We’ve discussed proxy servers and how effective they can be in safeguarding the internal network servers. People are still unclear about how reverse proxy is different. Despite having different names, forward and reverse proxies are very distinct from one another in terms of their implementation, goals, and roles within business designs.

In order for you to clearly understand forward proxy and reverse proxy, this blog will describe their differences, similarities, and how they function.

What is a Reverse Proxy?

As the name implies, you can already guess what a reverse proxy is and what it does! right?

For reverse proxy meaning, Let us make it clear to you that a reverse web proxy redirects client requests to the right backend server.

A reverse proxy can monitor all incoming requests, providing an additional degree of transparency and security to ensure the smooth flow of network traffic between the user and proxy servers. It assists in preventing malicious entities from inappropriately using web servers by decreasing legitimate traffic.

For example, a reverse HTTP proxy handles client requests over the HTTP protocol, while an HTTPS reverse proxy handles requests over the secure HTTPS protocol.

Reverse proxies are used to protect the privacy of the users and the reverse proxy servers by preventing them from directly accessing the origin server. They also improve the security, efficiency, reliability, and speed of user requests.

Furthermore, a reverse web proxy handles incoming website load by distributing the traffic between multiple servers and, ultimately, increasing the capacity to handle multiple user requests at a time to avoid website crashes and downtime. You might be thinking, if one of the backend servers is overloaded or not working, then what? In that case, a reverse proxy will redirect the website load to other online servers to keep the website running.

Reverse proxy usage is far from dull in fact, it is incredibly popular. More than 81% of websites employ reverse proxies, indicating its widespread adoption.

How Reverse Proxy works?

Reverse proxy working principle

Source: AImultiple

Reverse proxying involves taking requests from users directly and then forwarding them to the most appropriate server, and then forwarding the client’s request to that server. The backend server processes the request and sends the response back to the proxy server, and forwards it to the client. This process helps optimize the overall website’s performance, security, and scalability.

In reverse proxy, the load balancer distributes the incoming requests among the backend servers to check their availability and allocates the server to the user request.

Take a look at these usage patterns of reverse proxy services for websites since June 2022.

Reverse proxy usage stats

Source: W3Techs

Use cases of Reverse Proxy

Optimized performance

You might need to cache data as it is the most common user request, this is where reverse proxies comes into action by caching the picture and video content, reducing the load on the server, and ultimately speeding up the website’s performance.

For instance, when you visit a website for the first time, a reverse proxy stores the website’s content for future use and forwards the cached version of the previously visited web page to the user the next time you visit the website.

Enhances Data Security

Reverse proxies can help you improve data security and prevent data breaches by encrypting the data using encryption protocols such as SSL/TLS. We are all aware that, in 2014, Yahoo experienced the largest data breach ever recored and many user accounts were hacked.

Enforce Web Access Restrictions

If you want to limit your online access to particular websites, reverse proxies have been shown to be helpful. When a staff member tries to access a website that is forbidden, the reverse proxy server will deny the request. Many companies and organizations can use reverse proxies to control and restrict access to the websites they wish.

What is a Forward Proxy?

A forward proxy is frequently mistaken for a proxy, although it’s actually extremely different. According to IBM, forward proxy is identified as the most common form and commonly used type of proxy server.

A forward proxy facilitates communication between the user and the internet network on the user’s behalf, increases user security within the private network, and directs traffic in an anonymous manner. Additionally, you can view restricted data using a forward proxy.
Most importantly, forward proxies develop and manage social media profiles, control and analyze internet traffic, and much more.

How Forward Proxy works

Forward proxy working principle

Source: Baeldung

When a user request from the private network, the request is routed through the forward proxy server before arriving at the web page. The data is retrieved from the website and carried back to the proxy before being forwarded to the user. This creates the impression that the proxy server is making the request. By hiding your original IP address.

Use cases of Forward Proxy

Security and Data

All web requests may be analyzed by a forward proxy in order to filter data from unsafe responses and prevent unauthorized access to websites. A forward proxy can also detect and interrupt network flows that send private information to the wrong recipients. Forward proxy covers an organization’s structure and vulnerable points of the network information from all website traffic to prevent malicious actors from discovering and misuse it.

