Firewall vs Proxy Server: Difference and Comparison

Both the Firewall and the Proxy server are a barrier to control the traffic which resides between the network and the local computer. They provide security against network threats. The two terms are co-related but not interchangeable.

A proxy server is kind of a component of the firewall, but there are many differences. Read the differences below.

Key Takeaways

  1. A firewall is a security system that monitors and controls incoming and outgoing network traffic based on predetermined security rules. At the same time, a proxy server acts as an intermediary between a client and a server, forwarding requests and responses.
  2. Firewalls protect networks from unauthorized access and malicious attacks, whereas proxy servers provide anonymity, content filtering, and improved network performance.
  3. Firewalls can be hardware, software, or both, while proxy servers are software-based or a combination of hardware and software.

Firewall vs Proxy Server

The difference between a firewall and a proxy server is that a firewall monitors the incoming and outgoing access requests on a local network. And blocks the traffic which can be a threat to the system. On the other hand, a proxy server connects a local computer with a server. It retrieves the data on behalf of the user.

Firewall vs Proxy Server

A firewall is used for the protection of the network as it creates a barrier and filters the access requests. It does not allow unauthorized access. A firewall functions as a filter at the IP packet level.

It protects the local network from any external security threats.

A proxy server is a protection program for a computer network. It secures your network from any threats by acting as a barrier between the local computer and the network.

The direct communication of computers with the internet is avoided by using an anonymous IP address instead of an original.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonFirewallProxy Server
What they do?A firewall is an application that protects a local network from outside network threats.The proxy server serves as the communicator between the client and the server.
What is the purpose?The purpose is to protect the network from threats.The purpose is to provide connection and to connect a local computer with a server to retrieve data on the behalf of a user.
Network layerNetwork and transport layerNetwork, transport, and Application layer
Unauthorized accessIt never allows unauthorized access.It provides a connection over the network, as it can let the user use the internet anonymously.
Overhead generatedFirewall generates more overhead as it is a major source of authorization  Overhead generated in a proxy server is less as it receives a smaller number of requests.

What is Firewall?

A firewall is an application that protects a local network from outside network threats. It limits and blocks access to unauthorized users. It is like a barrier from security threats that are outside the network.

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The traffic going in different directions traverse from this barrier. A firewall monitors and protects your network and interface between private and public networks.

A firewall server works or filters at an IP packet level. A data packet can only enter into a private network when the firewall allows it. This way your network is secure from hackers and keyloggers.

Keyloggers are those who monitor your keystrokes and then use your information to log into your accounts.

An administrator can decide who can enter the network and who cannot. There is a specific list of policies or rules that an administrator can set to govern whom to give the entry into the network.

The list of these rules is called the access control list, it governs what data packet is allowed and what is not. This list contains the IP addresses, the allowed port numbers, the internet protocol used by the request, and the denied port numbers.

This list can be edited by the administrator.

software firewall

What is Proxy Server?

The proxy server controls the application-level traffic and therefore it is also known as the application gateway. It acts as a barrier and avoids direct communication between the local computer and the internet.

An anonymous IP address is used by the server than an original to save the computer from malicious users available on the internet.

A proxy server examines the raw packets and filters the data based on the header fields and application-level content. It takes the decisions using the URLs to manage the flow of the application-specific traffic.

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Also, the proxy server lets you use the internet anonymously and forgo restrictions.

The request is directly sent to a proxy server when a user tries to access a particular site on the Internet. The server looks at its content and if it seems legitimate, the server sends the request to the real or local server as if it is a client itself.

The server then searches the cache. It looks for the request and if the same request is available in the cache, it is provided right away. Although if it is not available in the cache, the proxy server accesses the internet which will take up some time.

Then it produces the result and stores that request in the cache as well for further use.

proxy server

Main Differences Between Firewall And Proxy Server

  1. Through a firewall, access requests are filtered at the IP packet level. On the other hand, the proxy server uses its application-level content to filter the requests.
  2. Network and transport layer data are worked upon by the firewall server while the proxy server works on or processes the application layer data as well.
  3. A firewall is an interface between the private and the public network. A proxy server exists with public networks on both sides.
  4. A firewall server generates more overhead as compared to a proxy server. 
  5. A firewall server doesn’t allow any unauthorized access. A proxy server provides communication or connection over the network.
Difference Between Firewall And Proxy Server

Last Updated : 13 July, 2023

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9 thoughts on “Firewall vs Proxy Server: Difference and Comparison”

  1. This article could use a bit more depth and analysis regarding the similarities between firewalls and proxy servers beyond the basic level, but overall a good read.

  2. The level of detail in this article is highly impressive, especially in the sections on firewall functionalities and the role of proxy servers. Great work!

  3. I find the section comparing the firewall and proxy server very helpful as it lays out and explains the key differences between the two.

  4. I never realized how different firewalls and proxy servers actually are. This article has certainly broadened my knowledge on network security.


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