When we need someone to stand-in for us at some sort of function, we refer to the person standing-in as a proxy. A web proxy server works the same way. It stands in between your computers browser and the real server that hosts the web page you would like to view. It tries to act as a go-between and will try to see if it can fulfill all your requests on its own. Responding or connecting to the internet and the sending and receiving of traffic is all done by the proxy server.
Web proxy servers have 3 major characteristics:
1.It can save time and improve performance. When you tell your browser the web page you would like to visit, the browser goes to the proxy who will send the request to the real web server that hosts the page you want to visit. Should your sibling want to view that same web page later, the proxy will simply put up the same page that you viewed earlier thus saving the time having the proxy sending requests to the real web server. This makes the viewing of favorite pages faster.
2.Web proxy servers filter information. The web proxy servers function as a filter for all requests and can even make inappropriate sites inaccessible to people within a group like a company or educational institution.
3.Web proxy servers give protection. A computer using proxy servers, any requests for viewing web pages made by that computers browser is routed through the proxy server. The proxy therefore hides the identity of the computer that is requesting for the page acting like an extra layer of security that isolates the computer.
Why is a web proxy server needed?
Web proxy servers comprehend information and data that passes through it and is able to act on it. In most offices, employees are able to access most websites except for those that the company has deemed inappropriate. A web proxy server can understand all the requests made by all employees within that company and block those that ask to view the sites that are inappropriate. The server can even be used to track which employees view which sites and how often. It can also scan all data that pass through it for viruses.
A company may also use a web server to provide a layer of security for its many computers. To the online world, a company may use web proxy servers to make it appear that there are only a few machines while thousands of its employees may be surfing the internet through that proxy server.
Proxy servers also keep information via a cache. People using the servers frequently have favorite pages that they often view, the proxies then keep the information pertaining to these favorites and put up copies of the favorite pages so that there is no need to access the real web servers every time a page is requested.
There are similarities between a web proxy server and a NAT (Network Access Translator) router. There are similar functions but there are also major differences. The biggest difference being that a web proxy server can comprehend data that passes through it and act accordingly while a NAT router simply comprehends the origin and destination of data and not what the data contains.