Proxy Server Vs Firewall

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Proxy 101

A proxy is a tool that allows users to pass their traffic through an intermediary server that confers certain benefits on it. In comparison, a firewall is an intermediary that acts as a security barrier for networks and devices.

Both tools are intermediaries. However, they do not do the same things and are even complementary. In this article, we explore how proxy servers and firewalls work, their differences, and the benefits of combining them both.

What is a Firewall?

A firewall is a network monitoring hardware, software, or cloud-based tool that monitors web traffic and controls or filters it according to predetermined security rules. Here are some of the ways a firewall executes its functions:

  • Stateful inspection that allows firewalls to monitor active connections and make contextual decisions as opposed to separately assessing individual data packets.
  • Packet header analysis to identify surface details like source of request, destination addressed, protocols employed, etc.
  • Deep packet inspection to delve deeper into the contents of individual data packets as they attempt to enter into a network. This facilitates the identification of malicious files, protocols, etc.
  • Access control and rule-based content-filtering. Firewalls may employ lists of what traffic to allow based on them meeting certain parameters. In such cases, the rule is to reject the entry or exit of traffic that violates the preset rules.
  • Detection and prevention of intrusion attempts. The firewall can identify malicious activity and files, based on pattern, and prevent unauthorized access or intrusion into the network or device.
  • Control of access to resources. A firewall may employ access policies to authenticate users and traffic. As such, they can prevent unauthorized access to remote resources, and protect data integrity where needed.
  • Firewalls log network and traffic data and activity. By doing so, they have a detailed database of activity and patterns. They can use these for security analysis, troubleshooting security issues, providing regulatory compliance, etc.
  • Regularly updating firewall threat and rule databases helps make your security infrastructure up to date. As such, the best firewall providers continuously strive for better service and release regular updates to boost their product’s reliability.

What is a Proxy Server?

A proxy server is an intermediary that alters a user’s web traffic and helps hide IP addresses, cache web pages, distribute load, etc. Here is how it works to bring about its advantages:

  • The user intimates a request to access a website or application from their device
  • Rather than directly sending the request to the destination server, the device sends it to the proxy server
  • The proxy server then sends the request to the destination server on behalf of the user. As such, the request seems to originate from the proxy server which possesses a different IP address, location, etc.
  • At the destination server, the website or application processes the request and responds
  • The proxy server receives the response from the destination server and sends it through to the user’s device
  • The user receives the response from the proxy server. 

All of these occur rapidly. Due to the roundabout route of connection and communication, the user’s connection may be slower. However, by rerouting through the proxy server, a user can filter content, spoof locations, and ensure anonymity to web servers. Our proxies possess all of these and are blazingly fast to boot; just some of the reasons why Proxy Cheap servers are better.

Popular Use Cases and Benefits

Proxies and firewalls are both helpful tools for online activity. However, they do not have the same functions or do the same things. Below are possible advantages and use cases of firewalls and proxies.


Here are some popular use cases of firewalls along with the most appropriate type of firewall.

  1. Internet security. Use of firewalls to provide security for home networks and small businesses. Packet filtering firewalls that monitor header info, source, IP addresses, protocols, etc. are most appropriate for this purpose.  
  2. Data protection and prevention of data loss. Schools, e-commerce sites and institutions requiring moderate security may use firewalls to protect user data. Stateful inspection firewalls are helpful here because they monitor all active connections and inspect associated headers and payloads.
  3. Control of application access. Businesses providing web applications may use firewalls to an application firewall to monitor application-layer traffic and enforce security or regulatory policies.
  4. Industries handling critical client data, such as finance and healthcare, may use next-generation firewalls to sandbox vulnerable software, facilitate deep packet inspection, or prevent unauthorized system access.
  5. Facilitation of access to remote resources. Organizations employing remote and hybrid workers may employ cloud-based firewalls to enforce permissions and access. These firewalls represent a centralized corporate solution for widely distributed networks and are easily scalable to account for growth.

Proxy Server

On a similar note, here are some popular use cases of proxy servers.

