3 Solid Alternatives to Apache Web Server

Do you know how many web servers are out there? A lot more than what you imagine. The web hosting industry has seen the rise and fall of dozens of web servers in the last 20 years, but nowadays only a handful of them are popular. The most used web server in the Internet world is still Apache, but that doesn’t meant that it’s the only useful one, that’s why today we are going to show 3 solid alternatives to Apache web server.

Only 19 of around 50 web servers have received updates in the last year, which means that a lot of these projects are outdated and may not be a real alternative to Apache. But the 3 web servers featured in this article are perfect to replace the most popular one in the market.

Alternatives to Apache Web Server

Nginx

A lot of you probably saw this coming. In the last few years, Nginx has been praised by the public and has gaineda lot of market share. If we look at the top million busiest sites, then we will see that Nginx’s market share has grown to an amazing 28% in the last month, according to Netcraft. In fact, it doubled its market share in just a little more than 3 years. In comparison, Apache right now has a 42% market share, while almost 4 years ago it was sitting at 59%.

3 Solid Alternatives to Apache Web Server

Web Server Wars by Usage, updated Sept 2016.

So, what makes Nginx so good? Well, for starters, not being able to deliver dynamic content by itself has proved to be an advantage in a lot of scenarios. Nginx is only capable of serving static content if not used alongside a dynamic content processor, like PHP-FPM for example. Does this means that you need two services to do what Apache can do on its own? Yeah, but the advantage of Nginx is that it will use resources to serve dynamic content only when it’s really needed, interacting PHP-FPM or other interpreter just in the case it wasn’t able do the job by itself.

But that’s not all, there’s more performance advantages: since Nginx doesn’t have an .htaccess-like system, it has to load its own rules after a restart or a reload, and it needs to read the rules only once. In Apache’s case, the server will have to read the parent directories looking for .htaccess rules each time a request is made. That’s a lot of time and resources wasted. But there’s more: some .htaccess rules can be dangerous if a user sets them improperly, so we are also getting points in security thanks to Nginx, since only the administrators are capable of choosing which rules are loaded.

Nginx’s only real disadvantage is its flexibility, and this is easily noted in the case of loading rules and enabling modules for example. In this last scenario, while Nginx can load modules, you will need to compile everything from source and also mantain it, and not many people are comfortable with that, because the modern packaging systems can perform updates and installations for you fast and easy. The problem with packaging systems is that they won’t let you load custom modules.

Lighttpd

Another very popular web server, but not as popular as Nginx. Nevertheless, it’s still worth a shot, and a lot of people think that this is the king of the web servers nowadays when it comes to security and performance.

Lighttpd is the result of the desire to create a reliable, secure and fast web server, which also should have a low memory footprint. Compared to Apache, it provides a similar performance, with the advantage of using less memory, and also being able to handle traffic spikes a lot better. In the past it was used by popular sites like YouTube, and many of Wikimedia’s servers still run with it, for example.

It has a lot of documentation available for almost anything you want to do with it, so if you have a low memory server then you may want to gives this web server a try. If you have ever setup an Apache server by yourself then this one won’t give you much trouble.

IIS

Yeah, we have a place here for Microsoft too. IIS has been around for a long time and has a market share almost equeal to Lighttpd’s, so contrary to what some people think it’s still very alive. It was initially developed to handle the traffic of Microsoft’s servers back in the 90’s, and then it started to be shipped with Windows NT. Of course it only runs on Windows, but at least you can get for free.

If we look back at Netcraft’s data when we talked about Nginx, we will see that this web server has lost a lot of market share in the last few years, sitting at around 10% nowadays. Still, Microsoft has managed to improve the performance and the security a lot over the years, and it also provides corporative support for it.

Due to it only running on Windows, Microsoft has had to put a lot of effort when it comes to security, since as we all know most of the malware out there targets Windows operating systems, including server versions. Still, we can say that the security improvements have made this one of the more secure web servers out there.

Regarding performance, there’s a lot of people that say that it’s better than Apache and others says that it’s worst. Comparing them is not really easy, because the test environments can never be really equalized, despite Apache being available for Windows, but having a clear inclination for Linux systems. Maybe a draw can make all of us happy? Probably not, after all this is like comparing Coca-Cola and Pepsi, and everybody has a favorite one.

Conclusion

So, what have we learned today? That Apache is not the only web server out there and there’s a few that are really worth the shot. In our experience, Nginx is the best web server nowadays if you know what you’re doing while setting it up. If you want something a little easier and with less memory usage, then go with Lighttpd, you won’t regret it. And if you’re on the Windows side, then you should start using IIS right now if you want something a little more native and secure than Apache, but remember that their performance is almost the same, the diference is minimal.

