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A Reverse Proxy is a proxy server that is installed within the neighborhood of one or more servers. Typically, reverse proxies are used in front of Web servers. All connections coming from the Internet addressed to one of the Web servers are routed through the proxy server, which may either deal with the request itself or pass the request wholly or partially to the main web servers.

A reverse proxy dispatches in-bound network traffic to a set of servers, presenting a single interface to the caller. For example, a reverse proxy could be used for load balancing a cluster of web servers. In contrast, a forward proxy acts as a proxy for out-bound traffic. For example, an ISP may use a proxy to forward HTTP traffic from its clients to external web servers on the internet; it may also cache the results to improve performance.

There are several reasons for installing reverse proxy servers:

  • Security: the proxy server may provide an additional layer of defense by separating the type of server that is behind the reverse proxy..
  • Encryption / SSL acceleration: when secure websites are created, the SSL encryption is sometimes not done by the Web server itself, but by a reverse proxy that is equipped with SSL acceleration hardware.
  • Load distribution: the reverse proxy can distribute the load to several servers, each server serving its own application area. In the case of reverse proxying in the neighborhood of Web servers, the reverse proxy may have to rewrite the URLs in each webpage (translation from externally known URLs to the internal locations).
  • Caching static content: A reverse proxy can offload the Web servers by caching static content, such as images. Proxy caches of this sort can often satisfy a considerable amount of website requests, greatly reducing the load on the central web server. Sometimes referred to as a Web accelerator.
  • Compression: the proxy server can optimize and compress the content to speed up the load time.
  • Spoon feeding: a dynamically generated page can be produced all at once and served to the reverse-proxy, which can then return it to the client a little bit at a time. The program that generates the page is not forced to remain open and tying up server resources during the possibly extended time the client requires to complete the transfer.