A modern Proxy Server does much more than forward web requests, all in the name of data security and network performance. Whereby a Proxy Server acts as a firewall and web filter. Providing a shared network connection, and cache data to speed up common requests.
A good Proxy Server keeps users and the internal network protected from the bad stuff that lives out in the wild internet. Lastly, proxy servers can provide a high level of privacy. In computer networks, a Proxy server is a server that acts as an intermediary for requests from clients. Especially seeking resources from other servers.
There are mainly two types of proxy servers. In that case, the two types include the Forward Proxy and the Reverse Proxy. There is two main distinguishing difference between the Reverse Proxy and the Forward Proxy. On one hand, the Forward proxy is used by the client such as a web browser. On the other hand, a Reverse Proxy is used by the server such as the general web server.
What Is A Proxy Server?
A Proxy Server acts as a gateway between you and the internet. It’s an intermediary server separating end users from the websites they browse. Proxy servers provide varying levels of functionality, security, and privacy depending on your use case, needs, or company policy.
According to cactusvpn, a proxy server (usually known as a “proxy” or “application-level gateway”) is a server (either a computer or an application) that acts as a gateway between a local network and a large-scale network.
Technically, a proxy server will act as an intermediary between a client and the server from which the client is requesting a certain service. It will take the client’s request, and perform it on their behalf. A basic example is this: Say you want to use a proxy server to access a certain web page. The proxy will receive your request and will do one of these things.
Consider the following:
- First, it will analyze its local cache to see if it can find that particular web page
- Secondly, if it finds it, it will return it to you without having to forward your request to the Internet
- Then again, if the proxy doesn’t locate the web page in its local cache, will request that web page from the web
- However, it will not use your IP to do so. Instead, it will act as the client on your behalf, and use one of its own IPs
- Once it gets the page, it will relate it to your original request, and forward the page back to you
Of course, you as a user won’t really be aware of that process. To you, it will just seem like you are directly accessing a web page like normal. That said, before we look at the key benefits of Proxy Servers use below, it’s good to know Proxy Servers can usually be categorized even further.
Consider the following:
- Forward:– The standard proxy category, Forward proxies are the intermediary between a computer and a wider network.
- Reverse:– Reverse proxies are intermediaries between the web and a smaller group of servers. For instance, a Reverse proxy could act as a gateway between the Internet and a corporate LAN network.
- Open:– Open proxies (also called “public proxies”) can be accessed by any online user. They are usually offered to the public free of charge.
A modern Proxy Server does much more than forward web requests, all in the name of data security and network performance. Whereby, a Proxy Server acts as a firewall and web filter.
Whilst, providing a shared network connection, and cache data to speed up common requests. On that note, a good Proxy Server keeps users and the internal network protected from the bad stuff that lives out in the wild internet. Additionally, proxy servers can provide a high level of privacy as well as other benefits.
If you’re using a proxy server, internet traffic flows through the proxy server on its way to the address you requested. The request then comes back through that same proxy server (there are exceptions to this rule), and then the proxy server forwards the data received from the website to you.
An example of that would be a server acting as an intermediary between your computer and the Internet. Overall, below are the most common types of proxy servers you’re likely to encounter.
Consider the following:
- HTTP Proxy Servers
- SSL Proxy Servers
- SOCKS Proxy Servers
- Web-Based Proxies
- Transparent Proxies
In short, Proxy Servers are computers that act as middlemen between you and other networks. Instead, then revealing your personal IP address, a proxy server uses its own public IP address.
That said, you can read and learn more about the Benefits of Proxy Servers in detail. And now, back to our main topic, if that’s all it does, why bother with a proxy server? Why not just go straight from the website and back? Important to realize, the Forward Proxy Server can reside in the same internal network as the client. Equally important, it can also be on the Internet.
How Forward Proxy Server Works
Basically, the Forward Proxy Server can be used by the client to bypass firewall restrictions. Particularly, in order to visit websites that are blocked by schools, governments, companies, etc. And if a website blocked an IP range from visiting the website, then a person in that IP range can use a forward proxy. Above all to hide the real IP of the client so that person can visit the website.
