Apache vs Nginx: Choosing a Web Server

One of the most common uses for a server is to host websites. When you view a web page online, a piece of software on the target host, called a web server, delivers the page content to the viewer.

Operating systems do not typically come with a default web server, so it is up to the system administrator to install one. Two of the most popular web server installations are Nginx and Apache.

Both Apache and Nginx can be easily installed with only a few commands, and each offers advantages that the other lacks. While Apache has historically been the more popular, many users lately have gravitated to the features present in Nginx.

Apache Advantages

  • Apache was introduced in 1995 and during the past two decades has become a keystone in website hosting infrastructure. Because of this adoption and popularity, significant resources have been dedicated to the web server’s evolution, upkeep and enhanced functionality.
  • Apache creates new processes (or threads) for additional connections on the server. Some server administrators find these processes easier to work with and manage for memory.
  • Apache is easier to develop for, which has fostered its own development and expanded its functionality and application. Over 70 percent of websites use Apache. Such market share has contributed greatly to the development of new Apache-centered tools.
  • Apache offers outstanding support for many scripting languages through the use of modules; Nginx supports various scripting languages through external applications.

Nginx Advantages

  • Nginx has processes for additional connections predefined in configuration, and keeping this amount of processes static helps yield a much lower cost for memory when using it.
  • Nginx is superior for serving static pages, based on speed. This feature is optimized best when paired with a good caching engine.
  • Nginx offers advanced, built-in load-balancing capabilities.
  • Nginx does not use modules, unlike Apache; instead, it focuses on proxy settings, which, once set, allow other services to handle requests for which they are better suited.

Using Apache and Nginx Together

Even if you find distinct advantages by using either Apache or Nginx exclusively with your stack, you can team them in the same environment by proxying requests between the services. For example, you can have Nginx listen on port 80/443 to handle incoming traffic and serve static pages, and then pass dynamic requests to Apache.

If you plan to run a website on your server, you’ll need to pick a web server. Although you can choose from many options, Apache and Nginx rise above the rest with their wealth of available resources.

Pick the one you are most comfortable with or, using this overview, consider choosing the one that better appeals to your needs. No matter your selection, you’ll make great use of your server!