To run a WordPress website, you need a web server to host it. In this article, I am going to discuss web servers, especially Apache vs NGINX as these two are the buzzing names in the web server market.

A web server enables web browsers to request content of your website and establishes a stable connection between these two platforms. With both Apache and NGINX sharing many qualities, there are significant differences between these two. Continue reading to find which is better for your WordPress site!

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What is Apache?

 

Apache HTTP Server

Apache is an open-source and free HTTP server that delivers web content through the internet. However, it doesn’t work alone as it is one of the components that are needed in a web application stack to deliver content including LAMP,  MySQL, and PHP. It is indubitably the most popular web server due to its resilience and durability. A team of experts by Apache Software Foundation is actively maintaining it. Apart from its popularity, it is also the oldest web server available and was first introduced in 1995. A majority of cPanel hosts utilize Apache even today. Its powerful performance makes it perfect for dynamic websites with medium web traffic.

Apache is highly flexible since it has a module-based structure. Various modules allow you to customize the configurations. Basically, it enables server administrators to add functionalities according to your requirements. Moreover, it has modules for caching, security, URL rewriting, password authentication, and a lot more things. Furthermore, it is a cross-platform solution that works on both Windows and Unix servers.

How does it work?

The official name of Apache is Apache HTTP server but its name can be deceiving sometimes since it is not a physical server. Instead, it is a software that runs on a server that establishes a connection between a server and your visitor’s web browsers to deliver web content back and forth. Let’s take an example to understand its working. When a user wants to visit your website, they will enter the URL of your website in their web browser. Then their browser sends a request to your server and the client communicates via the HTTP protocol. That’s where Apache software is responsible for the establishment of secure and smooth communication between the two machines.

As mentioned before, Apahe is a module-based solution that allows admin to enable additional functionalities through modules. For instance, you can use multi-processing modes (MPM) or mod_ssl to enable TLS or SSL v3 support for added security. Other common features offered by Apache are .htaccess, FTP, IPV6, WebDAV, URL writing, IP Address based Geolocation, bandwidth throttling, and more. Keep in mind that a web server is usually an essential part of a website but in the case of WordPress sites, casual users are unlikely to interact with the web server directly most of the time.

Pros and Cons of Apache

Indubitably, Apache server is the best choice for running your website with a stable uptime. However, like any other software, it has its own set of pros and cons as mentioned below. You might want to be aware of them before you make any decision-

Pros

  • Open source and free
  • Maintained by a team of experts
  • Drops updates and security patches frequently
  • Reliable software for stable connection
  • Beginner-friendly with easy installation process
  • Module-based structure offers great flexibility
  • Works on both Unix and Windows servers since it is a cross-platform solution
  • Perfectly suitable for WordPress sites

Cons

  • Can’t handle heavy traffic flow
  • Offers way too many configuration options at the risk of security vulnerabilities

What is NGINX?

 

Nginx Web Server

NGINX is another popular web server that is pronounced as ‘engine-X’. It is not particularly an old solution that was first introduced in October 2004 but it managed to gain immense popularity over this short term of its service. This open-source web server is much more than just a server solution and is also used as a HTTP Cache, load balancer, email proxy, and reverse proxy. It was created to answer the C10K problem which basically means managing ten thousand connections at the same time. Its exceptional performance is the reason behind its success. It can handle a lot of connections while offering a superb speed even on high traffic websites.

To overcome the C10K challenge, NGINX was designed as an asynchronous, event-based, and non-blocking architecture. Moreover, it’s lightweight design can run on minimal hardware and can still produce maximum speed and output. Furthermore, it is highly responsive to the heavy traffic and remains stable.

How does it work?

The way Aache works is the traditional or single thread web server. Meanwhile, NGINX performs with an asynchronous, event-driven architecture. What I mean by that is it can manage similar threads under one work process and each worker process contains smaller units called worker connections. Every single unit is responsible for handling request threads. These processes are non-blocking events that simultaneously check and process requests. This way they create a loop and events in the loop are asynchronous. It means they can proceed independently and exit the loop when the connection closes.

Pros and Cons of NGINX

NGINX server is pretty popular amongst some of the notable websites and can be a great pick for running your website to accommodate a huge amount of traffic. However, like any other program, it has its own set of pros and cons as mentioned below. You might want to be aware of them before you make any decision-

Pros

  • Open source web server
  • User friendly design and easy set up
  • Manages multiple requests continuously and simultaneously
  • Perfect for handling static content
  • Efficient design enables flexible builds through third-party modules
  • Highly responsive to heavy traffic with minimal hardware requirement
  • Suitable for websites running on a VPS
  • Low memory footprint

Cons

  • Less community support
  • Limited list of additional modules

Comparing Apache vs NGINX

The two most popular open-source web servers powering most of the internet at present are NGINX and Apache HTTP server. They may sound alike a lot, but there are some major differences. Here is an Apache vs NGINX based on various factors like performance, market share, community, etc.

Speed  and Performance

When it comes to dynamic content, Apache can process dynamic content by embedding a processor of a language like PHP into each of its worker instances. This way, Apache can execute dynamic content within the web server itself without having to rely on external components. Another way to enable these dynamic processors are through the use of dynamically loadable modules. This is the reason Apache offers great speed and performance for a website with dynamic content. Meanwhile NGINX doesn’t have the ability to process dynamic content natively. Basically, it needs to pass the content to an external process for execution and wait for the rendered content to be sent back in order to handle PHP and other requests for dynamic content. Due to the lack of dynamic interpreters in the worker process, the overhead will only be present for dynamic content. Making it slower when it comes to dynamic websites.