And maybe leave some spam comments. However forward proxy might be detected by the website administrator. As a matter of fact, there is some paid proxy service that has numerous proxy systems. Especially around the world so that they can change your IP address every time you visit a new web page. Not to mention, this makes it harder for website administrators to detect.
Learn More: Forward Proxy vs. Reverse Proxy Servers – JSCAPE
Forward proxy was very useful and popular in the 1990s. Before NAT is integrated into network routers, the forward proxy is the way for multiple computers in the same network to access the Internet. Furthermore, this type of forwarding proxy server usually resides in the internal network. The forward proxy can also act like a cache server in an internal network.
With this in mind, if a resource is downloaded many times, then the proxy can cache the content on the server. So, next time another computer downloads the same content, the proxy will send the content that is previously stored on the server to the computer. There’re many different kinds of forwarding proxy servers to know about in this case.
Consider the following;
For your information, and in most cases, the forward proxy can also act like a cache server in an internal network. Please keep in mind that using a forward proxy to browse the Internet usually slows down your overall Internet speed. That depends on the location between your PC, the forward proxy, and how many people are using that forward proxy.
Another thing to be aware of is that there’re many free forward proxies that are built by hackers for malicious purposes. If you happen to be using one of these proxies, they will log every activity you do on the Internet. But, wait a minute; what is the difference between HTTP Server Proxy Vs SOCKS Server Proxy?
In general, a SOCKS server is a general-purpose proxy server that establishes a TCP connection to another server on behalf of a client. And then routes all the traffic back and forth between the client and the server. Further, it works for any kind of network protocol on any port. SOCKS Version 5 adds additional support for security and UDP.
On one side, a SOCKS server is a general-purpose server that establishes a TCP connection to another server on behalf of a client, then routes all the traffic back and forth between the client and the server. It works for any kind of network protocol on any port.
SOCKS Version 5 adds additional support for security and UDP. The SOCKS server does not interpret the network traffic between client and server in any way. And is often used because clients are behind a firewall and are not permitted to establish TCP connections to servers outside the firewall. Unless they do it through the SOCKS server.
Most web browsers, for example, can be configured to talk to a web server via a SOCKS server. Simply, because the client must first make a connection to the SOCKS server and tell it the host it wants to connect to, the client must be “SOCKS enabled.” On Windows, it is possible to “shim” the TCP stack so that all client software is SOCKS enabled.
A free SOCKS shim is available from Hummingbird at http://www.hummingbird.com/products/nc/socks/index.html. You can also read and learn more about what a SOCKS Proxy is and how to use it in detail from MakeUseOf.
On the other hand, an HTTP proxy is similar and may be used for the same purpose. When clients are behind a firewall and are prevented from making outgoing TCP connections to servers outside the firewall.
However, unlike the SOCKS server, an HTTP proxy does understand and interpret the network traffic that passes between the client and downstream server. More so, namely the HTTP protocol. Because of this, the HTTP proxy can ONLY be used to handle HTTP traffic, but it can be very smart about how it does it.
In particular, it can recognize often repeated requests and cache the replies to improve performance. Many ISPs use HTTP proxies configuration regardless of how the browser is. Obviously, because they simply route all traffic on port 80 through the proxy server. You can learn more about the HTTP-Proxy in detail from WatchGuard Technologies.
How A Reverse Proxy Server Works
A Reverse Proxy Server is mainly used by server admins to achieve load balancing and high availability. A website may have several web servers behind the reverse proxy. The reverse proxy server takes requests from the Internet and forwards these requests to one of the web servers. Most visitors don’t know websites are using a reverse proxy.
Simply, because they usually lack the knowledge and tools to detect it or they simply don’t care about it. Nginx can be acting as both a web server and a reverse proxy at the same time. HAProxy is another well-known open-source reverse proxy software. According to Apache, In addition to being a “basic” web server, IT can also act as a reverse proxy server – a “gateway” server.
