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What are the Differences Between Forward Proxy and Reverse Proxy?
What are the Differences Between Forward Proxy and Reverse Proxy?
Rapyd Team avatar
Written by Rapyd Team
Updated over a week ago

Proxies play a significant role in the world of networking, enhancing security, load balancing, and improving performance. There are two primary types of proxies: forward and reverse. While both serve as intermediaries, they function differently and address distinct needs. This article delves into the differences between a forward proxy and a reverse proxy.

A proxy server acts as an intermediary between a client and a server. By doing so, it can provide various functionalities, from security to performance optimization.

What is a Forward Proxy?

A forward proxy sits between client devices (like users' computers) and the internet. It serves as a gateway through which internet requests are made.

Uses of Forward Proxy:

  • Content Filtering: Block specific websites or content categories.

  • Bypass Restrictions: Access geo-restricted content by masking the user's IP.

  • Bandwidth Conservation: Cache content to reduce bandwidth usage.

  • Privacy: Hide user IP addresses from destination servers.

What is a Reverse Proxy?

A reverse proxy is positioned between the internet and the server (or servers). Instead of serving client devices, it helps protect the identity of the server and distribute the load.

Uses of Reverse Proxy:

  • Load Balancing: Distribute incoming requests to multiple servers.

  • Security and Anonymity: Shield the identity and characteristics of backend servers.

  • SSL Termination: Decrypt SSL traffic to offload the processing from backend servers.

  • Caching: Store content closer to the client to improve website speed.

Key Differences

  1. Direction:

    • Forward Proxy: Acts on behalf of the client. Clients are aware of the proxy.

    • Reverse Proxy: Acts on behalf of the server. Clients are typically unaware of its presence.

  2. Usage:

    • Forward Proxy: Controls outgoing traffic from a client network.

    • Reverse Proxy: Controls incoming traffic to a server or a cluster of servers.

  3. Functionality:

    • Forward Proxy: Used mainly for content filtering, bypassing geo-restrictions, bandwidth conservation, and privacy.

    • Reverse Proxy: Employed for load balancing, caching, SSL termination, and protection of backend servers.

  4. Deployment:

    • Forward Proxy: Deployed close to the client-side.

    • Reverse Proxy: Positioned near the server-side.

Conclusion:

While both forward and reverse proxies serve as intermediaries, their roles and functionalities differ considerably. A forward proxy focuses on the client side, controlling and monitoring outbound requests. In contrast, a reverse proxy focuses on the server side, managing inbound requests and ensuring the smooth, secure, and efficient operation of backend servers. Understanding these differences is crucial when architecting and optimizing network setups.

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