Forward vs. Referse Proxies: Exploring the Differences

In the world of proxies, forward and reverse proxies are the two fundamental types. To use them effectively, read this overview — and you'll be able to understand their differences better.

Forward vs. Referse Proxies: Exploring the Differences
Olga Myhajlovska
Olga Myhajlovska 5 min read
Article content
  1. What are forward proxies?
  2. What are reverse proxies?
  3. Use cases for forward proxies
  4. Use cases for reverse proxies
  5. How to use forward proxies?
  6. Frequently Asked Questions

Proxies can be frustrating because of all the nuances and kinds of services. And while it’s quite easy to understand the difference between datacenter and residential proxies, reverse and forward ones might sound complicated. However, don’t get confused just yet. In this article, we'll discuss the difference between forward and reverse proxies, and all the details you need to know about them.

What are forward proxies?

Most of the time when someone speaks of proxies, they're actually talking about the forward type. A forward proxy serves as a shield right before the user connects to the Internet. It means that the requests the user sends first pass through the forward proxy and only then are sent to the destination server — a website, for example. And the destination server reads such a request as if it’s sent from a proxy, not from a user. Therefore, the data of the user remains hidden.

The difference lies in the object (i.e. user/server.)

Additionally, users can set up a proxy so that it denies certain requests. That’s why forward proxies are often used in offices to add a layer of protection to the corporate network. And considering that the destination server thinks the requests are sent from a proxy, the latter will receive responses and also recognize and then send them to the user.

What are reverse proxies?

As the name suggests, reverse proxies should do something opposite to what forward proxies do. To explain the technology better, we’ll introduce the terms “server-side” and “client-side”. “Client-side” tools are working on behalf of users — just like a forward proxy processes the request sent by a user. And “server-side” tools are working on behalf of servers processing the data that the server is sending.

So, a reverse proxy is a server-side technology. It accepts requests from external servers and processes them before sending them to the user. When reverse proxies are used, the user thinks that the requests are sent from a proxy, not from a server. Thus, this technology hides the server's data.

Reverse proxies are used as part of server protection, making it more difficult for malefactors to attack a server and acquire its data. Also, this tool allows webmasters to balance the traffic that servers receive to make sure that the network remains operational even if it receives a large number of requests. A reverse proxy balances out the load by distributing all the traffic between a cluster of servers.

Use cases for forward proxies

Icons of various uses for reverse proxies

This service will be useful whenever a user needs to hide their data for any reason. Here are examples of situations when you might want to use a forward proxy.

To access geo-restricted content

Since this tool hides your real IP address by covering it with an IP of a proxy server, you can fake your location and access geo-restricted content. To do so, you just need to choose a forward proxy located in the required country and connect to it.

To protect your device

When a forward proxy hides your data, it makes you inaccessible for hackers who could snoop your device through an unprotected network. That’s why security specialists advise using proxies when you’re connected to a public WiFi, which is usually not safe.

To gather data

Data scientists apply proxies to the requests of a web scraper to make them look like requests sent by real users, not by a bot. Thus, they can gather data quickly and steadily without experiencing bans and delays.

For marketing purposes

There are several reasons why businesses and marketing managers use proxies. This tool allows them to avoid ad fraud, perform extended research, work with social media accounts, and so on.

To remain anonymous

Since proxies hide your data, you can browse the internet being completely anonymous. So it’s a nice way to cover your online activity for whatever reason you have.

Use cases for reverse proxies

Icons of various uses for reverse proxies

This technology is a bit more advanced and is usually used by security specialists and webmasters. Here are the applications of reverse proxies.

To cache content

Reverse proxies are usually located in different places. That’s why they’re used for creating mirror versions of web pages. These are then compressed and cached by a reverse proxy to remain accessible to users. As a result, users located in different countries can experience faster loading speed.

To scrub traffic

When combined with backend servers, this tool can scrub the incoming load and only then send it to the servers. This is effective for mitigating DDoS attacks as the requests get distributed between proxies, and for weeding out malicious packets.

To mask IP addresses

Reverse proxies hide the IP of the backend server thus making it harder for malefactors to access its data and perform denial of service attacks.

To balance traffic

Reverse proxies are often used for load balancing as they can decide where to route particular HTTP sessions. By doing so, they’re speeding up the load time, ensuring the availability of the service, and improving the user experience.

How to use forward proxies?

As you realize the usefulness of this technology, you might want to try proxies yourself. Well, that’s very easy to do. Infatica offers flexible pricing plans that will let you choose the number of IPs you need without paying too much. Also, you can ask us to create a custom plan for you — simply tell us your needs and we will bring you a tailored offer.

Once you get your proxies, it will be easy for you to apply them to your connection — Infatica has a very simple interface that will not leave you confused. You don’t need any coding skills to use them — Infatica proxies are compatible with most web scraping instruments and other tools that utilize proxies and that support HTTP/HTTPS. You can as well use our proxies in your browser to access web pages while remaining anonymous.

If at any moment you face any issues, simply contact us, and we will help you out. We’re always ready to step in, solve the problem you’re dealing with, and simply offer answers to the questions you have.

Frequently Asked Questions

A VPN is a forward proxy. A reverse proxy is a type of proxy server that forwards requests to other servers on behalf of the client. A reverse proxy caches responses from the servers it forwards to, thereby reducing load on the origin servers.

A forward proxy can change its IP address, depending on how it is configured. If the proxy is set up to use a static IP address, then it will not be able to change its IP address. However, if the proxy is set up to use a dynamic IP address, then it can change its IP address as needed.

Both reverse proxies and forward proxies can provide features like load balancing, SSL termination, content caching, and content filtering. The main difference between the two is the direction in which traffic flows: reverse proxies take traffic from the client and forward it to the server, while forward proxies take traffic from the server and forward it to the client.

Olga Myhajlovska

Olga Myhajlovska is a freelance writer who likes to focus on the practical side of different technologies: Her stories answer both the "How does it work?" and "Why is it important for me?" questions.

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