Choosing a web server can be tough. You might feel lost with many options and technical terms. Two popular choices are NGINX and Apache, but which one is right for you? This is a common dilemma faced by many developers.
The answer lies in comparing NGINX and Apache in a way that’s easy to understand. We’ll look at their features, performance, and compatibility, helping you see what each server can do. This comparison will provide you with the clarity you need.
This blog post is your guide through this decision. We’ll explore NGINX and Apache in detail, giving you the knowledge to pick the server that fits your needs. Let’s start this journey together. By the end of this post, you’ll be able to make an informed decision.
Overview of NGINX and Apache
Let’s start with overviewing NGINX and Apache in more detail.
NGINX (pronounced “engine-x”) is a web server that was created by Igor Sysoev and was first publicly released in 2004. It was originally developed to solve the C10k problem, which is the challenge of handling 10,000 concurrent connections on a single server.
Over the years, NGINX has evolved to become a robust web server known for its high performance, stability, and low resource consumption.
Apache, officially known as the Apache HTTP Server, was developed by Robert McCool and became the first viable alternative to the Netscape Communications Corporation web server. It was released in 1995 by the Apache Group and later overseen by the Apache Software Foundation.
Apache quickly became popular due to its robust features, extensibility through a modular architecture, and strong community support. It has been a dominant web server on the Internet since April 1996.
Market Share of NGINX and Apache
According to data from the W3Techs, there’s been a shift in market share between NGINX and Apache from October 2020 to November 2023.
– Market Share of Web Servers / W3Techs
In October 2020, Apache was leading with a market share of 36.2%, compared to NGINX’s 32.4%. However, over the next three years, Apache’s share steadily decreased, reaching 30.8% by November 2023.
During the same period, NGINX’s share gradually increased, peaking at 34.5% in April 2023 before settling at 34.1% by November 2023.
This trend indicates that NGINX has gained popularity and overtook Apache in market share. Initially trailing by nearly 4%, NGINX not only bridged the gap but surpassed Apache’s share, suggesting a shift in user preference towards NGINX’s performance and resource efficiency over Apache’s flexibility.
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Comparing NGINX and Apache
When choosing a web server, it’s important to consider various aspects such as architecture, scalability, compatibility, security, content handling, module system, and community support. Here’s a comparison of NGINX and Apache based on the mentioned features:
|Uses an event-driven model, handling multiple requests within one thread.
|Uses a process-driven model, with one thread per request.
|Excels in performance and scalability, especially under high traffic.
|Offers a wide range of modules and is very versatile.
|Compatibility and Security
|OS & Language Compatibility
|Supports almost all Unix OSs, but only partial support for Windows.
|Works with many OSs like Windows, OpenVMS, Unix-like OSs.
|NGINX has a smaller code base, which is better for security.
|Both are secure and reliable. Apache has a larger code base.
|Content Handling and Module System
|Handles static content well. For dynamic content, it relies on external processes.
|Processes dynamic content within the server.
|Also supports modules, but not as extensive as Apache’s.
|Known for its module system that allows users to add or remove functions.
|Good community support with better files and tutorials.
|Great documentation and community support.
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1. Server Architecture
The architecture and scalability are fundamental to how these web servers operate and perform. Let’s see how NGINX’s event-driven architecture contrasts with Apache’s process-based model and how these differences impact their ability to handle high-traffic loads.
NGINX and Apache are built differently. NGINX uses an event-driven model, which is very efficient and can handle a large number of connections at the same time. It has a main process and several worker processes.
Apache, however, uses a process-based model. It was developed from the NCSA HTTPd server and started in 1995. Apache’s design prioritizes correctness over speed. It has many features, most of which are implemented as compiled modules.
NGINX is designed to handle a lot of connections at the same time. Its performance doesn’t rely heavily on hardware resources. It can also distribute traffic to several servers, improving the performance and reliability of web applications.
Apache wasn’t originally designed for high scalability but has improved over time. However, its performance depends on hardware resources like memory and CPU. Despite this, Apache has improved in performance scaling and offers options for improving performance.
2. Compatibility and Security
Next, we’ll see the OS and language compatibility, as well as the security features of NGINX and Apache. We’ll explore how these web servers interact with different operating systems and programming languages and how they ensure the security of your web applications.
NGINX works with many operating systems, especially various Linux distributions. However, its performance on Windows isn’t as good.
Apache is compatible with various operating systems, including Windows, macOS, and various Linux distributions.
Apache supports many languages through modules, including PHP, Python, Perl, Ruby, and others. It can support any language that has an Apache runtime.
NGINX has several security features, including SSL termination, authentication, and access control. It also has a dedicated security team.
Apache also prioritizes security. It has a good security record and a developer community that is very concerned about security issues. Apache also has a dedicated security team.
3. Content Handling and Module System
Coming up, we’ll look into the content handling and module systems of NGINX and Apache. We’ll explore how these web servers manage static and dynamic content and how their module systems extend their core functionalities.
