Difference Between Proxy Server & Firewall

by G.S. Jackson

Network intrusion can occur in a number of ways, and there are consequently a number of ways to handle it. Firewalls are a typical security measure, good for on-point security on a computer-by-computer basis. However, proxy servers can help manage networks on an entire network scale. Firewalls reflect a direct management of connections, while proxy servers reflect a control and routing of connections. And while both function in different ways, both can function separately or together as network security solutions.

Handling Traffic

When working with a home or business network that handles personal data, a primary concern is security, and this means controlling the flow of incoming and outgoing Web traffic. Two ways to maintain network security are to block traffic coming from or going to specific Internet Protocol addresses on the Web. Another way is to set up a computer, or proxy, to intercept and handle particular types of communications based on the protocol they're using, such as HTTP for Web pages and File Transfer Protocol.

Proxy Servers

A proxy server is a computer situated at the access point between a local network and the Internet, or between two different parts of a network. This means that traffic entering and leaving the network must go through the proxy server. Furthermore, the proxy server might handle traffic using only certain communication protocols, such as Web traffic (HTTP) or direct FTP. Home wired or wireless routers often act, or can act, like primitive proxy servers.

Firewalls

A firewall enables you or the security administrator to set up rules that allow or disallow traffic from specific communication protocols or even specific Web addresses. Furthermore, a firewall can block certain ports, or points of connection, so that external computers can't connect to your computer without your knowing. Firewalls can exist as software packages that run on your computer or as hardware installations in such devices as network routers. Unlike proxy servers, firewalls are designed more as traffic controls than guidance.

Advantages and Implementations

Both a proxy server and a firewall can function as part of a network security solution. 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.

About the Author

G.S. Jackson specializes in topics related to literature, computers and technology. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and computer science from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

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