, they are actually referring to direct proxies. Forward proxies are types of proxies that clients use to hide their IP addresses and remain anonymous when browsing the Internet.
What they do is forward the requests sent through them to the appropriate web servers, and when a response is returned to them, they send it to you. Depending on the level of anonymity, the web server from which you are requesting resources will not know that you initiated the request. But Forward Proxy knows both you and the web server from which you are requesting content.
How a direct proxy works
When connecting to a proxy, your device sends a normal request as if the proxy did not exist, but it will redirect all its requests through that proxy, and the proxy will accept requests and forward them through its own IP, and if obfuscated (anonymous) it will hide your IP address and replace it with its own address.
The best example of how a forward proxy can help you is bypassing network blocking. If your network is blocking Instagram, you can solve the blocking problem by using a proxy proxy-seller.com You will connect to a proxy server instead of Instagram services and receive information without warning the firewall.
What is a reverse proxy?
While the above only applies to clients, some proxies have also been designed to provide privacy for web servers. Let me tell you something. You’re not the only one who needs privacy; web servers need this because they don’t know if you are trustworthy or not. However, some exist for other reasons.
A reverse proxy is a proxy that accepts web requests on behalf of web servers. After receiving the request, based on its configuration, it determines whether the request deserves to be redirected to the real server or not.
If you have a reverse proxy, you will hardly be able to directly hit the real server — this is because only the IP address of the reverse proxy is publicly available. This creates a certain level of privacy for the servers.
How a reverse proxy works
Reverse proxies are a little different in that they don’t work for you, they work for the website. These are not proxies that help you stay anonymous, and in fact, they cannot be used at all for normal web browsing. Instead, it’s what companies and websites use to protect against various types of connections, or to be used as filters, firewalls, or additional security.
Basically, a web server can be one server or a collection of them, but they don’t connect directly to the Internet. Instead, they connect to a reverse proxy. This reverse proxy server acts as a web server. You, as a web browser, connect to the site and just see the proxy; you don’t see any of the servers behind it. The proxy server pretends to be a web server, performing functions such as hiding the server’s real IP address.
Reverse or Direct Proxy
Looking at the definitions above, you can see that the two terms are not the same and, in fact, are completely different. Just in case you haven’t noticed the difference, in this section we’ll discuss the differences between the two in detail.
The most important distinguishing feature of both reverse proxies and their forward proxy counterparts is their structural position in the entire mix of sending and receiving responses. For Forward proxies, they are client-side and provide client-side anonymity for your PC. Forward proxies are your gateway to the Internet, and they can change your requests before they reach the website you are about to visit. For you to be able to use the forwarding proxy, you need to configure them on your side – on the client side.
For reverse proxies, they are server-oriented and provide server-side anonymity. They serve as the gateway to the web server with which you intend to interact. Just as you don’t want web servers to know your real IP address, some organizations also don’t want you to know their actual servers exist; So they set up a proxy server that acts like their real server. But when requests come in, it routes them to the real server.
The structural arrangement of the two types of proxies has made their scope different. While both can block moderate user traffic and both are gateways, their applications are different. What then are the use cases for each of them?
For forward proxies, the use case is quite simple and is known to many Internet users.
The very idea of providing an IP address and location privacy opens up many areas in which proxies are used. Direct proxies are useful in the areas of brand protection and ad verification. They are also useful for search engine optimization, crawling and web scraping, as well as when playing online games, social media automation, and more.
For reverse proxies, their use is not known to the general public, except for those familiar with server technology.
One of the most important uses of reverse proxies is that they are used for load balancing. They distribute incoming web requests to a group of web servers that perform the same function – this allows a high traffic website to respond quickly to the requests sent to them. In addition, they are used for caching, which ultimately leads to faster response and bandwidth savings. They are also used for security reasons to provide some form of shell for real servers so that it is difficult to attack them directly.
Looking at the above, you will see that although they all have the word “proxy” in their names, they are not really the same thing. They both have their own unique uses based on their position in the request-response cycle. However, it’s important to know that each of them moderates your traffic and can either block your requests or allow them.