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Apache Vs NGINX 2021


14 mins Read

Finding a working web server could be sometimes backbreaking! Especially if you would like to choose between Apache and NGINX. Both of them are the most commonly used web servers out there. At any rate, there are identical aspects that determine whether you should choose Apache or NGINX as a web server.

In today’s post, you’ll learn about web servers, how they work, top web servers, and nip and tuck comparison with Apache vs NGINX 2021. At the end of this article, you’ll also learn about integrating Apache or NGINX. So, without any further delay, let’s get into it!

What is a Web Server?

Simply put, a web server is a computer program that we use to host our web resources. In this instance, web resources consist of web content, whether an image, text, or anything else! At its core, a web resource could be a static file on a web server’s filesystem. A static file is any type that isn’t due to the influence of any change whilst it’s running on the server.

This would mean that the server sends the same file without amending it to a user. Static files are like CSS, JavaScript, images, and suchlike. The primary aim of a web server is to store, serve, and send web pages to users (don’t forget these 3-S if you’re a beginner).

Behind the back, the process is done through Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP). HTTP is an application-layer protocol, a very lucid text for us humans that was built to communicate between a web browser and a web server. As we have a good understanding of web servers by this time, it’s time to learn about how a web server really functions.

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How does a Web Server actually work?

I’d say a web server is a gate between your users and web content to some extent. As I mentioned above, the basic principle of a web server is to store web pages to deliver web content to users whenever required.

So, here’s a point to notice—the user actually does request! Consider a hotel customer service for a moment. They’ll serve you whenever you call them. It’s not like going to a cafe that a waiter comes to take your order, but at Hotel, you go there to book a room, whether physically or through the internet (come on, it’s 2021!). This also applies to the functionality of web servers.

A user sends an HTTP request to the web server, and the web server looks for it (huh, see what I can do!), then once it finds that content, the web server sends an HTTP response to the user, and there you go! As you go to the following, you’ll see how vintage the very first web servers looked like:

first web servers

The text “DO NOT POWER IT DOWN” shows us that web servers should always be up for the sake of four nines. If a web server gets turned off, the website, as a result, goes down, and no one can reach your website—guess what would happen to your website SEO!

Nevertheless, we use a Virtual Private Server (VPS) nowadays to keep our server on operation without running on our personal computer all the time! It also provides you with rich resources without worrying about your website’s foundation anymore.

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What is the difference between a Web Server and an Application Server?

Let’s first define what an application server is, then pick up speed with the question. An application server is another type of server that hosts applications. For example, if we want to run a specific application on our server, we’ll use an app server for that purpose.

We learned earlier that a web server has to do with static content, so now we can say that an application server deals with dynamic content. Why? Because dynamic content, as another sort of web content, takes the effect of the change, that’s the nature of applications. It takes the HTTP request and sends a customized HTTP response.

However, it’s not like you can’t benefit from dynamic content on a web server. By taking advantage of some plugins, web servers can also generate dynamic content that supports PHP, ASP, JSP, etc., by then.

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Do Web Servers and Application Servers work together?

Yes! Most application servers derive benefit from web servers as their integral part. Web servers take the role of HTTP to display contents, and application servers control the business logic, that is, the interaction with that displayed contents.

Now that we built a strong background in understanding servers, it’s time to learn about Apache and NGINX’s two most popular web servers in 2021.

It’s noteworthy to mention that the terms web server and application server are used interchangeably, so don’t get skeptical when we’re discussing the following web servers in static and dynamic content.

What is Apache?

Apache is a popular open-source web server software that is developed and maintained by the American nonprofit corporation Apache Software Foundation (ASF). It’s also known as Apache HTTP Server and HTTPD.

The reputation of Apache might be because it’s all the way free and open-source; besides, it’s unqualifiedly cross-platform software. Today, most people use Apache HTTP Server because it’s a fast, highly flexible, and secure web server!

Features of the Apache Web Server

Apache has the ability to host more than one HTTP-based website. It supports the deployment of many server-side programming languages, like Python, Perl, PHP, and TCL. If you’ve got a background in back-end development, you may want to know that HTTPD upholds excellent features as follows:

  • Dynamic configuration
  • HTTP/2 support
  • Static files control
  • FTP connections
  • Multiple Request Processing modes (MPMs) including Event-based/Async, Threaded, and Prefork
  • Highly scalable
  • Auto-indexing
  • .htaccess
  • CGI support
  • Reverse proxy with caching
  • WebDAV
  • IP address-based geolocation support
  • IPv6 support
  • Authorization access control
  • Content negotiation
  • Gzip approval
  • Loadable dynamic modules
  • Bandwidth throttling
  • Name-based and IP address-based virtual servers
  • Concurrent connection limiting
  • Generic expression parser
  • Multiple load balancing
  • URL rewriting
  • Automatic recovery
  • Request processing rate limiting
  • User and session tracking
  • WebSocket, FastCGI, SCGI, AJP, and uWSGI support with caching
  • Real-time status views
  • TLS/SSL with SNI and OCSP stapling support

Which Websites Use Apache?

