10 reasons to use a proxy server in Saas
A proxy server is important not only for individual users. Proxies bring advantages to such an important modern technology as “Cloud”. Of course, these proxies are different. Proxies for the “Cloud” do not hide users from servers - they replace the servers with one another. For such proxies there is a special term - reverse proxies. In this article, we will talk about 10 reasons why you should use reverse proxy in SaaS.
SaaS, as a rule, gives the user an access to more than one application. Often you need special servers that can divide the work in one way or another - if you remember the technology of the 2000s, it is something like several cores in a single processor for a PC. Each server group has a separate domain and its own IP. Even if the user is a professional system administrator, this amount of data can be confusing. Therefore, a proxy server is an excellent solution for such tasks.
Reverse proxy: what is its task?
Let us explain with a clear example what a reverse proxy is. Imagine the most ordinary office with the most ordinary office workers. Today, many tasks (or even almost all of them) can be performed by an office worker remotely. Make or receive necessary calls, send messages, write a post. For all these actions, you do not need to rent a large office with many workplaces. Such a remote employee bringing direct savings to the company is a reverse proxy server in relation to application servers.
Reverse proxy is very convenient. Technically, it looks like the next line of defense directly behind the firewall. All traffic that you send to the network or receive from it goes through the reverse proxy server, and the last is a segment of the cloud-based distribution network - CDN. Also, the reverse proxy server can operate in a autonomous data center.
Thus, a reverse proxy server is something like an edge server redirecting proxies or a load balancer. However, there is still a difference. A reverse proxy server can perform a variety of functions.
Forward proxy server. It is needed to perform an indirect connection to the Internet service. It includes local caching proxies and anonymizer. In this configuration, the reverse proxy server is the destination. The client connects directly to the reverse proxy server, but not to the computer from which the application was launched. The functionality that a user receives when connecting to a proxy server does not come from a proxy, but from an application server.
As for the load balancer, its functions are simpler than those of a proxy server. As the name implies, its task is to create a balance so that two or more servers of the same type do a similar amount of work. Although the reverse proxy server can do the same, it is also able to assign a request to any server on which an application depends.
The border server (you can also find it as the Edge server) is, as a rule, physically located closer to the client than the application server - that's why it is called so. It is done to increase the speed. Moreover, the border server may not have proxy functionality. Although, it may have.
Assignment of requests: artificial intelligence is working at full capacity
One of the main tasks that the proxy basically solves is to assign the request to the server. When a request comes to a proxy, the server analyzes it to figure out which application server it is best to assign. A proxy is also able to manage so-called “sticky sessions” - this is a way to balance loading when requests from the same client are sent to the same server in the group.
Application servers may operate in different languages (meaning ‘human’ languages, not programming languages). Having determined the required language, the proxy will send a request to the necessary server - the user settings for the proxy or URL data will help determine which to choose. Also, proxies are able to standardize website addresses before sending them to the application server. For example, a proxy can use for this the substitution rules, the inclusion of the necessary parameters for internal use or the removal of the unnecessary ones. Moreover, if you want to add an additional application or equipment, just update the proxy rules. When this proxy setting is made, the server will be able to send the desired request.
As you know, now in the world there is already a shortage of IPv4 addresses. The use of a proxy resolves the difficulties associated with this - the proxy itself needs only one public IP, and the application servers will not need IP addresses at all.
Application Server Security
A server that does not use a proxy (has an open real IP) is constantly attacked by hackers. Now hackers have reached such a level that they automatically search and attack servers that are not protected by a proxy worldwide. Every successful attack allows frauds to gain access to confidential data. If this data is really important, or it belongs to a large group of people, then its disclosure can cost your company much more than a damaged reputation.
If you use a reverse proxy server, there is a minimum of user data on it (practically all of it in the cache). Even if hackers got access to the reverse proxy server, he would not get access to all the data stored on the main server. He would still need time to get to them, and during this time your system administrators can repel the attack. Thus, a reverse proxy server is the first line of defense that takes a hit and gives time to push back.
