Setting Up Your Reverse Proxy: A Step-By-Step Guide

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Raj Vardhman
Written by
Raj Vardhman

Updated · Aug 28, 2023

Raj Vardhman
Chief Strategist, Techjury | Project Engineer, WP-Stack | Joined January 2023 | Twitter LinkedIn
Raj Vardhman

Raj Vardhman is a tech expert and the Chief Tech Strategist at, where he leads the rese... | See full bio

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A reverse proxy is a proxy server that works between web servers and users. It masks the web server’s Internet Protocol (IP) address, protecting its identity from clients.

Reverse proxies intercept requests on behalf of the server. 23% of websites use reverse proxies. This translates to over 26 million websites, and over 25 million use Nginx.

You do not have to have a major website to use a reverse proxy. Continue reading to learn how to set up your reverse proxy using Nginx and Apache. 

🔑 Key Takeaways

  • A reverse proxy compresses data and stores frequently accessed content in the cache, enhancing web traffic speed.
  • Apache serves as web server software, linking visitors' devices to your site, and enabling them to access its content.
  • Reverse proxies shield internal servers, serving as the website's front end and preventing direct entry.
  • The initial stage to establish a reverse proxy effectively is selecting suitable software.

How To Set Up Your Own Reverse Proxy?

Reverse proxy servers add extra control and ensure smooth network traffic flow between clients and servers. It can also direct requests based on parameters like the user's device and location.

This type of proxy server is commonly used for load balancing. It distributes client requests among multiple servers to optimize speed and capacity.

A reverse proxy accelerates web traffic by compressing data and caching frequently requested content.

With 30,000 websites hacked daily worldwide, the importance of security is clear. Reverse proxy servers step in by safeguarding server identities and thwarting cyberattacks. They also simplify access to multiple servers using just one URL, regardless of network complexity.

Setting up your reverse proxy is relatively easy. The following sections discuss using Nginx and Apache as reverse proxy servers.

Using Nginx As A Reverse Proxy

Nginx, pronounced “engine-ex,” is an open-source web server known for its speed and reliability. It can act as a reverse proxy, load balancer, and caching solution. 

💡 Did You Know

When setting up a Reverse Proxy, managing a heavily visited website, or operating an e-commerce platform, you can configure a reverse proxy for your server. The recommended approach is establishing it using the Nginx open-source reverse proxy software.

Many big companies use this software for their websites and online services. Here are the steps to set up Nginx as a reverse proxy:

Step 1: Update Your System And Install Nginx

Begin by updating the system and installing Nginx. Execute the following commands:

sudo apt update

sudo apt install nginx

Start the Nginx service upon completing the installation. Use the command:

sudo systemctl start nginx

Enable Nginx with the following:

sudo systemctl enable nginx

After enabling Nginx, you will receive the following output confirming its activation:

output confirming its activation

To verify that Nginx is running correctly, check its status with this command:

sudo systemctl status nginx

Ensure that the output confirms that Nginx is running fine.

output confirms that Nginx is running

Step 2: Configure Nginx As A Reverse Proxy

Make a configuration file for the reverse proxy settings:

nano /etc/nginx/conf.d/custom_proxy.conf

In this file, add the following configuration lines:

server {

  listen 80;

  listen [::]:80;


  location / {

      proxy_pass http://localhost:3000/;



Save the file and exit the editor. Then, create a link for the new proxy configuration file using the command:

ln -s /etc/nginx/conf.d/custom_server.conf

Test the configuration.

To check the Nginx configuration for any errors, run the following command:

sudo nginx –t

The output should look like this:

Nginx configuration

If the output indicates that the Nginx configuration is correct without any errors, proceed to restart Nginx using the command:

sudo nginx -s reload

Once you set up the Nginx reverse proxy successfully, it will start routing any incoming traffic to the specified backend server.

What is the Best Proxy Server?

Best for: Best overall


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Setting Up Apache As A Reverse Proxy

Apache is a web server software that connects visitors’ devices to your website, allowing them to view its content. 

💡 Did You Know?

As of May 2023, Apache leads the web server market with a 41.30% user share, owing to its speed, reliability, and security. Nginx follows for its strong performance and scalability.

It handles HTTP requests and delivers web pages. Apache also makes the site functional and influences its performance.

Setting up Apache as a reverse proxy can be done by following these steps:

Step 1: Install Apache

First, you must install Apache to set it up as a reverse proxy. Use the following command to do this:

$ sudo yum install httpd

The following modules must be installed and activated on the Apache server:

  • mod_proxy: Responsible for redirecting connections
  • mod_proxy_http: Adds support for proxying HTTP

Check if these modules are installed and activated by running the following command:

$ httpd -M

If these modules are not on the list, enable them in the Apache configuration file (httpd.conf). Add these lines to the file:

$ sudo vim /etc/httpd/conf/httpd.conf

LoadModule proxy_module modules/

LoadModule proxy_http_module modules/

Step 2: Save And Restart Apache

Relaunch Apache to apply the changes:

sudo systemctl httpd restart

Step 3: Configure The Backend Test Server

On the backend server (where you have also installed Apache), create an HTML page for testing. It should have the following files:

Save and close the file. Restart Apache to save the changes. Use this URL to test the page:

Step 4: Configure A Primary Reverse Proxy

To set up the reverse proxy, open the Apache configuration file. Add these lines:

$ sudo vim /etc/httpd/conf/httpd.conf

<VirtualHost *:80>

ProxyPreserveHost On

ProxyPass /

ProxyPassReverse /


The configuration above redirects any requests received at ''. Restart Apache.

$ sudo systemctl restart httpd

If you want, you can include another port in the URL. Using Apache Tomcat as a backend server on port 8080, use the following entries in httpd.conf:

<VirtualHost *:80>

ProxyPreserveHost On

ProxyPass /

ProxyPassReverse /


Step 5: Testing The Reverse Proxy

To test the reverse proxy, open a web browser. Enter the following URL:

The reverse proxy server's IP address is in this case. If everything is configured correctly, you should see the page hosted on the backend server.

Pro Tip:

Reverse proxies serve various purposes, including safeguarding backend servers from harmful traffic. Encountering a "504 Gateway Time-Out" error? That's the reverse proxy flagging an inaccessible backend server. Learn more in our article about comparing forward and reverse proxies.

Pros And Cons Of Reverse Proxies

Using reverse proxies has a lot of advantages. However, it also comes with limitations.

Check out the pros and cons of reverse proxies in the table below:



Protects internal servers by acting as the face of the website and blocking direct access 

Can track IP addresses and manipulate non-encrypted traffic, which makes them vulnerable to malicious parties

Can defend you against Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks

Failure in the one domain can bring down all front-end ones

Distributes traffic across multiple servers and prevents overloading on a single server

Consumes additional network resources and processing power

Improves website performance by serving content from the local cache

Causes everything to stop when there’s no access to the backend server

Can decrypt encrypted data and reduce the server load


Routes requests to the nearest servers geographically, which minimizes access time 


Final Thoughts

Setting up your reverse proxy servers comes with numerous benefits. It can significantly improve your website’s security, scalability, and performance.

Nginx and Apache are among the most commonly used reverse proxy software. They are both reliable and easy to set up.

The first step in successfully setting up a reverse proxy is choosing the appropriate reverse proxy software. Tailor the settings according to your needs and manage incoming requests to your backend servers effectively.


Does DNS act as a reverse proxy server?

A reverse proxy directs incoming requests to a server through Domain Name System (DNS) configuration.

Is Cloudflare a reverse proxy?

Yes. Cloudflare is a reverse proxy service that safeguards websites, enhances performance, and prevents malicious attacks.


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