Proxy servers have become common in the language of today’s tech. Indiana University’s Knowledge Base notes that a proxy server is a computer that serves as a gateway between a local network and the internet. However, proxy servers have become methods of routing traffic between a user who wants to remain anonymous and the locations he or she connects to. Varonis mentions that proxies can operate as gateways between a regular user and the internet just as well. Proxies are essential tools in the battle to stay ahead of malicious users. Understanding what a proxy is, gives one a basis for exploring the idea of the reverse proxy.
What is a Reverse Proxy?
Reverse proxies operate within a private enterprise, sitting behind the company’s firewall and routing incoming traffic to the appropriate location. Reverse proxies are crucial in streamlining the flow of data between incoming connections. They provide caching services as well as compression for incoming and outgoing data, resulting in a much faster and smoother flow of information across the network. The reverse proxy can serve as a gatekeeper for security, or as a filter since it provides a single point of contact between the internal network and the outside world. These six security tips regarding the use of reverse proxies can benefit most businesses intending to implement the technology.
1. Routing Incoming HTTP Requests and Load Balancing
NGINX notes that there is a technology known as a load balancer that is different from a reverse proxy. However, a reverse proxy can be configured to operate as a load balancer. The functionality of using the reverse proxy this way is the most common implementation of the technology. The scenario usually occurs when a website has several servers to handle its requests. The reverse proxy serves to shunt traffic to servers so that they can all bear the influx of traffic together, ensuring that no single-point-of-failure could bring down the site. While the servers are usually redundant, i.e., serving the same content, there are times when the reverse proxy may access different servers that hold unique information on each.
2. Security Measures Through Hiding Network Structure
Reverse proxies can operate a screen for the backend structure of a network. Because all HTTP requests pass through the reverse proxy, no incoming traffic is aware of what exists behind the firewall. Using the reverse proxy as an SSL gateway allows the network to communicate with the outside world without compromising security behind the firewall. Additionally, it saves the administrator from configuring each system’s security separately thereby aiding local SEO services to function properly.
3. Serve Static Information Instead of using Backend Servers Directly
Reverse proxies can also be considered to serve as web servers. Websites usually serve a combination of static and dynamic content. If the administrator can manage to configure their reverse proxy to serve the static data for a website, it would significantly reduce the load on the primary server. Reverse proxies can also be used to cache information, allowing the website that it’s linked to, to load quicker. Data that the website accesses regularly could be held on the reverse proxy, lowering the amount of load that the webserver has to bear since the most commonly-used elements would already exist on the reverse proxy.
4. SSL Termination on the Reverse Proxy Prevents Certificate Installation
Avine Networks defines SSL termination as the transition process between when transmitted data switches from encrypted to unencrypted. Configuring the reverse proxy to handle SSL requests ensures that the reverse proxy is responsible for decrypting the incoming SSL packets. The reverse proxy can then pass the unencrypted data to the recipient behind the firewall. The implementation of a reverse proxy in this scenario enables an administrator to use a single configuration point for SSL/TLS. The result is that there are fewer SSL certificates on backend servers and reduces the load on the servers further since they don’t have to do SSL decryption themselves.
5. Combining Different Pages into a Single URL
URLs usually define the content on a particular web page. However, the distributed architecture enables a business to use different components, potentially stored in individual locations, to combine into a single dynamic web page hosted on a single URL. The reverse proxy can deal with querying each of the servers for their dynamic content, and then load those onto the web page as necessary. From the user’s perspective, a single URL can be used to access all the information that they require.
6. URL Optimization through a Reverse Proxy
Legacy systems are not very friendly with search engine optimization for URLs. By implementing a reverse proxy, a business can potentially rewrite URLs to make for a better SEO score. URLs are an essential part of SEO, and having a system that can automate the improvement of a business’ SEO ranking shouldn’t be overlooked. Additionally, for businesses that need to change their SEO strategy to adapt, the reverse proxy is an ideal way to do so without tampering with the backend servers.
The Many Uses of the Reverse Proxy
Reverse proxies can be used in many ways, even though the primary use of a reverse proxy is load balancing. With a business’s functionality often relying on the ability of their servers to process requests, the implementation of a reverse proxy can help to ensure that the company’s back end doesn’t become inundated or flooded to the point where it shuts down. In addition to the load balancing capabilities of a reverse proxy, there are several other methods of using the system that can aid a business’s security and help its network be more accessible.