Together, NGINX and Apache handle more than half the internet’s total traffic. Both servers are usually offered by good web hosting companies, because they’re both designed to complement a wide range of software and to handle huge workloads. But that doesn’t mean they’re interchangeable. In this guide, we compare NGINX vs Apache, so you can decide which server is perfect for your website.
Let’s get right into it!
A quick introduction to NGINX and Apache
All about NGINX
NGINX was created by Igor Sysoev in 2002, because Mr. Sysoev was sick of webservers that buckled under the pressure of handling thousands of simultaneous connections. To make sure his server did the job right, NGINX was launched only after a backbreaking test in which the server had to handle 10,000 client connections at the same time. To effortlessly achieve this, NGINX uses a non-synchronized, event-driven structure.
People who love NGINX rave about its easy scalability (even with minimal equipment) and its efficient use of resources. NGINX is also amazing at handling static content, thanks to its system of passing dynamic requests to software that was specifically designed to handle them.
Getting to know Apache
In 1995, Apache was created by the awesomely named Robert McCool. Ever since its creation, it’s held the position as the most popular server on the Internet. This makes it easy for Apache users to get support and documentation.
Apache lovers adore its flexibility, support, and dynamically loadable module system, which enables it to process various interpreted languages without needing to connect to external software. Chances are you’re already an apache user since all cPanel based servers run on Apache.
NGINX vs Apache under the Microscope
- Handling static and dynamic content
- Handling traffic on NGINX vs Apache
- Comparing support and documentation
- NGINX vs Apache: Which is better for you?
1. Handling static and dynamic content
NGINX is great at handling static content because that’s what it was primarily designed to do. When it needs to handle dynamic content, NGINX passes the request to an external processor. This means that administrators using NGINX will need to set up communication between NGINX and an external processor, which adds an extra step to the setup process.
Also, every request to the relevant processor requires an extra connection. This seems like a pain, but if you’re anticipating that you’ll mostly need to handle static content, NGINX really shines.
Apache was designed to handle both static and dynamic content. It is more than capable of handling dynamic content within the server itself. Therefore, there’s no need to set up any external components. This makes it easier to configure Apache, and it also removes the necessity of communicating with any other software.
2. Handling traffic on NGINX vs Apache
NGINX was created after Apache, so by the time NGINX was released, the developers already had a good idea of the huge volume of traffic that modern servers needed to be able to accommodate. Because of this, NGINX was built from the get-go to use a non-blocking, asynchronous, event-driven algorithm. This makes it possible to handle tens of thousands of connections without breaking a sweat.
Also, NGINX doesn’t spawn processes to handle new connections, which means that even during high-volume traffic, CPU and memory use stays pretty consistent.
Apache handles traffic and connections using multi-processing modules (MPMs) that allow admins to switch between connection-handling systems quickly and easily. This variety of modules offers significant flexibility when it comes to connection-handling algorithms.
3. Comparing support and documentation
NGINX is a fairly new server, so it doesn’t have as much support and documentation as Apache, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be completely on your own. Support for NGINX is growing, and every day, new users contribute to its available documentation.
Apache has been around for ages. In that time, it’s amassed a sprawling body of support and documentation. In addition to that, many online projects and tools use sections that need to be bootstrapped within Apache. Because it’s so frequently used in massive projects, Apache gets tons of support from external projects. It’ll be quite some time before NGINX catches up to Apache in this regard. Also, because shared hosting relies on Apache for the .htaccess distributed management function, more people have hands-on experience with Apache than with NGINX.
4. NGINX vs Apache: Which is better for you?
NGINX is an amazing server for static content, because its structure allows files to be quickly served directly to the client. Apache is better at handling dynamic content, so if that’s the nature of most of the content you expect to handle, you might want to go with Apache or combine NGINX with Apache. (If you choose to combine NGINX with Apache, position NGINX first, so you can take advantage of its ability to quickly handle lots of connections at the same time.)
If you can’t combine servers, and you foresee needing to handle lots of dynamic content, you might want to go with Apache.
Both NGINX and Apache are flexible, powerful servers, but they have different strengths. To decide which server is right for you, you’ll need to figure out which features are most important to you. Do you value support above all else? Or do you primarily need a server that can handle lots of simultaneous connections without putting any extra strain on resources? Do you need to be able to configure your server quickly, or are you okay with spending a bit of extra time during setup?
To make your final decision, take an honest look at your needs and at the qualities you value in a server. When you’ve finished doing that, look back at this guide to see which server best matches your requirements. Good luck!