A reverse proxy server acts like a trusted librarian, storing up-to-date copies of all your content and loaning it out, securely, to those who request it.
There’s a lot of complicated explanations for how proxies work. So we’re going to distill things into a hopefully, easier to understand article, with a few advanced features explained at the end.
Often referred to as a reverse proxy server, what is really meant, is a server that contains the reverse proxy instructions. A reverse proxy set of instructions for a server tells it how to handle the following content requests from other servers:
A proxy server separates people who browse the internet from the websites they browse. Or to put this a simpler way, it hides the client from the web.
When you connect to the internet on your work computer, you might not realize you gain access to the internet via a proxy server. The proxy server hides your workstation IP address and the response displays the company proxy server’s IP address instead when you are online.
This layer of security and privacy is essential to protect individuals but also give them authentication as they browse websites from all over the world.
When you buy hosting for your website, you now have a proxy server dedicated to your website.
The proxy server IP address disguises yours, providing a layer of privacy. You can still update and store your website at home or at the office, but the difference is these IP addresses are not disclosed on the internet. Instead, the proxy server IP address is visible to the public.
Proxy servers are configured to hide the identity of their clients, acting as an address-based firewall. Other interesting proxy features include being able to identify rogue websites and filter them, provide shared network connections safely to your employees or family (internal clients), and cache/store the latest website data to speed up common requests.
Forward proxy flow. From internal clients to the internet, to requesting external servers.
Remember a proxy keeps you safe online by hiding your website IP address. Your proxy server address is not your household or office IP address where, after all, you might be updating content, sending important documents, and doing money transactions. You don’t want unwanted eyes on there.
A reverse proxy takes on the role of answering people requesting your content instead of the hosting server.
For example, in the case where many people want to see a copy of your website, or part of your website, simultaneously, your proxy server gets really busy trying to answer. Imagine a live-streaming theatre performance, as an example. There are many requests. A Reverse proxy solves this problem for a hosting server because it constantly updates the live stream (known as ‘dynamic content caching’). In today’s world where the internet is busy delivering ever more complex content, a reverse proxy takes the load off a hosting server
Handling incoming, or ingress requests from the outside world can be delegated to a reverse proxy.
A forward proxy flow. (up) A reverse proxy flow. (down)
Remember, both kinds of proxy can look up content and handle requests.
Picture your website gaining more traffic. A reverse proxy kicks into play a type of ‘function’ directing traffic super-safely between clients and your hosting server. A reverse proxy is designed to balance the increase in requests for information. Refer to picture 2 as shown above and reverse proxy flow.
This is why website owners with high traffic sites and/or sites with lots of content need a better delivery system than just one or two hosting servers. Adding a global network of servers with reverse proxy functions, able to handle simultaneous requests from all around the world, means the heavy lifting is dispersed and balanced across many servers.
A reverse proxy flow:
From requesting clients/servers (L) to the internet, to the reverse proxy server, who asks the internal client servers/hosting (Right) for content, which is then served and stored on the reverse proxy server and delivered back to the requestors.
Of course, the most effective way to distribute content blazingly fast with proxies and reverse proxies is within a CDN (Content Delivery Network).
A CDN is best thought of as an internal network service. You might have heard a CDN described as many multiple servers all over the world who securely store all of your website content and then deliver it to anyone who requests it from anywhere. This is all true, of course, but we can simplify the idea if we imagine it (below) as a series of pins stuck on to a map of the world.
In our example, CDN edge servers are located at these pinned sites around the world.
A CDN connects itself to these edge servers all over the world forming a network that works privately. Within the CDN, lie proxy and reverse proxy instructions which are as clever as the provider you bought it from. These instructions tell those edge servers how to store your website, handle content requests in the most efficient way, and all the while protect your privacy and the privacy of your customers. You can read more about how a CDN works here.
Both forward and reverse proxy flows work together in a CDN through edge servers.
The most effective way to control requests and optimize hosting power is through an easy-to-administer CDN service, like Namecheap’s Supersonic CDN. You can simply turn it on, letting processes run automatically, or go high-octane on an advanced plan and drive the controls for your company.
Implementing reverse proxies via a CDN makes sense for any website handling a large number of requests daily.
One thing to appreciate is the larger the CDN network, the more resilient it is to traffic surges and the more capable it is to serve simultaneous requests. If you wish to buy a CDN, it is a good idea to work out the size of your traffic/visitor needs. Otherwise, you could overspend.
Another factor to consider is when a CDN provides good value. Enterprises see lower administration costs if using reverse proxy setups because the global server infrastructure and technology staff needed to maintain things are outsourced. You don't need to buy a network of global servers or the technical staff to maintain it.
You can leverage a global network with a CDN, and simply ‘set and forget’, reaping the benefits, or if you want to be more hands on, drive the controls. Remember, by working at the edge of a network CDN, reverse proxies increase the speed and security of your website. CDN analytics helps you analyse the performance of your website. For your visitors, a CDN means they can always find your content, fast. It’s simply, a better, faster website.
The best way of taking advantage of proxy and reverse proxy technology is through a CDN.
Namecheap’s Supersonic CDN employs reverse proxies acting as an intercept between users looking up your website and your internal proxy hosting server. Our CDN edge servers around the world intensify the speed of content delivery and provide multiple-layer security effects.