A reverse proxy is a server that retrieves resources on behalf of a client from one or more servers and returns the resource to the client. Reverse proxies are used for load balancing, security, caching, and SSL offloading. Some popular reverse proxies include NGINX, Apache, and HAProxy.
In this post, We’re going to learn about reverse proxy and other technologies related to it. So, keep reading!
What is Reverse Proxy Server
Imagine you are a customer at a store, and you want to buy a specific product. However, the store doesn't have the product in stock, so the store clerk (reverse proxy server) goes to the back room (backend server) to check if the product is available. If the product is available, the clerk (reverse proxy server) brings it out to the front of the store (client) and sells it to you. If the product is not available, the clerk (reverse proxy server) tells you that the product is not in stock and suggests alternative options.
Reverse Proxy vs Forward Proxy
Imagine you are a client trying to access a resource on the internet, such as a web page or a file. A reverse proxy would be like a doorman at a fancy hotel who stands at the entrance and directs guests to the appropriate room based on their request. The doorman (reverse proxy) receives the request from the guest (client), determines which room (backend server) has the requested resource, and then sends the guest (client) to the appropriate room (backend server). The guest (client) never knows which room (backend server) they are going to, they just know they are going to the hotel (reverse proxy).
On the other hand, a forward proxy would be like a tour guide who takes a group of tourists (clients) to different destinations (servers) on behalf of the tourists (clients). The tour guide (forward proxy) receives a request from a tourist (client) to visit a particular destination (server) and then leads the group (clients) to that destination (server). The tourists (clients) are aware that they are visiting the destination (server) through the tour guide (forward proxy), but the destination (server) does not know that the tourists (clients) are visiting through a tour guide (forward proxy).
How CDNs Use Reverse Proxies
Imagine you are a user trying to access a website or application that is hosted on a server that is located far away from you. It would take a long time for the server to send the content to you because of the distance. This is where a CDN comes in.
A CDN is like a network of delivery trucks (servers) that are strategically placed all around the world to deliver packages (content) to customers (users) as efficiently as possible. When you request a package (content), the CDN looks at your location and determines which delivery truck (server) is closest to you. The CDN then sends the package (content) to you from the delivery truck (server) that is closest to you, rather than from the original warehouse (origin server) where the package (content) is stored.
Does reverse proxy improve security?
Yes, imagine you are a soldier guarding a military base. Your job is to protect the base from intruders and ensure that only authorized personnel are allowed to enter. One way to do this is to use a reverse proxy.
A reverse proxy is like a checkpoint at the entrance of the base. All incoming traffic must pass through the checkpoint before it is allowed to enter the base. The checkpoint (reverse proxy) checks the identity of each person (client) and verifies that they are authorized to enter the base (backend server). If the person (client) is not authorized, the checkpoint (reverse proxy) denies them entry and sends them away. If the person (client) is authorized, the checkpoint (reverse proxy) allows them to pass through and enter the base (backend server).
In this example, the checkpoint (reverse proxy) acts as an intermediary between the person (client) and the base (backend server). It checks the identity of the person (client) and verifies that they are authorized to enter the base (backend server). This helps to prevent unauthorized access and improves the security of the base (backend server).
What is the most popular reverse proxy?
Some of the most popular reverse proxies include NGINX, Apache HTTP Server, and HAProxy. These reverse proxies are known for their high performance, reliability, and flexibility and are widely used to improve the security and performance of web applications. They can also act as load balancers and support various protocols. It is important to carefully evaluate the needs of your organization and choose a reverse proxy that meets your specific requirements.
Are reverse proxy and load balancer the same?
No, they are not the same thing. A load balancer is a device that distributes incoming network traffic across a collection of servers or other resources. On the other hand, a reverse proxy is a type of server that sits in front of one or more servers to handle requests from clients. A reverse proxy can handle some load balancing tasks, but that's not its primary job. A load balancer, on the other hand, is specifically designed to share traffic among servers and other network resources.
Reverse proxy servers are used to improve the performance, security, and availability of a network environment by acting as an intermediary between clients and servers. They can be used to enhance security by adding an extra layer of protection and hiding the identity of the servers being proxied. Reverse proxy servers can also be used to improve performance by caching static content, compressing data, and offloading tasks. They can provide additional functionality such as load balancing and support a variety of protocols. Finally, reverse proxy servers can improve availability by providing failover capabilities.