What is a reverse proxy

Reverse proxies can serve as a more efficient encryption tool, helping attain distributed load balancing, as well as locally caching content, ensuring that it is delivered quickly to data consumers. This article is your ultimate guide to reverse proxies
3 min read
What is a reverse proxy main image

In this article, we will cover:

Can you define a reverse proxy?

A reverse proxy is basically a regular proxy with an additional layer. This outer ‘crust’ is a server that is placed above the ‘internal web server’ so that it can be the first point of contact with web-side clients. The outer server (A) forwards that traffic to the inner server (B) once it identifies the traffic in question as legitimate and unharmful. Using an analogy, one can almost think of it as a cop directing server traffic, ensuring that things run smoothly.

As you can see, in the above diagram, server A serves as a go-between for the client, while server B actually houses the target information. It should be noted that this is not a fact which is usually apparent to the ‘client’. Requested data can then be cached on server A to make it more readily available for future requesters. This architecture helps shield server B from potentially malicious/unwanted attacks and infiltrations. Basically, businesses use advanced proxy servers to protect their systems and content from different threats.

What’s unique about a reverse proxy?

We can better understand a reverse proxy’s unique characteristics by juxtaposing it with other types of proxies out there. For example, a forward vs. a reverse proxy. A regular proxy, or ‘forward proxy’, serves as a middleman between a ‘client’ and a target site. It ensures that requests are valid, and if not, serves the requester an ‘error code’ or ‘redirect’. Otherwise, the request will be processed, and the desired information/response will be delivered.

On the other hand, we can try and understand what is an SSL proxy. SSL proxies work together with SRX series devices, which are a kind of firewall. It ensures that all incoming traffic matches the SRX security policies currently in place. Outgoing traffic is encrypted, and incoming traffic is decrypted, setting both the SSL proxies and servers into motion.

Reverse proxy: benefits and use cases

Here are some of the main benefits/use cases of using a reverse proxy:

Serving as an encryption tool

Reverse proxies can be configured to help encrypt/decrypt outgoing/incoming requests (TLS; SSL) in order to reduce pressure on servers. 

Cached content delivered fast

Much like the operational architecture of a Content Delivery Network (CDN), reverse proxies can work to enhance the user experience. This can be accomplished by consistently caching the newest version of requested data points on the client-facing server/s. This reduces the pressure on the internal server to constantly respond to requests and produce information while simultaneously providing clients with faster access to the information they are seeking out. 

Distributed load balancing 

Reverse proxies can work to help regulate the flow of traffic to a website that has one main server. When multiple reverse proxies are used, they can help to decrease the weight on the main server as well as pick up the slack when a parallel server is overwhelmed. Additionally, reverse proxies located in close geographic proximity to local clients can ensure that content or responses are delivered at a much quicker pace. 

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