Difference between Forward Proxy and Reverse Proxy

Difference between Forward Proxy and Reverse Proxy
Difference between Forward Proxy and Reverse Proxy

Proxy servers are used by businesses to route their traffic to secure their network.

However, there is often confusion among people regarding proxy types, which are forward proxy and reverse proxy.

Here, in this blog, we will understand the difference between a forward proxy and a reverse proxy.

What is a Proxy?

Proxy is the intermediary between a web server and a user's device. It is a middleman that sits between the device and the web server. Whenever a user requests a web server, the work of the proxy server, instead of directly connecting it to the web server, directs the request to the proxy server.

Besides routing the traffic, proxy servers are responsible for various purposes, such as load balancing services, filtering web traffic, blocking unwanted content, and more. Proxy servers are used by businesses to improve performance, reliability, and security.

What is a Forward Proxy?

Forward proxy, also known as proxy, is a commonly used proxy server by clients and groups of clients. However, the clients in forward proxy servers belong to the internal network. It is the proxy server that acts as a middleman between the client and the web server.

So whenever a client or user requests the internal network, the request first goes through the forward proxy server. Based on the forward proxy setting, the request will be approved and denied. If the request is approved, the proxy server will send the request to the destination on the client's behalf.

In short, the function of the forward proxy is to intercept users' requests to web servers. So, to the internet server, the request is made by the proxy server instead of the actual user. Not only this, it also caches information for future requests.

Uses of Forward Proxies

Businesses and users use forward proxies for various reasons, such as:

  • Web Scraping - The prevalent use of forward proxy is web scraping, which is generally done by businesses to stay ahead of the competition. In this process, businesses just gather data from the internet to improve their business strategies. Generally, a forward proxy is used to monitor and control internet usage.
  • Privacy - Another common use of a forward proxy is maintaining the user's privacy. It helps by keeping the identity of users on the internet anonymous. The function of a forward proxy is to hide the device's IP address by assigning one of its IP addresses, which adds a safety layer.
  • Access Geo-restricted Content - Another benefit of forward proxy is it helps in accessing the geo-restricted content. In general, on the internet, users see content based on their geographical location. But with a forward proxy, users can access content beyond their country's region.

What is a Reverse Proxy?

A reverse proxy, on the other hand, is a proxy server that sits in front of the web server. Unlike forward proxy, the function of the reverse proxy is to protect the web server. Reverse proxy access requests from external clients on the server's behalf.

Whenever a reverse proxy gets a request from an external client, it directs it to another server and then forwards it to the web server. Administrators can streamline security administration using a reverse proxy to route client traffic.

They can set up detailed access control settings on the proxy itself and then set up backend servers to allow only traffic from the proxy server.

The purpose of the reverse proxy is to make sure that the user doesn't reach the original server directly; it gives anonymity to the web server. These proxies are useful for websites and service providers with many visitors.

Use of Reverse Proxy

Below are some of the uses of a reverse proxy such as:

  • Caching - One Of the significant uses of a reverse proxy is to cache data. Websites nowadays have a lot of images and videos, and it affects their performance. However, the reverse proxy helps in caching data, which reduces the load of web servers.
  • Load balancing - Websites with many visitors need a reverse proxy to handle the traffic flow. By distributing incoming traffic to multiple backend servers, businesses can handle many requests at a time. The functioning of reverse proxy as a load balancer is another benefit that helps businesses boost their capacity.
  • Anonymity - Further, the reverse proxy intercepts all the requests to the external web server, offering an additional layer of protection to the central web end server. Since all the requests go to the external server, the central server remains anonymous to the client, thus preventing the entrance of malicious actors on the web server.

Similarities Between Forward and Reverse Proxy

Both forward and reverse proxy servers are used for protection from external threats on the network. Since the primary function of both the proxies is to provide protection, it can approve and disapprove the request based on the policies set by the administrator.

Other than this, forward and reverse proxies can perform protocol and port switching, which is used to analyse patterns for resource access.

Comparison Table: Forward Proxy vs Reverse Proxy

Let's look at a quick comparison table of Forward vs Reverse Proxy.

Feature

Forward Proxy

Reverse Proxy

Directionality

It handles the outgoing request.

It handles the incoming request.

Location

It usually resides or sits in front of the client.

It sits or resides in front of the web server.

Purpose

The function of a forward proxy is to keep the client's identity anonymous.

The function of the reverse proxy is to keep the web server anonymous.

Configuration

This type of proxy is a part of the client-side infrastructure. 

It is part of server-side infrastructure.

Visibility

In forward proxy, the client is aware of the proxy server.

The web server is not aware of the proxy.

Conclusion

Forward and reverse proxies have a common purpose, which is to provide security to the network, but they have different functionality. While forward proxy helps users on private networks to access information on public networks, reverse proxy handles requests that come from public networks for accessing information on private subnets.

So, choosing the proxy for your business depends on the requirement. However, in this changing landscape, having a robust security solution in place is necessary for every business.

With cyberattacks happening, businesses need a catered solution beyond traditional measures. This Is where comes the Instasafe zero trust solution that works on zero trust principles.

Instansafe solutions ZTNA and ZTAA are designed to cater for the needs of modern businesses that want complete visibility and granular access control over resources. With the InstaSafe solution, stop worrying about exposed IPs, fragmented access and privacy issues because we leverage NIST and CSA Zero trust principles to offer secure network access.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is an example of a reverse proxy?

One of the most common examples of a reverse proxy is the Nginx web server as a reverse proxy.

  • Which is the fastest Forward Proxy vs Reverse Proxy?

The speed of the forward proxy and reverse proxy can vary depending on various factors such as forward proxy can be influenced by factors such as the proxy server's hardware, network bandwidth, and the number of clients it serves. At the same time, the speed of a reverse proxy depends on the processing power, network resources, and load-balancing capabilities of the reverse proxy server.

  • Which proxy is better for my business?

It depends on the business requirements and needs. If you have a website with numerous visitors, reverse proxy seems a good option. Further, if you want to protect internal resources while accessing the public network, then a forward proxy is a way to go.