Reverse Proxy vs Forward Proxy: What’s the Difference?

reverse proxy vs forward proxy
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You may run into different types of proxies. A reverse and forward proxy are often compared to each other because they both stand between clients and servers. However, these proxies have more differences than similarities.


This article will help you learn about reverse and forward proxy and provide their definitions, explain the differences, and list the primary use cases. You will find out which proxy server protects the backend servers and is used by service providers and website owners, and which proxy is mainly utilized for web scraping.

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What is a Reverse Proxy?

A reverse proxy controls access to a server on a private network. Reverse proxies reside at the front of a backend server, and all client requests to the server go through the reverse proxy before reaching the server. 


The role of reverse proxy software is mainly to protect the server, but it also provides SSL encryption, load balancing, and data caching. 


To better imagine how a reverse proxy works, picture it as an intermediary between the client and the server. A proxy gets a request from a client, passes it to a server, and then forwards it back to the client. From the client’s perspective, it looks like the request comes back from the original server. A reverse proxy server ensures that clients don’t reach the backend server directly, and this way provides protection and anonymity.


Reverse proxies are used by service providers and websites with high traffic. These proxies can protect web servers from attacks, increase site performance, and help avoid server overloads.

What is a Forward Proxy?

A forward proxy is what’s considered to be a regular proxy that acts as an intermediary between the client and a server. Contrary to the reverse proxy, a forward proxy is employed by the user rather than the service provider or website owner.


Among various use cases, a forward proxy allows accessing firewall-restricted websites. A client sends a connection request to their proxy, and the forward proxy retrieves data from the target website. 


Forward proxies are mainly used for anonymity as they shield the user’s real IP address. Another common use case of this proxy server is accessing geo-restricted content. Using proxies allows connecting to target websites that may otherwise be unavailable to the user due to their geographical location.

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What are the Examples of Reverse Proxies?

All the reverse proxies are similar but can also be separated into two groups based on their features. These groups are regular reverse proxies and load balancers.


Regular reverse proxies are mainly used for security reasons. This proxy interrupts the request coming from a client and directs it to the server for processing. Once the request is processed, the proxy sends it back to the client.


Reverse proxies allow web owners to change server configurations without interrupting the usual website service. These proxies can also boost the website speed because they can store a cached site at the front end of the service. In this case, the users are protected from being affected by backend server issues. 


Load balancers are reverse proxies that lead the client request to multiple backend instances rather than sending it to a single server. A load balancer can distribute traffic among multiple servers and manage the client-server communication between all of these servers. 


In simple words, load balancing proxies distribute the load between many servers, which increases website speed and performance.

What are the Examples of Forward Proxies?

Forward proxies come in two main types – residential proxies and datacenter proxies. Residential proxies are assigned by an Internet Service Provider (ISP) and are connected to a residential location. Datacenter IP addresses come from datacenters and aren’t affiliated with an ISP.


Residential proxies are mainly used for accessing websites with strict anti-bot measures. For example, social media sites. A residential forward proxy can help manage multiple social media accounts without getting blocked because, to the target website, these proxies look like real organic users.


Datacenter proxies are mainly used for extracting large amounts of data from the web. These proxies are faster and cheaper than residential IP addresses, which makes them perfect for large-scale web scraping projects.

Reverse vs Forward Proxies: Use Cases

Reverse and forward proxies have different use cases

To help you better understand where reversed and forward proxies are used, here are some of the most common use cases for each type of proxies.

Forward Proxy Use Cases:

Web scraping — companies gather vast amounts of information from the internet to stay competitive in their market. This information can include data about their SEO performance, competitor pricing, social media data, etc.


Bypassing geo-restrictions — proxy users can connect to an IP address that is located in a different geographic area than the user. For example, a user from Argentina can connect to a proxy located in Belgium to access content that is restricted in Argentina but available to internet users in Belgium.


Anonymity — proxies can shield the information that a regular IP address reveals about its user. Since it’s the proxy that connects to the end server and not the original IP address, the end server only sees the information of the proxy.

Reverse Proxy Use Cases:

Security — A reverse proxy server stands between the client and the backend server. It blocks the requests from being sent directly to the backend server. If a website uses a reverse proxy server, it shields the IP address of the origin server. This helps protect the website from cyber attacks. 


Website owners can also use reverse proxies to hide multiple servers behind a firewall.


Speed — Reverse proxies can boost the speed of the traffic between the client and the server. A reverse proxy server is capable of caching frequently requested content and compacting incoming and outgoing data, which improves website loading speed for the users.


Reverse proxies can also authenticate HTTP access and provide SSL encryption. This reduces the load on website servers, which results in improved site performance.


Load balancing — A reverse proxy can distribute incoming traffic between different servers. This means that if there’s an issue with one server, the client won’t be affected. It also protects servers from getting too many requests and overloading.


A forward proxy and a reverse proxy are two types of proxies that have a number of differences. The main difference between these is that a forward proxy is used by the client to shield their real IP address while accessing target websites. Meanwhile, reverse proxies are used by service providers to protect their backend servers and balance the load. 


A forward proxy comes in two main types – residential and datacenter. These types of proxies come from different sources – ISPs and datacenters. They have different use cases but are mainly used to ensure the anonymity of the original IP address and its user.


Reverse proxies can be regular or load balancers, depending on their features. A load balancing reverse proxy can distribute incoming traffic to ensure smooth and fast website loading. This is especially relevant for websites with high incoming traffic.


When it comes to the use cases, a forward proxy is mainly used for web scraping, accessing geo-restricted content, and ensuring anonymity. Meanwhile, reverse proxies can improve website speed and security, as well as balance the load coming to the servers.

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