Do you know how many web servers are out there? A lot more than what you imagine. The web hosting industry has seen the rise and fall of dozens of web servers in the last 20 years, but nowadays only a handful of them are popular. The most used web server in the Internet world is still Apache, but that doesn’t meant that it’s the only useful one, that’s why today we are going to show 3 solid alternatives to Apache web server.

Only 19 of around 50 web servers have received updates in the last year, which means that a lot of these projects are outdated and may not be a real alternative to Apache. But the 3 web servers featured in this article are perfect to replace the most popular one in the market.

Alternatives to Apache Web Server

Nginx

A lot of you probably saw this coming. In the last few years, Nginx has been praised by the public and has gaineda lot of market share. If we look at the top million busiest sites, then we will see that Nginx’s market share has grown to an amazing 28% in the last month, according to Netcraft. In fact, it doubled its market share in just a little more than 3 years. In comparison, Apache right now has a 42% market share, while almost 4 years ago it was sitting at 59%.

3 Solid Alternatives to Apache Web Server

Web Server Wars by Usage, updated Sept 2016.

So, what makes Nginx so good? Well, for starters, not being able to deliver dynamic content by itself has proved to be an advantage in a lot of scenarios. Nginx is only capable of serving static content if not used alongside a dynamic content processor, like PHP-FPM for example. Does this means that you need two services to do what Apache can do on its own? Yeah, but the advantage of Nginx is that it will use resources to serve dynamic content only when it’s really needed, interacting PHP-FPM or other interpreter just in the case it wasn’t able do the job by itself.

But that’s not all, there’s more performance advantages: since Nginx doesn’t have an .htaccess-like system, it has to load its own rules after a restart or a reload, and it needs to read the rules only once. In Apache’s case, the server will have to read the parent directories looking for .htaccess rules each time a request is made. That’s a lot of time and resources wasted. But there’s more: some .htaccess rules can be dangerous if a user sets them improperly, so we are also getting points in security thanks to Nginx, since only the administrators are capable of choosing which rules are loaded.

Nginx’s only real disadvantage is its flexibility, and this is easily noted in the case of loading rules and enabling modules for example. In this last scenario, while Nginx can load modules, you will need to compile everything from source and also mantain it, and not many people are comfortable with that, because the modern packaging systems can perform updates and installations for you fast and easy. The problem with packaging systems is that they won’t let you load custom modules.

Lighttpd

Another very popular web server, but not as popular as Nginx. Nevertheless, it’s still worth a shot, and a lot of people think that this is the king of the web servers nowadays when it comes to security and performance.

Lighttpd is the result of the desire to create a reliable, secure and fast web server, which also should have a low memory footprint. Compared to Apache, it provides a similar performance, with the advantage of using less memory, and also being able to handle traffic spikes a lot better. In the past it was used by popular sites like YouTube, and many of Wikimedia’s servers still run with it, for example.

It has a lot of documentation available for almost anything you want to do with it, so if you have a low memory server then you may want to gives this web server a try. If you have ever setup an Apache server by yourself then this one won’t give you much trouble.

IIS

Yeah, we have a place here for Microsoft too. IIS has been around for a long time and has a market share almost equeal to Lighttpd’s, so contrary to what some people think it’s still very alive. It was initially developed to handle the traffic of Microsoft’s servers back in the 90’s, and then it started to be shipped with Windows NT. Of course it only runs on Windows, but at least you can get for free.

If we look back at Netcraft’s data when we talked about Nginx, we will see that this web server has lost a lot of market share in the last few years, sitting at around 10% nowadays. Still, Microsoft has managed to improve the performance and the security a lot over the years, and it also provides corporative support for it.

Due to it only running on Windows, Microsoft has had to put a lot of effort when it comes to security, since as we all know most of the malware out there targets Windows operating systems, including server versions. Still, we can say that the security improvements have made this one of the more secure web servers out there.

Regarding performance, there’s a lot of people that say that it’s better than Apache and others says that it’s worst. Comparing them is not really easy, because the test environments can never be really equalized, despite Apache being available for Windows, but having a clear inclination for Linux systems. Maybe a draw can make all of us happy? Probably not, after all this is like comparing Coca-Cola and Pepsi, and everybody has a favorite one.

Conclusion

So, what have we learned today? That Apache is not the only web server out there and there’s a few that are really worth the shot. In our experience, Nginx is the best web server nowadays if you know what you’re doing while setting it up. If you want something a little easier and with less memory usage, then go with Lighttpd, you won’t regret it. And if you’re on the Windows side, then you should start using IIS right now if you want something a little more native and secure than Apache, but remember that their performance is almost the same, the diference is minimal.




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