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Forward proxies and reverse proxies: what sets them apart?

When it comes to internet security, proxies are some of the most commonly used technologies on a global scale.

They are pretty effective, but different proxies are made for different functions.

So, how do forward and reverse proxies differ?

Proxies servers, in simple terms, are bridges or ‘middlemen’ that are used to transfer data from your computer to various websites like streaming platforms and download sites like the pirate bay.

They are commonly used to mask certain aspects of your browsing, especially on an application level.

They also have the ability to mask your location and keep most information about you hidden.

Some of the most commonly used proxies are forward and reverse proxies, but do they work in the same way?

Below is a detailed breakdown.

Differences between forward proxies and reverse proxies

Forward proxies and reverse proxies basically use the same principles to operate.

They both work as bridges that transfer information from one end of the internet to your device.

 Forward proxies

A forward proxy is the most common type of proxy server.

It essentially acts as a ‘middleman’ between your machine and the internet, so that any information leaving your laptop and going to your browser has to go through the proxy and vice versa.

This characteristic makes sure that such aspects as your location, search history, and others stay masked and untrackable.

There are several types of forward proxies, and they are outlined below:

  • Residential proxies

A residential proxy comes with a real and valid IP address that is more often than not offered by your Internet Service Provider. Residential Proxies have an actual physical address.

  • Data centre proxies

These types of forward proxies are not in any way affiliated to Internet Service Providers, meaning that they do not have a physical IP address. They are often generated by secondary sources like data centres.

Reverse proxies

Unlike a forward proxy that protects internet users, a reverse proxy is set up and used to protect servers.

When a reverse proxy receives a request from a client, it sends this request to multiple servers and relays information back to the client as if it were the one that gave the response, meaning that it masks the actual server from which it received the response.

In this way, the client has no idea that there is a server involved and can, therefore, not identify it.

Below is a list of reverse proxies:

  • Usual/regular reverse proxies

These are, essentially, the most common and regular reverse proxy servers. They are almost always used for security reasons, and they work by masking the existence of the actual servers from which responses to commands and requests come.

  • Load balancers

These types of reverse proxies are able to distribute requests between multiple servers so that they create a balance of the traffic between the servers.

In this way, the reverse proxy makes sure that the browser does not experience extreme latency when processing requests and responses between clients and servers.

Uses of forward and reverse proxies

Forward proxies

  • Bypassing geo-blockers

In case you find that you are in a location that does not allow you access to certain websites or content such as videos, you could be in a geo-blocked region.

With a good forward proxy, you will be able to access this content or such websites since it will mask your IP address, making the website assume you are in an unrestricted area.

Bear in mind, however, that only premium proxies can do this.

  • Web scraping

Forward proxies are used by companies to collect information about your browsing habits and to also restrict social media usage.

  • Anonymity

With a forward proxy, you can hide your location and other intricate details about you as an internet user.

Reverse proxies

  • Security

Reverse proxies create multiple security layers to backend servers so that cybercriminals cannot access them.

  • Load balancing

A reverse proxy allows a server the capacity to handle multiple requests at the same time for easier response.

  • Caching

Reverse proxies can actually stash frequently requested information for later use, easing the load on the severs for which it works.


Even though they essentially perform the same duty in different sectors, forward and reverse proxies often come in handy for different people with varying needs.

Be certain to pick the one that works best for your needs and your security.

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