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Using Apache As A Proxy Server

Apache isn't just the planet's most popular Web server - it'salso one heck of a proxy server. This article explores the process ofinstalling and configuring Apache to act as a proxy server for yournetwork, demonstrating how it can be used to cache frequently-accessedWeb sites, log Internet access and block offensive domains, in additionto serving up Web content. Talk about getting two servers for the priceof one!

TABLE OF CONTENTS:
  1. Using Apache As A Proxy Server
  2. Getting Started
  3. Passing The Packets
  4. Wheat And Chaff
  5. Going Backwards
  6. Cache Cow
  7. Endzone
By: icarus, (c) Melonfire
Rating: starstarstarstarstar / 30
June 12, 2002

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Unless you've been cryogenically frozen for the last twenty years, you probably already know what Apache is. It's the planet's most popular Web server, with a humongously-high number of Web sites relying on it to serve up content in a reliable and efficient manner. It has an enthusiastic fan following, an active development community, and the love and loyalty of millions of Webmasters all over the planet.

The cool thing about Apache, though, is that it's not just a Web server. It can do lots of other things too - and of its more interesting (though less well-known) capabilities includes the ability to act as a proxy server for both HTTP and FTP connections over a network.

If you didn't know about this, but are intrigued by the possibilities it opens up, or if you just want to take your Apache skills to the next level ("hey, Joe, did you know that you could use Apache to restrict certain machines on your network from accessing playboy.com?"), you've come to the right place. Over the next few pages, I'll be exploring Apache's proxy module, guiding you through the process of installing, configuring and using it. Keep reading.{mospagebreak title=A Little Drool} First of all, the basics. What's a proxy, and why do you care?

A proxy is a piece of software that supports sending and receiving data on behalf of another application. It's an intermediate layer on your network that receives requests from within the networks, forwards them to the appropriate host, reads the response, and sends the response back to the requesting host or application within the network.

By functioning as a gateway to the public Internet, a proxy makes for more secure networks, and also allows multiple hosts on a network to share a single public IP address. So, if you have an office network consisting of multiple workstations, but only a single Internet connection, you can use a proxy to provide Internet access to all the workstations using the single IP address and single connection.

Since a proxy effectively carries the weight of serving all Internet traffic for a network, it can also be used to do a couple of other things. The first (and most interesting) is that it can substantially speed up your Internet activity by caching, or locally saving, copies of frequently-accessed Web pages, and using these cached copies to serve client requests. This reduces latency, cuts down on Internet connectivity charges, and results in a more positive user experience - all usually considered good things.

A proxy can also be used to monitor Internet traffic flowing in and out of a network, logging all requests in order to gain a better understanding of how the Internet is being used; this data can be very useful, especially in corporate environments. And in the event that the data analysis reveals that most of the employees are goofing off, wasting time and Internet packets on online comic strips or mind-numbing MUDs, a proxy can even be configured to block access to certain sites, or block certain workstations for accessing the Web.

If you're a network administrator, the thought of all this power probably has you drooling. Wipe it up, and let's get started.

 
 
>>> More Site Administration Articles          >>> More By icarus, (c) Melonfire
 

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