What is Reverse Proxy | Proxy Servers Explained

What is Reverse Proxy?

A reverse proxy is a server that remains in front of web servers and forwards client requests to web servers. Reverse proxies are typically executed to further increase safety, performance, and authenticity. In order to learn better how a reverse proxy works and the benefits it can afford, this blog will first explain what a proxy server is.

What is Proxy Server?

A forward proxy, often termed as a proxy, proxy server, or web proxy as mentioned earlier, is a server that lies in front of a combination of client machines. When those computers execute requests to different sites and services on the Internet, the proxy server prevents those requests and then interfaces with web servers on account of those clients, like a representative. For instance, let’s name 3 computers involved in a standard forward proxy communication:

  1. 1st computer: This is a user’s home machine
  2. 2nd computer: This is a forward proxy server
  3. 3rd computer: This is a site’s origin server where the website information is collected.

In standard Internet transmission, 1st computer would reach out right away to the 3rd computer, with the client sending requests to the source server and the origin server returning to the client. When a forward proxy is in place, 1st computer will rather send requests to the 2nd computer, which will then send the request to the 3rd computer. The 3rd computer will then send a response to the 2nd computer, which will forward the response back to the 1st computer.

reverse-proxy-server

There are a few purposes one might need to use a forward proxy:

1. To bypass state or institutional browsing limitations – Some authorities, schools, and other businesses use firewalls to provide their users to reach to a limited version of the Internet. A forward proxy can be applied to get around these limitations, as they let the users connect to the proxy rather than undeviating to the sites they are attending.

2. To block access to specific content – In opposite to that, proxies can also be set up to block a combination of users from reaching specific sites. For instance, a school network might be configured to attach to the web through a proxy which allows content filtering rules, declining to forward replies from social media sites.

3. To preserve their identity online – In certain circumstances, normal Internet users clearly aspire heightened anonymity online. For instance, some sites do not allow users from specific countries to visit, so such users can shield themselves and represent as a candidate of some other country whichever (country) is allowed. One can download the (proxy) software and see the list of countries so that they can visit it on behalf of other country instead of their own. This conceals their country of origin as well as their own identity.

How do reverse proxies work?

Now that you know what is reverse proxy, let us not move on to further concepts. A reverse proxy is a server intercepting requests from clients. This is distinct from a forward proxy, where the proxy remains in front of the clients. With a reverse proxy, when clients forward request to the origin server of a website, those requests are prevented at the network edge by the reverse proxy server. The reverse proxy server will then transmit requests to and receive responses from the origin server.

The difference between a forward and reverse proxy is complex but necessary. A clear way to sum it up would be to say that a forward proxy lies in front of a client and guarantees that no origin server ever interacts directly with that particular client. On the other hand, a reverse proxy rests in front of an origin server and assures that no client ever communicates right away with that origin server.

  • Load balancing – A successful site that receives millions of users all day may not be ready to control all of its incoming site traffic with a single origin server. Alternatively, the site can be allocated among a pool of several servers, all handling requests for the very same site. In this case, a reverse proxy can give a load balancing solution which will divide the incoming traffic evenly between the different servers to check any single server from growing overloaded. In the situation that a server crashes completely, other servers can step up to manage the traffic.
  • Security from attacks – With a reverse proxy in place, a website or service never requires to expose the IP address of their original server(s). This presents it much difficult for intruders to leverage a targeted intervention against them, for example, a DDoS attack. Instead, the attackers will only be ready to target the reverse proxy, which will have stronger security and more support to resist a cyber-attack.
  • Global Server Load Balancing – GSLB is a type of load balancing in which a website can be shared on different servers throughout the globe and the reverse proxy will send customers to the server that’s geographically most adjacent to them. This reduces the distances that requests and responses would have to travel, thereby decreasing load times.
  • Caching – A reverse proxy can also cache the content, following in faster performance. For instance, if a user in India hits a reverse-proxied website with web servers in London, the user might really connect to a local reverse proxy server in India, which will then have to interact with an origin server in London. The proxy server can then save (or temporarily save) the response data. Subsequent Indian users who browse the site will then get the nearby cached version from the reverse proxy server, appearing in much faster performance.
  • SSL encryptionEncrypting and decrypting SSL interfaces for each client can be costly for an origin server. A reverse proxy can be configured to decrypt all incoming requests and encrypt all outgoing responses, releasing up important resources on the source server.

How do I set up a reverse proxy?

Some organisations develop their own reverse proxies, but this needs fast software and hardware engineering resources and a vital investment in physical hardware. Now you know that a proxy is an application that prepares resource requests between client computers and servers. A reverse proxy recovers those resources from the servers on account of the clients, just as if the resources came straight from the servers.

Reverse proxies have a mixture of specific applications, particularly for web servers. A particular computer may want to run various web servers where each server accepts to incoming service requests on a distinct port. A reverse proxy can then examine each request and deliver it to the appropriate server. For instance, a CentOS computer running Apache and Tomcat servers can use a reverse proxy to enable Tomcat to request support from Apache. We now assume that you know what is reverse proxy through this blog. If you have further doubts, please do not hesitate to raise that in the comment section.

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