NGINX uses a configuration file to decide where to find requested files, set up index files, and optimize performance. It can serve static and dynamic content.
Apache uses a “handler” system to handle content. A “handler” is what Apache does when a file is called. Files have handlers based on the file type. Apache also supports dynamic content.
NGINX’s core is made up of modules. It supports core modules and third-party modules. Modules can be added to the NGINX server binary when it’s compiled.
Apache’s flexibility comes from its modules. The modules allow Apache to do additional things, like rewriting URLs to support SSL encryption. Apache has many modules that can be loaded to extend its functionality.
4. Community Support
NGINX has community support through different channels.
There’s a mailing list run by the NGINX community. This allows users to get help directly from the people who made and maintain NGINX Open Source and NGINX Plus. There’s also an NGINX forum for users to discuss and share knowledge.
Apache provides community support through several platforms.
The Apache HTTP Server Users List and Usenet groups are good places to ask questions. These platforms have people who know much about Apache HTTP and can answer your questions.
The Apache Software Foundation also has a Community Development project that helps open-source projects improve their community health.
When to Choose NGINX or Apache?
NGINX and Apache are both great! But your requirements and preferences should lead to your choice. Here is the abstract idea of when to choose what:
You should choose NGINX if you have:
- High Traffic Sites: You expect high traffic levels and need efficient handling of concurrent connections without a significant memory footprint.
- Reverse Proxy and Load Balancing: You need a reverse proxy configuration or a load balancer due to its efficient handling of static content and caching capabilities.
- Microservices Architecture: Your setup involves a microservices architecture where NGINX can effectively route requests and handle multiple microservices.
- Content Caching: You require robust content caching directly within the web server.
- Static Content Delivery: You serve a lot of static content and need a server optimized for speed and resource efficiency.
You should choose Apache if you have:
- Shared Hosting: You’re using a shared hosting environment, as Apache’s .htaccess file allows for easy directory-level configuration without server restarts.
- Dynamic Content: Your site heavily relies on dynamic content, and you prefer to process it within the web server using modules like mod_php.
- Customizable Solutions: You need a highly customizable web server, as Apache’s modular nature allows for extensive fine-tuning.
- Diverse Modules: You want access to various modules for various functionalities.
- Familiarity and Community Support: You prefer a server with a long track record and a large community for support.
But do you know, you can choose both?
Get the best performance for your WordPress sites by using NGINX and Apache together. Put NGINX in front to quickly serve all your images and CSS, acting as a reverse proxy. Then let Apache handle the backend stuff.
This setup lets you use your .htaccess files and still enjoy NGINX’s fast static content delivery. It’s like having a speedy assistant upfront with a detail-oriented manager in the back.
Follow our guide on “Host WordPress on NGINX with Apache Web Server” to use both web servers together.
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Web Server Selection: Does Hosting Matter?
Yes, the choice of hosting provider does matter when selecting web servers because the performance, configuration options, and level of control you have can vary significantly between providers.
A provider like Cloudways offers ThunderStack, which combines the strengths of both NGINX and Apache, giving you the power and flexibility of Apache with the speed and efficiency of NGINX. This blend is great for handling both dynamic and static content swiftly.
– Cloudways Hosting Stack
On top of that, Cloudways ThunderStack includes speed-enhancing tools like Memcached, Varnish Cache, and Redis for caching, along with MySQL and MariaDB for database management. PHP-FPM and PHP 7 ensure your PHP code runs faster.
So, with Cloudways, you’re getting a hosting solution that’s crafted for high performance.
In conclusion, NGINX stands out with its remarkable speed and efficiency in handling numerous requests simultaneously, an invaluable asset for websites with heavy traffic. However, when it comes to managing dynamic content, it requires a bit more effort to get things just right.
Meanwhile, Apache remains a robust option with its powerful modularity and the convenience of .htaccess files. While it may not always keep up with NGINX’s performance under high load, its adaptability cannot be understated.
You can also leverage the strengths of both by using the custom web hosting stack of Cloudways.
Q. What Are the Main Differences Between Apache and NGINX?
A. Apache operates on a process-driven architecture, offering a wide range of modules, while NGINX uses an event-driven approach, providing higher concurrency and performance.
Q. Can Apache and NGINX Work Together?
A. Yes, Apache and NGINX can work together, typically with NGINX serving static content and handling load balancing while Apache processes dynamic requests.
Q. Which is better: Apache or nginx?
A. “Better” depends on the specific use case: Apache is known for its flexibility and .htaccess, while NGINX is preferred for high traffic sites due to its scalability and speed.
Liza Rajput is a Technical Content Producer at Cloudways. Being a software engineer, she loves to play with data and its processes and wishes to grow and excel in Data Science and Big Data Engineering. She has also been an avid reader and exceptional writer, with sufficient experience in technical, research-based, and creative writing.