A Comprehensive Comparison of 3 Port-Forwarding Techniques: Linux UFW, Nginx Stream Proxy, and SSH Port-Forwarding


Port-forwarding is a networking technique that plays a pivotal role in managing and securing network services. It allows you to redirect incoming traffic from one port on a server or gateway to another port on a different machine within a network. In this article, we will delve into three commonly used port-forwarding techniques: Linux UFW (Uncomplicated Firewall), Nginx Stream Proxy, and SSH Port-Forwarding. We will explore how each technique works, their respective strengths, and when to use them.

Linux UFW (Uncomplicated Firewall)

How it works: Linux UFW is a user-friendly command-line tool designed to simplify the management of iptables, which is the default firewall management tool for most Linux distributions. UFW achieves port-forwarding by creating rules that allow traffic to reach a specific port on your machine. Here’s a step-by-step breakdown:

  • Enable UFW: sudo ufw enable
  • Allow incoming traffic on a specific port: sudo ufw allow 80/tcp
  • Enable port-forwarding: sudo ufw route allow 8080

Pros of using UFW:

  • Easy to use, especially for beginners.
  • Integrated with most Linux distributions.
  • Suitable for basic port-forwarding tasks.

Cons of using UFW:

  • Limited in advanced configurations.
  • Not suitable for complex scenarios.

Nginx Stream Proxy

How it works: Nginx, a versatile web server and reverse proxy, can be employed for port-forwarding using its stream module. This method allows you to proxy and load balance TCP and UDP traffic efficiently. Here’s how it operates:

  • Create an Nginx configuration for port-forwarding:
stream {
    server {
        listen 8080;
        proxy_pass destination_ip:destination_port;

Pros of using Nginx Stream Proxy:

  • Highly versatile, suitable for a wide range of use cases.
  • Provides load balancing and high availability options.
  • Robust and reliable.

Cons of using Nginx Stream Proxy:

  • Requires some Nginx configuration knowledge.
  • May introduce overhead for simple port-forwarding tasks.
  • Not as user-friendly as UFW for beginners.

SSH Port-Forwarding

How it works: SSH, or Secure Shell, offers a secure communication protocol that is exceptionally well-suited for port-forwarding. SSH port-forwarding allows you to create encrypted tunnels between your local machine and a remote server. Here’s how it functions:

  • Establish an SSH tunnel for port-forwarding:
ssh -L local_port:destination_ip:destination_port user@remote_server

Pros of using SSH Port-Forwarding:

  • Extremely secure, as all data is encrypted.
  • Suitable for remote access to services.
  • Versatile and widely supported.

Cons of using SSH Port-Forwarding:

  • Requires SSH access to the remote server.
  • Not as straightforward as UFW for basic port-forwarding.
  • Limited to one connection per SSH session.

Comparison Table

Now, let’s compare these three port-forwarding techniques using a table:

TechniqueEase of UseVersatilitySecurity
Linux UFWEasy to use, beginner-friendlyLimited to basic port-forwardingModerate security
Nginx Stream ProxyRequires some configuration knowledgeHighly versatile, suitable for complex use casesRobust and reliable
SSH Port-ForwardingRequires SSH knowledge and access to remote serverVersatile, suitable for remote access over encrypted tunnelsHighly secure


In conclusion, the choice of port-forwarding technique depends on your specific requirements and expertise. For beginners or simple port-forwarding needs, Linux UFW offers an easy-to-use solution. More advanced users may prefer Nginx Stream Proxy or SSH Port-Forwarding for their flexibility, security features, and suitability for complex use cases. Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each technique will enable you to select the most appropriate one for your networking needs.

This post is licensed under CC BY 4.0 by the author.