Open-source proxy servers challenge commercial wares

Open-source products prove themselves capable, but a bit rough around the edges.

Open source proxy servers

For this test we reviewed four proxy servers, Artica, Squid, IPFire and Apache server using mod_proxy. All four products are free or open source and provide proxy services alone or bundled with other features. We limited our test to forward proxy services with an eye toward ease of installation and configuration, system requirements, features and management tools. The products tested performed well under our simple speed tests, with differences too small to note. Here are the individual reviews:

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Artica
Artica

We liked Artica, which combines Squid with many additional vendor-supplied features and a robust, web-based GUI. Artica also provides granular control over the proxy server and exposes features of Squid that may not be very accessible or apparent to non-hardcore Linux sysadmins. Artica’s reporting features were also a plus. We found Artica to be the most progressive of the products we tested, although by no means the industry leader just yet.

Squid
Squid

Squid is a flexible and customizable proxy server that can be run as a forward proxy (default mode), a reverse proxy (accelerator), in interception mode or in offline mode (minimal network usage). With a mature market base, Squid is widely used and notably, parts of the proxy features in both Artica and IPFire are built on Squid. Although Squid itself does not have a built-in user interface, many of its features can be configured using the third-party Webmin system configuration tool.

IPFire
IPFire

IPFire provides very good monitoring, reporting and configuration abilities. Like Artica, IPFire uses Squid for its proxy service. We found the IPFire user interface to be somewhat dated, but we value function over form so this isn’t a show-stopper. We did find the single-page configuration approach appealing as it made it easy to perform the initial setup and quick to tweak features. IPFire also has nice reporting capabilities for pre-defined and ad-hoc reporting.

Apache mod_proxy
Apache mod_proxy

Although Apache is most commonly recognized as one of the world’s most popular Web servers, it also delivers capable proxy services through its mod_proxy module. Proxy services have matured over the past several releases of Apache as features have gone from experimental to being fully supported. Although Apache does not come with its own user interface, you can configure and manage the basics from third-party interfaces like Webmin.

Commercial options
Commercial options

Commercial proxy servers such, as Wingate or SafeSquid, offer core proxy services. But, in addition, they deliver an enterprise-friendly interface and management console. Plus, commercial versions offer customer support.