Avoid web filters and restriction

Websites that employ IP-based geolocation may identify a user’s geographic location and limit website content. Due to this, users in specific places may only have limited access to those websites. Thus, forward proxies come into play by hiding the user’s IP address so they can get through web filters, which frequently have anti-proxy measures. Users who utilize forward proxy servers can access geo-restricted websites and content regardless of their actual location while browsing the internet anonymously and without being traced.

Blocking malicious entities

Since there are so many things to safeguard behind a proxy server, which calls for an additional layer of protection, businesses and firms cannot grant employees access to every resource and private website. For example, you may restrict access to specific websites and their content to stop your staff from accessing them. If the employee tries to access those banned websites, the forward proxy will block their request and prevent them from accessing those websites in the future.

Forward proxy vs Reverse proxy

Forward proxy vs reverse proxy

Source: The Server Side

Until now we have seen the definitions of reverse proxy and forward proxy and how they work. We are hoping at this point that you have understood the basic difference between a proxy server and a reverse proxy.

Similarities between Reverse and Forward Proxy

Network Security: The major similarity between reverse and forward proxy is that they both share the same purpose of securing user data by providing an additional security layer.

Data Caching: Both reverse and forward proxies implement caching mechanisms to store frequently accessed data, reduce the load on backend servers, improve response times and optimize performance overall.

Protocol Switching: In these proxies protocol switching and termination SSL/TLS connections is allowed.

Data Protection and Privacy: Both forward and reverse proxies provide data security and privacy and protection to the devices connected to a private network, by controlling and monitoring the traffic between internal and external network

Now, let’s get in depth to find out the differences between proxy and reverse proxy.

Differences between Reverse and Forward Proxy

When it comes to reverse vs forward proxy, despite sharing some similarities, they also have significant differences in their functionality and purpose.

The main characteristics that differentiate reverse proxies from forward proxies are the roles, implementation within the network, functionality, and level of protection they provide to devices connected to private networks.

A forward proxy faces the users, acting as a mediator between them and the servers they want to access. This means that any request made by the user will go through the forward proxy first, before reaching the server. Once the data is retrieved, it is again sent to the proxy server which redirects it back to the user. A reverse proxy, on the other hand, sits in front of the servers and transfers user request to them. A reverse proxy processes a client’s request, forwards it to another server, and redirects it back to the client.

A forward proxy is manually configured on workplace digital devices such as laptops, computers, and mobile phones to provide secure access to the web. A reverse proxy, on the other hand, doesn’t need any manual settings. Despite working towards the same objective securing web access and protecting users within a business architecture. Yet, both of them perform different functions and are for different users.
Reverse proxies manage communication between external networks and backend servers, whereas forward proxies serve network clients primarily.
Forward proxies are generally for users within the network, whereas reverse proxies facilitate communication between external networks and backend servers.

This is further described in the table below:

FactorsReverse ProxyForward proxy
Traffic DirectionFrom user to reverse proxy server, then to the internetUser to forward proxy server, then to the internet
Request seems to be sent byUserInternet
CommunicationIndirect communication with back-end serverIndirect communication of websites with user
UasgeAvoid overloading, add additional safety layers from malicious entities, caching, SSL encryption, etcPrivacy reasons, accessing geo-restricted content, web scraping, and much more.
Load balancingApplicableNo

We can safely say that both forward and reverse proxies play a significant role in achieving their goals, but the crucial difference between them is their primary goal. Reverse proxies are great for caching and reducing the load on websites, whereas forward proxies are best for accessing restricted content and security.

We are confident that now you will be able to differentiate between reverse and forward proxies, as their purpose sets them apart!

Happy Reverse Proxying!


Is reverse proxy more secure?

Yes, when compared to other proxy kinds, reverse proxies can be more secure in terms of offering extra protection and privacy. They protect your web server from attacks and breaches by hiding the server’s identity. Reverse proxies additionally split traffic to minimize load, manage SSL/TLS encryption, cache web content, and enhance performance.

Is reverse proxy same as VPN?

No, a reverse proxy and a VPN are different. The primary difference between proxy and VPN is that a reverse proxy operates at the application level to redirect client requests to the proper backend servers, whereas a VPN operates at the operational level to create safe and private connections between remote users and a private network.

Read more: Reverse proxy vs VPN