• January 27, 2023

How Reverse Proxy Works

What is a reverse proxy? | Proxy servers explained | Cloudflare

What is a reverse proxy? | Proxy servers explained | Cloudflare

What is a reverse proxy?
A reverse proxy is a server that sits in front of web servers and forwards client (e. g. web browser) requests to those web servers. Reverse proxies are typically implemented to help increase security, performance, and reliability. In order to better understand how a reverse proxy works and the benefits it can provide, let’s first define what a proxy server is.
What’s a proxy server?
A forward proxy, often called a proxy, proxy server, or web proxy, is a server that sits in front of a group of client machines. When those computers make requests to sites and services on the Internet, the proxy server intercepts those requests and then communicates with web servers on behalf of those clients, like a middleman.
For example, let’s name 3 computers involved in a typical forward proxy communication:
A: This is a user’s home computer
B: This is a forward proxy server
C: This is a website’s origin server (where the website data is stored)
In a standard Internet communication, computer A would reach out directly to computer C, with the client sending requests to the origin server and the origin server responding to the client. When a forward proxy is in place, A will instead send requests to B, which will then forward the request to C. C will then send a response to B, which will forward the response back to A.
Why would anyone add this extra middleman to their Internet activity? There are a few reasons one might want to use a forward proxy:
To avoid state or institutional browsing restrictions – Some governments, schools, and other organizations use firewalls to give their users access to a limited version of the Internet. A forward proxy can be used to get around these restrictions, as they let the user connect to the proxy rather than directly to the sites they are visiting.
To block access to certain content – Conversely, proxies can also be set up to block a group of users from accessing certain sites. For example, a school network might be configured to connect to the web through a proxy which enables content filtering rules, refusing to forward responses from Facebook and other social media sites.
To protect their identity online – In some cases, regular Internet users simply desire increased anonymity online, but in other cases, Internet users live in places where the government can impose serious consequences to political dissidents. Criticizing the government in a web forum or on social media can lead to fines or imprisonment for these users. If one of these dissidents uses a forward proxy to connect to a website where they post politically sensitive comments, the IP address used to post the comments will be harder to trace back to the dissident. Only the IP address of the proxy server will be visible.
How is a reverse proxy different?
A reverse proxy is a server that sits in front of one or more web servers, intercepting requests from clients. This is different from a forward proxy, where the proxy sits in front of the clients. With a reverse proxy, when clients send requests to the origin server of a website, those requests are intercepted at the network edge by the reverse proxy server. The reverse proxy server will then send requests to and receive responses from the origin server.
The difference between a forward and reverse proxy is subtle but important. A simplified way to sum it up would be to say that a forward proxy sits in front of a client and ensures that no origin server ever communicates directly with that specific client. On the other hand, a reverse proxy sits in front of an origin server and ensures that no client ever communicates directly with that origin server.
Once again, let’s illustrate by naming the computers involved:
D: Any number of users’ home computers
E: This is a reverse proxy server
F: One or more origin servers
Typically all requests from D would go directly to F, and F would send responses directly to D. With a reverse proxy, all requests from D will go directly to E, and E will send its requests to and receive responses from F. E will then pass along the appropriate responses to D.
Below we outline some of the benefits of a reverse proxy:
Load balancing – A popular website that gets millions of users every day may not be able to handle all of its incoming site traffic with a single origin server. Instead, the site can be distributed among a pool of different servers, all handling requests for the same site. In this case, a reverse proxy can provide a load balancing solution which will distribute the incoming traffic evenly among the different servers to prevent any single server from becoming overloaded. In the event that a server fails completely, other servers can step up to handle the traffic.
Protection from attacks – With a reverse proxy in place, a web site or service never needs to reveal the IP address of their origin server(s). This makes it much harder for attackers to leverage a targeted attack against them, such as a DDoS attack. Instead the attackers will only be able to target the reverse proxy, such as Cloudflare’s CDN, which will have tighter security and more resources to fend off a cyber attack.
Global Server Load Balancing (GSLB) – In this form of load balancing, a website can be distributed on several servers around the globe and the reverse proxy will send clients to the server that’s geographically closest to them. This decreases the distances that requests and responses need to travel, minimizing load times.
Caching – A reverse proxy can also cache content, resulting in faster performance. For example, if a user in Paris visits a reverse-proxied website with web servers in Los Angeles, the user might actually connect to a local reverse proxy server in Paris, which will then have to communicate with an origin server in L. A. The proxy server can then cache (or temporarily save) the response data. Subsequent Parisian users who browse the site will then get the locally cached version from the Parisian reverse proxy server, resulting in much faster performance.
SSL encryption – Encrypting and decrypting SSL (or TLS) communications for each client can be computationally expensive for an origin server. A reverse proxy can be configured to decrypt all incoming requests and encrypt all outgoing responses, freeing up valuable resources on the origin server.
How to implement a reverse proxy
Some companies build their own reverse proxies, but this requires intensive software and hardware engineering resources, as well as a significant investment in physical hardware. One of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to reap all the benefits of a reverse proxy is by signing up for a CDN service. For example, the Cloudflare CDN provides all the performance and security features listed above, as well as many others.
What is a reverse proxy? | Proxy servers explained | Cloudflare