  1. Anonymity and Privacy. Secure proxy servers can help users connect to websites anonymously and privately by obscuring their real IP addresses. Mobile and residential proxies are especially helpful in this regard because of their genuine-seeming traffic. 
  2. Content Filtering. Individuals can use proxies to control web content that is accessible via their network. This is helpful in establishing parental control measures. Similarly, companies and businesses may do the same to control employee internet access and improve workplace productivity.
  3. Load Balancing and Bandwidth Saving. Online data scrapers can employ rotating proxies to distribute web requests and reduce the risk of IP blocking. Web admins may also employ reverse proxies with their servers to distribute requests. This helps facilitate web page caching, thus saving bandwidth, preventing server overload, and improving the performance of their websites.  
  4. Bypassing Geo-restrictions. Not all content and websites on the internet are available. Some are unavailable because you’re in the wrong location. Proxies allow web users to mimic locations and access geo-restricted content. This is a helpful use for people looking to get maximum value from their streaming services, social media, etc.
  5. Creating Multiple Accounts. Proxies allow web users to create multiple accounts on platforms that do not allow it. They can employ dedicated residential or datacenter proxies to create and manage said accounts. Social media managers who earn money managing multiple client accounts benefit from this possibility.

Proxy Server Vs Firewall – Main Differences

We have established that proxies and firewalls are not the same. Here are specific differences that set them apart:


Both tools are intermediaries. A proxy server is an intermediary between users’ devices and the internet that reroutes traffic, forwards and receives requests and responses, caches webpage data, and filters content when needed. On the other hand, a firewall is a barrier between a private network and external networks that monitors the inflow and outflow of data, and blocks or allows traffic according to preset security rules.

Position in Network Architecture 

According to the Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) model of network communication, there are seven layers involved: Physical layer (1), Data Link layer (2), Network layer (3), Transport layer (4), Session layer (5), presentation layer (6), and Application layer (7). A firewall operates at the network and transport layers, while the proxy server exerts its effect at the application layer.

Traffic Handling 

Proxies may handle a single internet protocol or a variety of protocols. As such, they may be broad or protocol-specific. Most are capable of handling more than one protocol. However, the function of a firewall is largely independent of protocol. Firewalls also handle traffic for internal networks against external networks. On the other hand, a proxy may handle traffic for a client or web server. For instance, a forward proxy handles traffic for a client to/from a web server. A reverse proxy, however, handles traffic for a web server, helping them distribute load, cache web pages, etc.

Using a Proxy Server and a Firewall Together

Though different, a proxy and firewall can be complementary. Using them together can confer the following advantages on internet activity:

    1. Control of Access. Where firewalls will monitor and control incoming and outgoing web traffic according to preset security rules, a proxy can help filter content. Together, they can guarantee granular control over the type of content and applications accessible via a network. In other words, you can simultaneously block malicious content and inappropriate content with more specificity.
  • Anonymity. Web proxies are known for rerouting traffic and changing user IP addresses. Firewalls can contribute to the anonymity and privacy of a user by selectively blocking incoming and outgoing data packets to prevent IP visibility.
  • Improved performance. Firewalls can slow down network performance because they tax the hardware of your system. However, the caching capacity of proxies reduces needed bandwidth and eases the burden on hardware.
  • Logging and Traffic Monitoring. As part of their efforts to improve the performance of web connections and boost security, some proxies may log traffic data. Firewalls log similar data like protocols, IP addresses, sources, etc. When combined, both tools can help troubleshoot security issues, identify patterns, and determine potential threats.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can a proxy be used as a firewall?

No, a proxy is not a substitute for a firewall. A proxy reroutes traffic and enhances security and privacy. It also can help filter access to websites, but a firewall controls access both ways and monitors the inflow and outflow of data.

Which comes first: proxy or firewall?

They are different tools, but in terms of security, a firewall comes first. It acts as a security barrier for outgoing and incoming traffic and protects a private network from external networks. In terms of privacy and anonymizing identity, proxies would come first because of their ability to mask IP addresses.

Which proxy server is better?

There are many different ways of classifying proxy servers, and choices of which proxy server is better would depend on intended use within the categories. For instance, based on the type of IP address provided, a proxy may be residential, datacenter, or mobile. Within that categorization, residential and mobile proxy servers provide better anonymity, while datacenter proxy servers provide reliability of service.


Donovan McAllister


Donovan McAllister is a skilled Copywriter at Proxy-Cheap specializing in technology-related content, particularly in proxies. His passion for writing and tech seamlessly converge as he crafts engaging content, unraveling the mysteries of proxy.
Beyond the keyboard, Donovan enjoys cyberpunk novels.