Whilst, providing static and dynamic content to end-users, Apache httpd (as well as most other web servers). In such scenarios, httpd itself does not generate or host the data. But rather, the content is obtained by one or several backend servers, which normally have no direct connection to the external network.
Learn More: A Complete Guide of Reverse Proxy
And, as httpd receives a request from a client, the request itself is proxied to one of these backend servers. As a result, it then handles the request, generates the content, and then sends this content back to httpd.
This then generates the actual HTTP response back to the client. There are numerous reasons for such an implementation, but generally, the typical rationales are due to security, high availability, load-balancing, and centralized authentication/authorization. It is critical in these implementations that the layout, design, and architecture of the backend infrastructure are insulated.
More so, those servers which actually handle the requests. As well as being protected from the outside; as far as the client is concerned, the reverse proxy server is the sole source of all content.
How “Anonymous” Are Proxies?
The advantages of using a proxy server are quite nice, but proxies don’t come without their drawbacks. For one, they don’t really offer you the kind of “anonymity” people like to claim they do.
In fact, the owner of a proxy will always know who you are because they can see your IP address. And now, proxy servers can be rated according to the level of privacy they offer. Officially, they come in 3 levels – level 1 is the privacy best:
Level 1 – Elite Proxies
The best choice – Elite proxies will hide your IP address, and the websites you access will have no idea you are using a proxy to connect to them. Just keep in mind that for all the privacy-focused benefits of Elite proxy servers, you might have to settle for slower connections because they are very popular with online users.
Level 2 – Anonymous Proxies
Also called Distorting proxies, these proxy servers don’t reveal your IP address to the server you are connecting at all. Still, it is worth noting that the server you connect to will know you are using a proxy to access it. How come? Because it seems that “anonymous” proxies actually identify themselves because they attach additional headers to the requests they send.
Level 3 – Transparent Proxies
Not to be confused with the previously-mentioned Transparent proxies, these proxy servers don’t really offer any privacy. Why? Because they forward pretty much all info about you to the websites you access. Theoretically, your IP is hidden, but it can still show up in the request header that’s sent to the website.
The Drawbacks of Using Proxy Servers
Proxy servers don’t exactly offer you top-notch online security. Sure, some proxies come with SSL-type encryption, but that’s not as secure as it sounds. Plus, if you value your privacy, you might not be too happy to hear that the NSA can actually intercept and break SSL.
Also, if you don’t plan on using a web proxy service, you will likely have to configure the proxy connection on your own. It’s not extremely complicated, but it can get annoying and tiring if you need to switch server locations quite often.
Oh yeah, and you have to be extremely careful which provider you choose. Don’t forget – if you happen to access anything online via HTTP instead of HTTPS, the owner of the proxy would be able to monitor your activities – not to mention a provider can also block harmless websites if they want to.
Important to realize that; My IP Hide is better than Socks Proxy. Whereby, you’re allowed to hide IP addresses and unblock websites with lightning-fast, stable, and encrypted proxies. Ideally, you should opt for private proxies instead. Even better, you could add an extra layer of security by using a VPN service that offers proxy server access.
If you’re not sure why you should use a VPN instead of a proxy, consider this – a VPN already offers the same benefits as proxy servers, and – on top of that – uses strong encryption protocols, keeping you safer online than a proxy server. That, and they are configured at a system level. Meaning, you’ll only need to set it up once.
More so, in order to make sure all your online connections on a device are proxied through the VPN. And before you ask, no – free VPNs aren’t ideal either. But, you could go ahead and use Free Proxies, anyways. They’re free after all, so what do you have to lose? Quite a lot, actually. Naturally, free proxies are often overcrowded, so you will likely deal with slow Internet connections.
Other reasons against free proxies include:
- A lot of free proxies are run by volunteers
- While that’s admirable, it also means the service can be unstable, and go offline at random intervals
- Almost 79% of free proxies don’t use HTTPS, leaving you completely “naked” online
- You have no way of trusting the proxy provider, as they theoretically make no money off of you
- So, they don’t have any responsibility towards you
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