Forward vs reverse proxies
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Iveta Vistorskyte

Oct 29, 2020 6 min read

We’ve previously talked about what a reverse proxy is. In this article, we’ll explain the differences between the forward vs. reverse proxy servers. First, let’s make sure that we’re on the same page by understanding what a forward and reverse proxy is. 

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What is a forward proxy?

A forward proxy server, or, simply, a proxy, is an intermediary between a user and a web server. When a user uses forward proxy servers and connects to the web server, his request goes through the forward proxy and only then reaches the web server.

Simply put, instead of direct communication between your computer and the web server, the middleman (a forward proxy) appears, and the request goes through the proxy server before being sent to the web server.

Forward proxy is an intermediary between a user and a web server
How do forward proxies operate

Types of forward proxies

There are many different types of forward proxies. The most common ones are classified by their origin. In this case, there are two types of proxies – residential proxies and datacenter proxies.

1. Residential proxies. These proxies have a real IP address provided by an Internet Service Provider (ISP) with a physical location.

2. Datacenter proxies. This proxy type isn’t affiliated with an ISP, as IP addresses come from secondary sources like data centers.

If you are interested in what different proxy types are, check out the video below:

What are forward proxies used for?

There are many reasons for single users or businesses to use forward proxy servers:

1. Accessing restricted geo-locations. Forward proxy servers could come in handy to access geo-restricted content. When users are browsing the internet, they usually see content according to their geo-location. When using a forward proxy, users can access a variety of content intended for other countries. For example, this is especially useful for companies that provide ad verification services. These companies can monitor ads regardless of their geo-location.

2. Ensuring anonymity. A forward proxy server acts as an additional safety layer that hides the web server’s real IP address by using one of its own. This is the reason why using forward proxy servers ensures higher levels of anonymity and security.

3. Web scraping. The most common usage of proxies is web scraping. Companies usually gather data to improve their marketing, pricing, and other business strategies. Web scraping helps companies to stay competitive in the market.

Forward proxies can also be used to control and monitor internet usage, create and manage social media accounts, and much more.

What is a reverse proxy?

A reverse proxy is a type of proxy server that sits on behalf of a web server. These proxies control access and ensure that users would not communicate directly with an origin server. Reverse proxy servers provide anonymity to the web server.

How do reverse proxies operate
How do reverse proxies operate

What are reverse proxies used for?

Reverse proxy servers are the perfect fit for websites that have numerous visitors daily. These proxies can protect web servers, increase website performance, and help avoid overloading. Reverse proxies are also used for:

1. Load balancing. When using reverse proxy servers, web servers are significantly less overloaded because all incoming requests have to go through a reverse proxy and only then access a back-end server. Note that reverse proxy servers are not load-balancers by themselves but they help maintain load balancing for websites.

2. Caching. A reverse proxy server is a suitable option to cache the website’s content. Caching allows websites to reuse the data received from incoming requests efficiently, which helps websites increase their performance.

3. SSL encryption. A reverse proxy can encrypt and decrypt Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) communications.

Reverse proxies help to avoid web server’s overloads

Forward proxy vs reverse proxy: the differences

The most noticeable difference between reverse proxy vs proxy is that a forward proxy is used by the users to connect to a web server. Reverse proxies are deployed on the web server’s side. These proxy servers are in contrary sides of connection.

Forward proxies ensure that websites never communicate directly with a user. On the other hand, reverse proxies ensure that users would not communicate directly with a back-end server.

The differences between forward and reverse proxies
The differences between forward and reverse proxies

Also, these two types of proxies have another difference, and it’s in their usage. We’ve already singled out some of the most common use cases of each proxy type. Forward proxies are utilized for privacy reasons, accessing geo-restricted content, web scraping, and much more. Web servers use reverse proxies to avoid overloading, add additional safety layers from malicious entities, caching, SSL encryption, etc. Therefore, these proxies are used for entirely different tasks, which is the main difference between them.

Can a forward proxy act as a reverse proxy?

Simply put, a forward proxy server cannot act as a reverse proxy server. Even if these proxies’ concepts may be similar, as we mentioned earlier, they are utilized for entirely different purposes.

A proxy by itself is not only an IP address. Proxies consist of IP addresses and dedicated software that allows them to operate in the intended manner. As forward and reverse proxies are used for different tasks, they each have different software to perform smoothly. This is the reason why you cannot use forward proxies as reverse proxies.

Conclusion

Forward proxies are crucial for privacy and security when browsing the internet, accessing geo-restricted content, web scraping, and much more. Reverse proxies are important for websites with many visitors daily because they help avoid overloading and are a perfect fit for caching content, SSL encryption.

The main difference between a forward proxy and reverse proxy is in their purpose. As they are utilized for different tasks, they cannot be considered as the same proxies.

If you are interested in choosing the right forward proxy type or want to start web scraping, we suggest you check our other blog posts.

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About Iveta Vistorskyte

Iveta Vistorskyte is a Copywriter at Oxylabs. Growing up as a writer and a challenge seeker, she decided to welcome herself to the tech-side, and instantly became interested in this field. When she is not at work, you'll probably find her just chillin' while listening to her favorite music or playing board games with friends.

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