A remote proxy server is usually computer hardware that acts as a go-between for client computer requests on a typical networked server. It can be located anywhere, and can also be a software program instead of an actual server. Its purpose is to perform a gateway function on network requests on a server, for security, filtering, and performance reasons.
Standard servers on networks are designed to handle all incoming traffic from client computers and software applications, and securing these servers in the past was done by installing filters and firewalls that protected the server on site from malicious attacks. Adding a remote proxy server in between client and server traffic allows for an increased level of security and control. Internet based computer networks, as opposed to local area networks (LANs), are the most common place that this type of setup is employed because of the anonymity they offer. By passing a computer's data requests through this type of server, it is given a different Internet protocol (IP) address than the one assigned to the local computer. The IP address of the remote proxy server itself becomes the client IP address from the point of view of the main server.
Some LANs with Internet access have taken the added security step of banning the use of web proxies. Web proxies are software-related versions of a remote proxy server that utilize a web browser to gain access to restricted websites. A web proxy only works for website traffic, however. In this sense, they have limited functionality, since they won't handle all Internet traffic, including email and instant messaging.
Internet servers have benefited in many general ways by the addition of remote proxy servers. They allow for increased security at local server levels by working as an additional filtering layer for both inbound and outbound traffic, while at the same time providing anonymity to client computers as to their actual location. Performance is also improved, as a remote proxy server often has duplicate data storage that it provides upon client requests, so that the original server the traffic was targeted at never has to be accessed at all.
Proxy servers also do caching of data from the main server that they intercede for as network requests come in. This temporary storage of data in the proxy server's memory again acts as a form of traffic control, freeing up computer server resources elsewhere. This ability of a remote proxy server or remote web proxy to provide anonymity, increased throughput for data access, and increased security against malware attacks has the effect of enhancing Internet connectivity and reliability.
The inclusion of the concept of a remote proxy server into key points in the worldwide Internet structure takes a step back towards the redundancy that the Internet was originally built upon. By adding levels of security and data duplication, speed and reliability are enhanced, which mirrors the original concept of the Internet when it was initially created as the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network in 1969 (ARPANET). As a four university networked system in the US defense program, ARPANET was the precursor to the current Internet structure, designed to survive and remain functional and robust even if large portions of it failed.