Forward Proxy vs. Reverse Proxy: What’s the Difference?

Last Updated: October 24, 2022By

Close up of server rack

A proxy can be thought of as an intermediary. The main purpose of a proxy service is to act on behalf of another computer or machine. Generally, when talking about proxies, we usually mean forward proxies instead of reverse proxies. In this article, we will look at both kinds to know the role they play in safe online web surfing.

Forward Proxy

A proxy server, also known as a forward proxy, is a server that directs the online traffic of multiple clients to a separate external system before redirecting it back to them.

This hides the client’s IP address by masking it with a different one, making surfing the web safer. A client can use proxy servers to access websites whose access might be restricted in certain regions, block unknown and harmful traffic, and hides their digital footprint from hackers and organizations looking to gain access to personal information.

What Are Forward Proxies Used For

To Bypass Website Restrictions

Some regions restrict access to specific websites and certain types of content for people in that state. Proxies can help bypass these restrictions, as they mask the user’s IP address with one from a different region that has access to that website or content.

To Block Harmful Contents

Surfing on some sites comes with harm if that site is not HTTPS-secured. When using a proxy server for the sites that you are surfing, first go to that server, where it can restrict harmful popups and malicious active elements on that website before redirecting the contents of that site back to you.

This protects your computer from getting infected with viruses and malware by preventing you from coming into contact with them.

To Hide Your Digital Fingerprint

Person using silver macbook

These days it is very common for big corporations to monitor every move you make on their site using cookies, and this information can tell these sites about your preferences and behavioral patterns.

This information is then sold to companies for a targeted advertisement to increase the likelihood of their products being sold.

Using a proxy can hide your digital footprint and prevent such corporations from pinpointing your virtual footprints, as forward proxies connect you with a different server each time, meaning that your identity is different every time you surf the web.

To Protect Against Hackers

On its own, your computer is vulnerable to malicious attacks and hacking as your IP can easily be traced. Hacking can put you at risk of identity theft, fraud, and directed attacks.

A proxy server gives you a layer of protection by giving you a virtual mask for your web experience, meaning any hacker trying to get to you must first get through your proxy server, which will prevent them from tracing the IP address to you.

Reverse Proxy

On the other hand, a reverse proxy server is a proxy server whose clients are proxy servers themselves, so it is basically a proxy server for proxy servers. The reverse proxy server redirects traffic from the forward proxy servers and digitally masks their data from being tracked back to them.

Forward proxy servers also use reverse proxies to distribute their client’s traffic so that their client’s user experience remains smooth, as an overload of clients on one server can make the surfing experience of the client unpleasant.

What Are Reverse Proxies Used For

Maintaining a Level of Security

Reverse proxies prevent malicious cyber-attacks because the IP address of the client is never revealed. This can prevent directed DDoS attacks which overburden a client’s website. The reverse proxy does that by filtering the incoming traffic and only allowing legitimate users to get through.

Any directed attack on a clients website will have to go through the reverse proxy servers, which often have very tight security and data encryption that prevent  the attack from getting through.


Reverse proxies are also used for caching. Cache is the temporary storage of data that has already been obtained from the user so that it does not have to be gathered repeatedly for a faster and more reliable surfing experience.

Caching large amounts of storage can be taxing for your computer and the proxy server you are using. Since reverse proxies are distributed amongst many servers, this temporary storage can be dispersed without overburdening any particular server while also giving you a safe and fast web surfing experience.

Balancing the Load

Proxy servers can get overburdened when too many clients are using the server or if a client’s website is getting too much traffic. This overburdening can lead to a rough user experience for the client’s website.

The proxy server managing the client can distribute this load to other (reverse) proxy servers to even out the burden so that the user experience for the client remains smooth without compromising the client’s security.


Proxies act as a mask for your virtual identity so that your digital actions cannot be traced back to you.

This masking of identity can give you access to sites you would not have had access to, prevent cyberattacks, protect you against malicious elements on unprotected sites, and alleviate your browser’s cache storage.

Forward proxies are the proxy servers that a user or client is using to mask their identity, whereas reverse proxies are proxy servers that forward proxy services use to mask their identity and also to distribute their client’s data and traffic to keep the user experience pleasant.

While clients and users use one proxy to do all of this, that one proxy works with other proxies on the backend (reverse proxies) to keep the experience for the client more secure, reliable, and stable.