However, NGINX is proven to perform 2.5x faster with static websites since it is designed to overcome the C10K problem. It means NGINX can handle a static website 2.5 times better than Apache web server with the minimal hardware requirement. Indubitable NGINX has an advantage over Apache with static sites. Moreover, when it comes to platforms, they are both cross-platform solutions. While Apache performs great with UNIX, Linus, Windows, etc, NGINX also offers support for several Unix-based systems and Windows. However, NGINX doesn’t offer as great performance with Windows as Apache. Basically, Apache is a true cross-platform solution. In a nutshell, Apache performs faster and better with dynamic content whereas NGINX performs better with static content.

Marketshare

Looking at the market share of both Apache and NGINX, Apache still remains the most popular web server in the overall scenario. It is free of cost, offers decent performance, highly customizable and can fit the unique requirements of various websites. However, it is not as popular in the high-traffic websites due to its lack of ability to handle high-traffic sites. According to stats offered by W3Tech, Apache powers-

  • 33.6% of the overall websites available on the internet
  • 28.9% of the top 1,000,000 websites on the internet
  • 23.8% of the top 100,000 websites on the internet
  • 19.5% of the top 10K websites on the internet
  • 20.1% of the top 1,000 websites on the internet

Some of the notable users of Apache are Cisco, General Electric, IBM, Adobe, Salesforce, Xerox, VMware, Hewlett-Packard, Facebook, LinkedIn, eBay, AT&T, and many more.

Meanwhile, NGINX is not behind. It actually surpasses Apache especially when it comes to the high-traffic website. However, it doesn’t offer a customizable architecture, so it is not that popular amongst the websites with unique business requirements. According to W3Tech, NGINX powers-

  • 33.9% of the overall websites available on the internet
  • 34.2% of the top 1,000,000 websites on the internet
  • 38.2% of the top 100,000 websites on the internet
  • 44.4% of the top 10K websites on the internet
  • 46.5% of the top 1,000 websites on the internet

Some of the notable users of NGINX are Google, Adobe, Netflix, WordPress.com, Cloudflare, IBM, DuckDuckGo, Xerox, Autodesk, Gitlab, and more.

Community size

Community size is important when it comes to support and documentation. Since they are both open-source platforms, there can be various issues you may end up facing in terms of compatibility or installation. APache has been a leading web server for so long that its support is fairly ubiquitous. The community is so extensive and active. Its market share and length of time it’s been in the market can simply be the reason behind its extensive community. Apart from community support, it offers a large library of first and third-party documentation available for the core server and for the task-based scenarios along with connecting Apache server with other third-party software. Moreover, there are many tools and web projects including tools for Bootstrap itself can be found in the Apache environment.

Meanwhile NGINX offers fairly enough documentation. Not long ago, all of the early development and documentation was in Russian and it was nearly impossible to find comprehensive English-language documentation. However, eventually the community contributed and now they offer plenty of administration resources on the NGINX site.

Apache vs NGINX: Comparison table

If you are still confused about the differences between Apache vs NGINX, here is a brief comparison table. It offers a side-by-side comparison for a better understanding-

Factors  Apache  NGINX 
Client request approach Follows multi-threaded approach Follows event-driven approach
Dynamic content processing Efficient dynamic content processing within the web server itself Can’t process dynamic content natively
Multiple requests? Unable to process requests concurrently Efficient multiple request management
Modules Dynamic loading and unloading possible Modules need to be compiled within the core software
Server type? Typical web server Web server as well as a proxy server
Multiple connections? Not supported Supported

Alternative Option: Litespeed

Overall, Apache is best for dynamic content while NGINX is perfect for static content. Apache offers great support for multi modules for a flexible configuration whereas NGINX offers a strictly rigid configuration to support a high-traffic website with dynamic content. However, if you are still confused between these two then you have an alternative. Litespeed is another web server also known as LSWS. It gained immense popularity due to it’s certainly tempting offer. Let’s suppose, if you are a web hosting provider and you have 20 servers in your fleet, running on Apache and each server could host 200 websites, it makes a total of 4000 websites to reach the maximum capacity of your fleet. Then you find out that LiteSpeed web server offers the ability to double the capacity of your server fleet to 800 for free. All you have to do is install the software. Certainly tempting, right?

Comparing Litespeed with Apache vs NGINX

By now, you must be aware that there is no one solution to all problems. That is why you need to do your research before picking the right solution. Let’s start with Apache that offers great customizability, extensive list of modules, reliable connection, beginner-friendly interface, frequent security patches and updates. It still receives criticism due to use of .htaccess files to control things like search engine indexing. It has to navigate through all the files in the directory to execute the listed commands leading to increasing loading times and server resources consumption.  NGINX overcoves this issue by being highly responsive with load balancing and reverse proxy solutions. However, it has a reputation for being difficult to operate.

Lastly, we have LiteSpeed which is significantly similar to NGINXIt has server level caching and additional technologies like Isphp and lscache that offer great support for apps like MediaWiki, WordPress, and Magento.

Apache vs NGINX: Conclusion

Here is your detailed Apache vs NGINX that offers overview, pros & cons, detailed comparison of their elements using market share, comparison table, and more. If you enjoyed this tutorial, check out our blog. You can subscribe to us for regular updates directly sent to your email address!

Hopefully, this article was helpful to you. If we left out something or you have any question, comment below to reach out to us!