What is a reverse proxy? | Proxy servers explained | Cloudflare

What is a reverse proxy?
A reverse proxy is a server that sits in front of web servers and forwards client (e. g. web browser) requests to those web servers. Reverse proxies are typically implemented to help increase security, performance, and reliability. In order to better understand how a reverse proxy works and the benefits it can provide, let’s first define what a proxy server is.
What’s a proxy server?
A forward proxy, often called a proxy, proxy server, or web proxy, is a server that sits in front of a group of client machines. When those computers make requests to sites and services on the Internet, the proxy server intercepts those requests and then communicates with web servers on behalf of those clients, like a middleman.
For example, let’s name 3 computers involved in a typical forward proxy communication:
A: This is a user’s home computer
B: This is a forward proxy server
C: This is a website’s origin server (where the website data is stored)
In a standard Internet communication, computer A would reach out directly to computer C, with the client sending requests to the origin server and the origin server responding to the client. When a forward proxy is in place, A will instead send requests to B, which will then forward the request to C. C will then send a response to B, which will forward the response back to A.
Why would anyone add this extra middleman to their Internet activity? There are a few reasons one might want to use a forward proxy:
To avoid state or institutional browsing restrictions – Some governments, schools, and other organizations use firewalls to give their users access to a limited version of the Internet. A forward proxy can be used to get around these restrictions, as they let the user connect to the proxy rather than directly to the sites they are visiting.
To block access to certain content – Conversely, proxies can also be set up to block a group of users from accessing certain sites. For example, a school network might be configured to connect to the web through a proxy which enables content filtering rules, refusing to forward responses from Facebook and other social media sites.
To protect their identity online – In some cases, regular Internet users simply desire increased anonymity online, but in other cases, Internet users live in places where the government can impose serious consequences to political dissidents. Criticizing the government in a web forum or on social media can lead to fines or imprisonment for these users. If one of these dissidents uses a forward proxy to connect to a website where they post politically sensitive comments, the IP address used to post the comments will be harder to trace back to the dissident. Only the IP address of the proxy server will be visible.
How is a reverse proxy different?
A reverse proxy is a server that sits in front of one or more web servers, intercepting requests from clients. This is different from a forward proxy, where the proxy sits in front of the clients. With a reverse proxy, when clients send requests to the origin server of a website, those requests are intercepted at the network edge by the reverse proxy server. The reverse proxy server will then send requests to and receive responses from the origin server.
The difference between a forward and reverse proxy is subtle but important. A simplified way to sum it up would be to say that a forward proxy sits in front of a client and ensures that no origin server ever communicates directly with that specific client. On the other hand, a reverse proxy sits in front of an origin server and ensures that no client ever communicates directly with that origin server.
Once again, let’s illustrate by naming the computers involved:
D: Any number of users’ home computers
E: This is a reverse proxy server
F: One or more origin servers
Typically all requests from D would go directly to F, and F would send responses directly to D. With a reverse proxy, all requests from D will go directly to E, and E will send its requests to and receive responses from F. E will then pass along the appropriate responses to D.
Below we outline some of the benefits of a reverse proxy:
Load balancing – A popular website that gets millions of users every day may not be able to handle all of its incoming site traffic with a single origin server. Instead, the site can be distributed among a pool of different servers, all handling requests for the same site. In this case, a reverse proxy can provide a load balancing solution which will distribute the incoming traffic evenly among the different servers to prevent any single server from becoming overloaded. In the event that a server fails completely, other servers can step up to handle the traffic.
Protection from attacks – With a reverse proxy in place, a web site or service never needs to reveal the IP address of their origin server(s). This makes it much harder for attackers to leverage a targeted attack against them, such as a DDoS attack. Instead the attackers will only be able to target the reverse proxy, such as Cloudflare’s CDN, which will have tighter security and more resources to fend off a cyber attack.
Global Server Load Balancing (GSLB) – In this form of load balancing, a website can be distributed on several servers around the globe and the reverse proxy will send clients to the server that’s geographically closest to them. This decreases the distances that requests and responses need to travel, minimizing load times.
Caching – A reverse proxy can also cache content, resulting in faster performance. For example, if a user in Paris visits a reverse-proxied website with web servers in Los Angeles, the user might actually connect to a local reverse proxy server in Paris, which will then have to communicate with an origin server in L. A. The proxy server can then cache (or temporarily save) the response data. Subsequent Parisian users who browse the site will then get the locally cached version from the Parisian reverse proxy server, resulting in much faster performance.
SSL encryption – Encrypting and decrypting SSL (or TLS) communications for each client can be computationally expensive for an origin server. A reverse proxy can be configured to decrypt all incoming requests and encrypt all outgoing responses, freeing up valuable resources on the origin server.
How to implement a reverse proxy
Some companies build their own reverse proxies, but this requires intensive software and hardware engineering resources, as well as a significant investment in physical hardware. One of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to reap all the benefits of a reverse proxy is by signing up for a CDN service. For example, the Cloudflare CDN provides all the performance and security features listed above, as well as many others.
What is a Reverse Proxy vs. Load Balancer? - NGINX

