How to Set Up an Nginx Reverse Proxy

A Reverse Proxy in Linux acts as a go-between for clients and servers, forwarding requests and returning responses as if from itself. It is common in web servers and operates transparently, requiring no client-side adjustments. The Nginx reverse proxy, a popular open-source server choice, efficiently routes client requests.

This tutorial will walk you through installing a Nginx reverse proxy on your virtual private server.

The Advantages of Using Nginx Reverse Proxy

Let’s delve into the reasons explaining why Nginx is so popular:

  • It is simple to implement and provides the user with high-end security against Web server attacks such as DDoS and DoS
  • Nginx Reverse proxy helps create a balanced load among several back-end servers and provides caching for a slower back-end server
  • Nginx does not require setting up a new process for each web request from the client. Rather, the default configuration is to comprise one work process per CPU
  • It can act as a reverse proxy server for various protocols such as HTTP, HTTPS, TCP, UDP, SMTP, IMAP, and POP3
  • It can handle over 10000 connections with a low memory footprint. Nginx can operate multiple web servers via a single IP address and deliver each request to the right server within a LAN
  • Nginx is one of the best web servers for improving the performance of static content. Additionally, it can also be helpful to serve cache content and perform SSL encryption to lower the load from the web server
  • It can also be helpful when optimizing content by compressing it to boost the loading time
  • Nginx can perform randomized experiments or A/B tests without placing JavaScript codes into pages.

And all of these benefits are just the tip of the iceberg! The more you use Nginx Reverse Proxy, the more features you will discover!

How to Set Up an Nginx Reverse Proxy?

Now, we will configure Nginx in front of an Apache web server. We chose the Apache server because it’s better at handling dynamic content.

So, all the static content will go to Nginx, while the dynamic content will go to Apache. This will improve performance by optimizing the delivery of content based on the handling criteria.

Next, we will define the IP address of the Nginx Proxy Server as 192.x.x.1 and the back-end Apache server as 192.x.x.2. After setting up Apache, we can move on to these steps:

Pro Tip

Check out our PuTTY tutorial to access our VPS using SSH. In addition, make sure to have the Apache web server installed and configured for this method to work.

1. Install Nginx

We’ll be using the apt command on Ubuntu 18.04:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install nginx

2. Disable the Default Virtual Host

Once you have installed Nginx, follow the below command to disable the virtual host:

sudo unlink /etc/nginx/sites-enabled/default

3. Create the Nginx Reverse Proxy

After disabling the virtual host, we need to create a file called reverse-proxy.conf within the etc/nginx/sites-available directory to keep reverse proxy information.

For this, we should first access the directory using the cd command:

cd etc/nginx/sites-available/

Then we can create the file using the vi editor:

vi reverse-proxy.conf

In the file, we need to paste in these strings:

server {
    listen 80;
    location / {
        proxy_pass http://192.x.x.2;

In the above command, the considerable point is the proxy pass is allowing the requests coming through the Nginx reverse proxy to pass along to 192.x.x.2:80, which is Apache remote socket. Thus, both the web servers – Nginx and Apache, shares the content.

Once completed, simply save the file and exit the vi editor. You can do this by keying in :wq.

To pass information to other servers, you can use the ngx_http_proxy_module in the terminal.

Now, activate the directives by linking to /sites-enabled/ using the following command:

sudo ln -s /etc/nginx/sites-available/reverse-proxy.conf /etc/nginx/sites-enabled/reverse-proxy.conf

4. Test Nginx and the Nginx Reverse Proxy

Lastly, we need to run an Nginx configuration test and restart Nginx to check its performance. Type the below command to verify the Nginx functioning on the Linux terminal:

service nginx configtest
service nginx restart

Remember, if you receive a failed test, that most likely indicates that Apache was not properly set up.


There are many benefits of setting up an Nginx reverse proxy in the Linux operating system. It can effectively boost performance and enhance security against malware. The Nginx reverse proxy configuration is a simple process in a Linux terminal. Although there are a plethora of ways to install and configure it, which completely depend upon your requirement, the above tutorial is hassle-free and straightforward to help you get started with a reverse proxy setup.

The author

Edward S.

Edward is a content editor with years of experience in IT writing, marketing, and Linux system administration. His goal is to encourage readers to establish an impactful online presence. He also really loves dogs, guitars, and everything related to space.