What is the difference between proxy and reverse proxy?

The concepts of a proxy and a reverse proxy are related to how internet traffic is routed, but they serve different purposes and are used in different contexts. Here's a simple breakdown of the differences:

Proxy (Forward Proxy)

  1. Position: A proxy server sits between client devices (like your computer) and the servers they are accessing (like a website).

  2. Function: Its primary function is to forward requests from multiple clients to different servers on the internet. The proxy server can cache data to improve performance, filter requests for security purposes, and hide the IP addresses of clients for privacy.

  3. Use Case: Proxies are often used within corporate networks or by individual users to browse the internet anonymously, access geo-restricted content, or bypass content filters.

  4. Example: When you use a VPN service to access a website, the VPN acts as a proxy by sending your request to the website on your behalf and then sending the website's response back to you.

Reverse Proxy

  1. Position: A reverse proxy sits in front of one or more web servers (like the servers hosting a website).

  2. Function: It intercepts requests from the internet and forwards them to the appropriate server behind the reverse proxy. It can provide additional functions like load balancing, SSL termination, caching, and serving static content.

  3. Use Case: Reverse proxies are used by service providers to efficiently manage traffic to their servers, enhance security, and improve performance and reliability of web applications.

  4. Example: When you visit a website, a reverse proxy might be used to direct your request to the least busy server, handle SSL encryption, or serve cached content to reduce load times.

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Forward Proxy vs. Reverse Proxy

Key Differences

  • Direction of Traffic: A proxy directs outbound traffic (from client to server), while a reverse proxy directs inbound traffic (from the internet to the server).
  • Primary User: Proxies are typically used by clients (like individuals or organizations), whereas reverse proxies are used by server administrators (like websites or service providers).
  • Purpose: Proxies are often used for anonymity and bypassing restrictions, while reverse proxies are used for load balancing, security, and performance optimization.

In summary, while both proxies and reverse proxies deal with routing internet traffic, they do so in opposite directions and for different primary users and purposes.

Ref: What is a Proxy Server?

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