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A reverse proxy is a server that sits in front of web servers and is responsible for forwarding requests that come from a user’s browser to web servers. A reverse proxy is positioned at the edge of the network, and it works by intercepting the requests made by the user, which then get sent to the origin server. The reverse proxy also receives the replies that come from the origin server.

A reverse proxy server is useful for its ability to implement load balancing, as well as enhance the security and stability of the network.

What is a Proxy Server?

A proxy server works as an intermediary, positioned between a computer, or the end user, and the internet. In this way, a proxy can perform the role of an internet traffic conductor and police officer, inspecting traffic and routing it where it needs to go.

How Is Reverse Proxy Different from Forward Proxy?

The discussion of proxy vs. reverse proxy hinges on one key difference: A reverse proxy works on behalf of the origin server, keeping it anonymous, while a forward proxy does the same for an end-user or client.

Benefits of Reverse Proxy

Concurrency

In many cases, internet applications involve many clients, in which each has to maintain more than one connection. This produces many connections that have to be sent to back-end servers. Some web servers do not handle large volumes of connections well. Therefore, when you add a reverse proxy that does a better job of handling connections, the back-end server can perform better.

Resiliency

A reverse proxy can check the status of back-end servers. If it sees it is malfunctioning, the reverse proxy can stop sending requests to the failed server. Once the reverse proxy sees that the failed server is back up and running, it can continue sending requests. This prevents the clients from seeing errors because the reverse proxy only sends their requests to back-end servers that are still capable of providing the cached web content they need.

Scalability

You can add or take away back-end servers because the reverse proxy acts as the front-facing unit for all of them. Adding or removing servers in this way can be done in accordance with changing traffic conditions to optimize performance and resources.

Layer 7 Routing

A reverse proxy can decide where to send each request it gets, as well as manage both the requests and responses as it sees fit. It can also route traffic based on information found in its header, based on a Uniform Resource Locator (URL), according to the client’s geographical location, and more.

Caching

You can use a reverse proxy to cache instead of relying solely on back-end servers. This can result in a more efficient caching process, making content more readily available for users and clients.

Functions of Reverse Proxy

Load Balancing

Reverse proxies can determine how and where to route Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) sessions. This allows a reverse proxy server to distribute load according to your needs, providing a better experience for the end-user or a more effective network.

Protection From Attacks

With the right reverse proxy configuration, you can hide origin servers’ characteristics, such as their Internet Protocol (IP) addresses. This keeps your origin server anonymous and less susceptible to attacks. Because traffic has to go through the reverse proxy before getting to your main server, attackers will have a harder time using tactics such as a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack or another threat. 

When considering a reverse proxy vs. forward proxy, these kinds of security protections are important considerations.

Global Server Load Balancing (GSLB)

GSLB refers to load balancing that gets distributed across the world using a reverse proxy. This allows requests to a website to be distributed according to how close they are. Because this means requests can travel shorter distances, the content loads more quickly for the end-user.

SSL Encryption

It can be expensive to encrypt and decrypt secure sockets layer (SSL) communications that occur between servers and clients on the primary production server. With a reverse proxy, you can do all your SSL encryption on the proxy, potentially saving valuable funds.

壓縮

You can use a reverse proxy to reduce your bandwidth requirements by compressing files as they stream into your network. The compression process uses an algorithm that makes the files smaller while maintaining sufficient quality, similar to how MP3 compression shrinks audio files.

Live Activity Monitoring and Logging

A reverse proxy can check all the requests that go through it, enabling you to use it as a hub for monitoring and logging traffic. You can also use a reverse proxy to monitor traffic coming in from and going out to multiple web servers, making it easier for you to understand and improve the performance of your site.

How To Implement a Reverse Proxy

To implement a reverse proxy, you first want to make sure your main site and your proxy are hosted by the same provider. You can then reach out to the provider and outline what you want your reverse proxy to do. This will be done by implementing a series of rules. The provider will then configure your reverse proxy for you.

How Fortinet Can Help

With a Fortinet reverse proxy, you can get the load balancing, scalability, and security you need to enhance your site’s performance and safety. A FortiGate unit serves as your reverse proxy when you put it into reverse proxy mode. Each Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) packet that goes through it gets analyzed and can be routed according to your preferences and safety requirements.

You can configure your FortiGate reverse proxy server to handle all of the SSL encryption and decryption, enhance your caching, and serve as a barrier between your website and attackers.

FAQs

What is a proxy server?

A proxy server works as an intermediary, positioned between a computer, or the end user, and the internet. In this way, a proxy can perform the role of an internet traffic conductor and police officer, inspecting traffic and routing it where it needs to go.

How is reverse proxy different from forward proxy?

A reverse proxy works on behalf of the origin server, keeping it anonymous, while a forward proxy does the same for an end-user or client.

What are the benefits of reverse proxy?

The benefits of a reverse proxy include concurrency, resiliency, scalability, Layer 7 routing, and caching.

How to implement a reverse proxy?

To implement a reverse proxy, you first want to make sure your main site and your proxy are hosted by the same provider. You can then reach out to the provider and outline what you want your reverse proxy to do. This will be done by implementing a series of rules. The provider will then configure your reverse proxy for you.