With the growing reliance on connectivity to the World-Wide Web (Web), many organizations have been experiencing trouble servicing their users with adequate access and response time as network and server loads have increased dramatically. Increased bandwidth (i.e., more or "bigger" connections to Web) can relieve the access problem, but increasing bandwidth may not decrease the response time for users. Additionally, increase bandwidth comes at greatly increased cost due to typical monthly charges. Therefore, many organizations, including businesses, schools, universities, government, and military organizations have turned to the use of proxy servers.
What is a Proxy Server?
A proxy server is a Web server that caches Internet resources for re-use by a set of client machines. Caching proxies have been introduced to improve the system performance with the assumption that a page will be fetched many times before it is destroyed or modified. The performance increase of proxy servers has been widely reported. In fact, the praise of proxy servers has been almost universal.
A Proxy Server is a computer that offers a computer network service to allow clients to make indirect network connections to other network services. It could also be said to be a computer that acts as an intermediary between the user’s computer and internet.
Proxy servers are intermediate servers that provide clients access to the information stored on other servers like the Internet. In case any client seeks information from a different server, it will connect to a proxy server which, in turn, collects data from the main server and sends it to the requesting server.
Does it help?
Organizations that use Web proxy servers report that the proxy server’s caching technology has greatly reduced network costs. (Howard and Jansen, 2008), said many organizations bought proxy servers in order to decrease access time. However, they received an unexpected benefit when caching reduced traffic on the Internet connections. (Acharjee, 2006) Industry analysts report that proxy servers often reduced traffic enough to eliminate the need to add bandwidth servers. The demand for proxy servers among businesses, organizations, government, and academic has been strong. Microsoft, Netscape and Novell all offer proxy-server software as part of their Internet server suites. The demand is understandable given the reported increases in performance from users. (Shirey, 2009) reported performance enhancements from proxy server for end users is typically about 20 to 25%, i.e., a one-quarter decrease in access time. Organizations also reported high volume of proxy server cache access, as high as 40% and extremely active caches with thousands of Web documents.
There has been very little discussion of limitations or negative aspects of proxy servers. In general, proxy servers generally cannot provide the sophisticated event statistics, reports, alarms and audit tracking of standalone firewalls. However, a high end proxy server goes for about $1,000. Firewalls cost from $5,000 to $50,000. Also, industry experts caution that proxy servers cannot take the place of a second, high-speed, Web access line if the first is overloaded. Other than these points, there have been very little reported drawbacks of proxy servers, (Jeffery, 2010).
With all the positive reports, it is no wonder that proxy servers are still an active area of research. Most of the research focuses on methods to increase the performance aspect of proxy servers as opposed to the filtering aspect of proxy servers. Jeffery, Das, and Bernal (2010) investigated the design and implications of an extended proxy server that shares cache resources not only itself, but also with near neighbors. They reported a substantial reduction in network work load that can be obtained from this proxy sharing. This shared cache also leads to a corresponding increase in performance. The best performance came from a simple implementation model that is non-hierarchical; proxies access each other using the natural topology of the Web. Instead of cache sharing, (Law and Nandy, 2012) investigated a distributed proxy server architecture that can increase the service availability, provide system scalability, coupled with load balancing capability. The system employs TCP-based switching mechanism which has a finer session granularity, and more dynamic control on resource allocation.
Hidden IP Address: Whenever any computer connects to a website, its IP (Internet Protocol) address is read by the website. If the client server wants to keep its identity under wraps, it can use a proxy server. This way, as there is no direct connection between the computer and the destination server, the IP is hidden. Thus, the client gets all the information it needs, anonymously.
Reduction of Load: As there is an intermediary server to fetch and display data, there is an immense reduction of load on the remote server. As the proxy server (a.k.a. caching server) has all the information that is requested by the client in its database, it doesn't have to connect to the remote server every time.
Control Over Services: With these servers, you can decide which services can be accessed by the user. You can choose the websites that can be connected from the main website and which cannot.
Security: While you are surfing the Internet, there is a huge possibility that you may land on any one of the malware infected websites. When you visit such a website, the malware replicates itself onto your system. Likewise, certain websites are gateways for hackers, and visiting them would put all your personal data at stake, due to the risk of hacking. In case of proxy servers, as your system doesn't directly talk to the websites, the administrator at the proxy end will be in a position to detect such threats, and not allow them to reach your system.
Though these servers provide some of the best features that make for an alluring user experience, they have certain shortcomings too.
Cache Data: Though caching of the data leads to faster Internet access, it is also true that the information displayed to the users is not the latest.
Configuration: These servers are to be configured as per one's needs. So, there is some coding that needs to be done so as to make the proxy server suit one's requirements. Even if a single port is left open, it gives hackers a window to snoop onto your precious data.
Proxy server settings are customized, and thus, its debugging can be a tedious task in case of any bugs. Having said that, the main reason behind using these servers is the secured access that it gives to its users.
What does Proxy Server do?
It serves as an intermediary between an internal computer network and the open internet. This means proxy server stand sentinel (watch or guard), it intercepts requests for internet pages from users within a network.
A proxy server receives a request for an internet resource (such as a webpage), it first looks in it cache of previously paged, if it finds the page, it returns it to the user without needing to forward the request to the internet. If the page is not in the cache, the proxy server, acting as a client on behalf of the user uses one of its own IP addresses to request the page from the server out on the internet. When the page is returned, the proxy server relates it to the original request and forwards it to the user.Two computers, connected through a third computer acting as a proxy, communicate with each other
The drawing of David PC (client computer), Proxy, and Daniel Server (web server) shows how a proxy server theoretically works. David can relay questions to Daniel through the proxy server using the proxy server’s IP address without having to contact him directly. Daniel, from his perspective, thinks he is communicating directly with the proxy.
In practice, not all web proxies are created equal. There is a huge variance in how a web proxy can be set up and its technical capabilities. Decoding how a web proxy provides clients with enhanced privacy and security primarily depends upon how the individual proxy handles the individual data packets (the information postcards of the Internet) traveling between David and Daniel, use of encryption techniques, and the intent of the proxy owner.
Both a proxy server and a firewall can function as part of a network security solution, though proxy server. For a direct security measure, either on a computer or on a network server, a firewall enables the highest level of immediate security on the device. Firewalls also often come packaged with major operating systems such as Mac OS, Linux and Windows. When managing a large network, a proxy server will enhance your security by disallowing direct connection to the network. Working in tandem, you can secure your network with a proxy server that controls traffic to computers with firewalls that maintain secure traffic on each computer.
The many benefits of using a proxy server make it a necessity for every organization which is concerned about the security, monitoring and want to minimize the cost of data on the network. Owing to this fact, I recommend the installations of proxy servers on the various networks of any organisation. The benefit of this would include:
Improving performance: It fasten the service by process of retrieving content from the cache which was saved when previous request was made by the client.
Security: Since the proxy server hides the identity of the user hence it protects from spam and the hacker attacks. (Protecting the network).
Translation: It helps to customize the source site for local users by excluding source content or substituting source content with original local content. In this the traffic from the global users is routed to the source website through Translation proxy.
Accessing services anonymously: In this the destination server receives the request from the anonymous proxy server and thus does not receive information about the end user.
Monitoring and Filtering: Proxy servers allow us to do several kind of filtering such as:
- Content Filtering
- Filtering encrypted data
- Bypass filters
- Logging and eavesdropping.