A proxy filters requests for each application. If a potentially malicious request is encountered - with a dangerous link or with a cookie template, such a request will not reach the application server. The proxy is able to block requests from a specific IP or user, which allows you to be protected from DDOS attacks. In fact, such a proxy is a firewall for the application. A proxy filter increases functionality. System admins can change proxy settings without interacting with internal servers. This allows proxies to immediately respond to a changing situation with hacker attacks.
A proxy controls both incoming and outgoing traffic. If an “anomaly” coming from the application server is noticed, the proxy is able to block this data and inform the system admin about unusual activity. This is another factor that allows proxies to increase the security of your data.
Proxy is easy to use with SSL / TLS
A secure connection is something that any at least serious Internet service should have. The security standard for such services is TLS (formerly known as SSL), which requires a cryptographic signature and its verification. This is a serious scanning which takes much time. If there are many such requests, they can quickly “overload” the server. If you use a proxy, then it will do this work and unload the application server. Besides, it will be even more secure. Moreover, a single SSL / TLS certificate will be required for the proxy, no matter how many applications work through it.
But such a scheme will work only when proxy servers and application servers are segments of either a local network or an MPLS network. MPLS (multiprotocol label switching) is a mechanism in a high-performance telecommunications network that transfers data from one network node to another, using tags. Such a network for internal connections needs HTTPS connections — they encrypt all traffic going to/from the network. No external device should be able to access this traffic. At the same time, each server can have its own certificate, which can be updated (if necessary). Very similar to the tasks for which you need a proxy, right?
A proxy can centrally perform authorization and authentication. The servers will be unloaded from this task - they will simply receive a notification from the proxy server. The proxy checks to which session the request belongs. In case the user is not logged in, the proxy will send an authentication request. If the user is online, the proxy will make sure that the user can perform the needed action. If not, the proxy will send an error message.
Other Internet Management Tasks
Like any other data on a computer or device, server responses may be compressed. Compression will reduce the response time of the server – it will just need to send fewer bytes. The proxy server may be engaged in the process of compression / decompression (application servers don’t need to do it anymore).
In addition, the proxy allows the system admin to monitor the network in an easier way. There are special programs that monitor the network: how much incoming / outgoing traffic goes through a proxy, what kind of requests come to it. Because of this, it is easy to notice the anomaly, which is most likely a hacker attack. Moreover, when one proxy server monitors multiple application servers, the system admin’s task becomes even simpler, and your system as a whole is more secure from DDOS attacks.
As we already said, the load balancer function is the load distribution between different servers. Sometimes it is a separate device that does not do anything else, and sometimes - a proxy server that also performs this function. In the second case, this is more convenient, since many applications require that all requests go to a single server. The proxy server is just perfect for this task.
Scaling server structure
When the application server is outside the network, it’s easier to scale. No need to add new IPs, configure NAT every time a new machine is added. It is enough for the proxy server to know which rules to use when a new server appears. When a new SaaS category appears on the network, the proxy settings change very easily. However, the server still needs to know the rules. If you use the proxy server as a firewall, you will need to update it to protect the services. If the network is large enough, and one proxy server can’t handle the load, you can use multiple proxy servers with a load balancer.
Since the information of a series of requests can be obtained through cache physically located closer to the client, it takes less time to process the request. The server’s response, or rather its headers, will show how long it takes to cache and whether it is possible at all. It works like caching while browsing regular web pages, as you do every day. The proxy cache can be easily cleared, if necessary.
There can be data that is not required to be cached at all. As a rule, this is extremely small data (up to a few kilobytes), which has utility functions. Meanwhile, this data takes a significant part of the total code of the page. All this data can be located directly on the proxy server.
We have listed many benefits of proxies. But a proxy is the best option, primarily because all these advantages allow the entire network to work much more efficiently, and there is no need for any significant expenditures on hardware. The proxy server, according to the above analogy with office clerks, is a high-class business assistant, who removes a huge amount of routine from the manager, allowing him to concentrate on strategic tasks rather than engage in the manual management of the entire company. It also secures the service.
A proxy server has more functions than an internal server. It receives many requests, but performs only elementary actions. A proxy server can simultaneously handle many requests without loss of productivity. Proxy servers are also better than internal servers, in terms of the number of handled requests and the system requirements for tasks of that level. Moreover, the placement of the application server behind the proxy makes it more secure — the fraud will have to hack the proxy before he reaches the application server.