What is a Reverse Proxy vs. Load Balancer? – NGINX

Reverse proxy servers and load balancers are components in a client-server computing architecture. Both act as intermediaries in the communication between the clients and servers, performing functions that improve efficiency. They can be implemented as dedicated, purpose-built devices, but increasingly in modern web architectures they are software applications that run on commodity hardware.
The basic definitions are simple:
A reverse proxy accepts a request from a client, forwards it to a server that can fulfill it, and returns the server’s response to the client.
A load balancer distributes incoming client requests among a group of servers, in each case returning the response from the selected server to the appropriate client.
But they sound pretty similar, right? Both types of application sit between clients and servers, accepting requests from the former and delivering responses from the latter. No wonder there’s confusion about what’s a reverse proxy vs. load balancer. To help tease them apart, let’s explore when and why they’re typically deployed at a website.
Load Balancing
Load balancers are most commonly deployed when a site needs multiple servers because the volume of requests is too much for a single server to handle efficiently. Deploying multiple servers also eliminates a single point of failure, making the website more reliable. Most commonly, the servers all host the same content, and the load balancer’s job is to distribute the workload in a way that makes the best use of each server’s capacity, prevents overload on any server, and results in the fastest possible response to the client.
A load balancer can also enhance the user experience by reducing the number of error responses the client sees. It does this by detecting when servers go down, and diverting requests away from them to the other servers in the group. In the simplest implementation, the load balancer detects server health by intercepting error responses to regular requests. Application health checks are a more flexible and sophisticated method in which the load balancer sends separate health-check requests and requires a specified type of response to consider the server healthy.
Another useful function provided by some load balancers is session persistence, which means sending all requests from a particular client to the same server. Even though HTTP is stateless in theory, many applications must store state information just to provide their core functionality – think of the shopping basket on an e-commerce site. Such applications underperform or can even fail in a load-balanced environment, if the load balancer distributes requests in a user session to different servers instead of directing them all to the server that responded to the initial request.
Reverse Proxy
Whereas deploying a load balancer makes sense only when you have multiple servers, it often makes sense to deploy a reverse proxy even with just one web server or application server. You can think of the reverse proxy as a website’s “public face. ” Its address is the one advertised for the website, and it sits at the edge of the site’s network to accept requests from web browsers and mobile apps for the content hosted at the website. The benefits are two-fold:
Increased security – No information about your backend servers is visible outside your internal network, so malicious clients cannot access them directly to exploit any vulnerabilities. Many reverse proxy servers include features that help protect backend servers from distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, for example by rejecting traffic from particular client IP addresses (blacklisting), or limiting the number of connections accepted from each client.
