There’re mainly two types of proxy servers:
- Forward proxy: also known as proxy server
- Reverse proxy
Differences Between Forward Proxy and Reverse Proxy
The main difference between the two is that forward proxy is used by the client such as a web browser whereas reverse proxy is used by the server such as a web server. Forward proxy and the client can be in the same internal network, or it can be on the Internet.
Forward proxy can be used by the client to stay anonymous online or bypass firewall filter to visit websites that is blocked by school, government, company etc. If a website blocked an IP range from visiting the website, then a person in that IP range can use forward proxy to hide the real IP of the client so that person can visit the website and maybe leave some spam comments. However forward proxy might be detected by the website administrator. There are some paid proxy service that has numerous proxy systems around the world so that they can change your IP address every time your visit a new web page and this makes it harder for website administrators to detect.
Forward proxy is very useful and popular in the 1990s. Before NAT is integrated into network routers, forward proxy is the way for multiple computers in the same network to access the Internet. This type of forward proxy usually resides in the internal network.
Forward proxy can also act as a cache server in an internal network. If a resource is download many times, then the proxy can cache the content on the server so next time when another computer download the same content, the proxy will send the content that is previously stored on the server to the computer.
There’re many different kinds of forward proxy such as web proxy, HTTP proxy, SOCKS proxy etc. Please keep mind that using forward proxy to browse the Internet usually slows down your overall Internet speed. That depends on the location between you and the forword proxy and how many people are using that forward proxy.
Another thing to be aware of is that thers’re many free forward proxies which is built by hackers for malicious purpose. If you happen to be using one of these proxies, they will log every activity you do on the Internet. So free in charge is actually very costly.
Reverse proxy is mainly used by the server to balance load and achieve high availability. A website may have several web servers behind the reverse proxy. The reverse proxy server takes requests from the Internet and forward these requests to one of the web servers. Most visitors don’t know websites are using reverse proxy because they usually lack the knowledge and tools to detect it or they simply don’t care about it. Nginx can be acting both a web server and a reverse proxy at the same time.