What is a Proxy Server?

A Proxy Server typically serves 3 purposes.

  1. First, it stores copies of web pages that you and your colleagues have recently visited. If someone then visits the same page and that page hasn’t changed then rather than copying the entire page over the Internet, the Proxy Server sends you its copy of the page. In fact, most web pages have graphics and pictures on them and whilst the text may have changed the graphics may not have and so only the text is sent over the Internet, and the Proxy Server sends you its copy of the graphics.

  3. Second, the Proxy Server acts as your agent on the Internet. This is particularly useful where you have only one public IP address yet there are many PCs on your local network which want access to the Internet. What happens is that whenever you request a web page, that request is actually sent by the Proxy Server using its public IP address so that the information knows how to get back to the Proxy Server. The Proxy Server then sends this information onto you at your PC.

  5. Third, the Proxy Server can act as firewall if it resides at the connection point between your internal network and the Internet. This means that the network administrator can restrict which ports are open for outbound traffic and in particular which ports are open for inbound traffic. Typically your network administrator would restrict outbound ports that are used for non work activities unrelated to email, internet browsing etc. The main reason for a firewall though, is to stop those internet nasties from getting access to your internal network, PCs, files etc. One of the ways to do this is to restrict the number of open inbound ports.

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