Increased scalability and flexibility – Because clients see only the reverse proxy’s IP address, you are free to change the configuration of your backend infrastructure. This is particularly useful In a load-balanced environment, where you can scale the number of servers up and down to match fluctuations in traffic volume.
Another reason to deploy a reverse proxy is for web acceleration – reducing the time it takes to generate a response and return it to the client. Techniques for web acceleration include the following:
Compression – Compressing server responses before returning them to the client (for instance, with gzip) reduces the amount of bandwidth they require, which speeds their transit over the network.
SSL termination – Encrypting the traffic between clients and servers protects it as it crosses a public network like the Internet. But decryption and encryption can be computationally expensive. By decrypting incoming requests and encrypting server responses, the reverse proxy frees up resources on backend servers which they can then devote to their main purpose, serving content.
Caching – Before returning the backend server’s response to the client, the reverse proxy stores a copy of it locally. When the client (or any client) makes the same request, the reverse proxy can provide the response itself from the cache instead of forwarding the request to the backend server. This both decreases response time to the client and reduces the load on the backend server.
How Can NGINX Plus Help?
NGINX Plus and NGINX are the best-in-class reverse proxy and load balancing solutions used by high-traffic websites such as Dropbox, Netflix, and Zynga. More than 400 million websites worldwide rely on NGINX Plus and NGINX Open Source to deliver their content quickly, reliably, and securely.
NGINX Plus performs all the load-balancing and reverse proxy functions discussed above and more, improving website performance, reliability, security, and scale. As a software-based load balancer, NGINX Plus is much less expensive than hardware-based solutions with similar capabilities. The comprehensive load-balancing and reverse-proxy capabilities in NGINX Plus enable you to build a highly optimized application delivery network.
For details about how NGINX Plus implements the features described here, check out these resources:
Application Load Balancing with NGINX Plus
Application Health Checks with NGINX Plus
Session Persistence with NGINX Plus
Mitigating DDoS Attacks with NGINX and NGINX Plus
Compression and Decompression
SSL termination for HTTP and TCP
Content Caching in NGINX Plus

Frequently Asked Questions about how reverse proxy works

What is a reverse proxy and how it works?

A reverse proxy is a server that sits in front of one or more web servers, intercepting requests from clients. … With a reverse proxy, when clients send requests to the origin server of a website, those requests are intercepted at the network edge by the reverse proxy server.

How does reverse proxy work?

A reverse proxy accepts a request from a client, forwards it to a server that can fulfill it, and returns the server’s response to the client. A load balancer distributes incoming client requests among a group of servers, in each case returning the response from the selected server to the appropriate client.

What is reverse proxy with example?

A reverse proxy server is a type of proxy server that typically sits behind the firewall in a private network and directs client requests to the appropriate backend server. … They can also perform additional tasks such as SSL encryption to take load off of your web servers, thereby boosting their performance.

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