Following massive websites use Apache as their choice for an excellent web server:

  • eBay
  • Slack
  • BBC
  • Spotify
  • Steam
  • cPanel
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What is NGINX?

NGINX, pronounced engine-x, is robust open-source software developed by Igor Sysoev, a Russian software engineer. NGINX was aimed to create the fastest web server, and it’s thriving every day!

They began their mission to provide utmost performance and stability, and now NGINX is way more than a web server. From its use, NGINX is brought to bear as a reverse proxy, HTTP cache, and load balancer, in such a way that making out inbound traffic parcelled out in more slowly upstream servers.

This open-source web server supports WebSocket, HTTP/2, and gRPC web components. It also acts like a proxy server for email IMAP, POP3, and SMTP, which is quite promising.

The big advantage of using NGINX is that it executes each request simultaneously without blocking the other ones. It’s also used as a web accelerator or an SSL/TLS terminator.

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Features of the NGINX Web Server

NGINX was designed to solve the so-called c10k issue, the inability to optimize network sockets to deal with a vast array of clients in parallel. Thereafter, it was maintained and became today NGINX that we all know with special features like:

  • Reverse proxy
  • Highly scalable
  • Static files control
  • Auto-indexing
  • IPv6 support
  • Load balancing
  • HTTP/2 protocol support
  • Name-based and IP address-based virtual servers
  • FastCGI, SCGI, uWSGI support with caching
  • TLS/SSL with SNI and OCSP stapling support, via OpenSSL
  • gRPC support
  • WebSockets
  • URL rewriting and redirection

Features of the NGINX Mail Proxy

It moved forward and progressed till it turned to be beyond a web server.  The mail proxy is another aspect of NGINX that features:

  • TLS/SSL support
  • STARTTLS support
  • SMTP, POP3, and IMAP proxy

Which Websites Use NGINX?

There are many giant websites that use NGINX web servers, as a model:

  • Netflix
  • Dropbox
  • GitLab
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Instagram
  • GitHub
  • SoundCloud
  • Yandex

Apache vs NGINX 2021: Which one is the best Web Server?

apache vs nginx 2021

According to the Netcraft Web Server Survey, NGINX has taken 36.48% with 441,930,791 domains among other web servers around the world, like Apache and OpenResty, in the first rank. Apache with 25.19% has got second place with 305,180,858 domains in August 2021.

Apache HTTP server is a process-driven web server that generates a new thread with each simultaneous connection. NGINX is an event-driven web server that handles a great number of connections concurrently. It was to displace Apache’s performance impediment, and it’s now used for the best performance and scalability.

Upon your take, let’s review nine key differences between Apache and NGINX in 2021 at length in the instant that help you find which web server leaves no stone unturned for you!

1. Apache vs NGINX 2021: Architecture

As for NGINX and Apache, architecture is an eminent part of them. For traffic handling, Apache uses the process-driven approach, whilst NGINX uses the event-driven strategy. This would mean that Apache applies a multi-thread style, meaning it creates a new thread per request.

Conversely, processes are handled asynchronously in NGINX through an event loop. Put differently, NGINX conducts one master process that a single thread deals with multiple requests. As sure as eggs are eggs, NGINX uses less memory and CPU, and it’s a whole lot faster than the Apache HTTP server.

2. Apache vs NGINX 2021: Performance

Dealing with performance in web servers, having the potential of handling static content together with dynamic content is considerably important. As reported by a benchmark test performed by running up to 1,000 simultaneous connections, NGINX performs two and half times faster than Apache in static contents. This is by no surprise due to the fact that NGINX’s RAM usage is lower than Apache in handling requests, and so faster it can work.

With dynamic content, almost both of them act in the same way. One and only difference is the ability to process dynamic content natively. Apache cashes in on embedding a processor into each of its worker instances, whereas NGINX must use an external processor to handle dynamic content requests.

3. Apache vs NGINX 2021: Security

As you probably know, Apache and NGINX are written in the C language, so we can expect much concerning security. Apache tenders configurations for DDoS attack handling and use mod_evasive module to prevent HTTP, DoS, DDoS, and brute force attacks. This makes Apache stand out as a very secure web server among others.

NGINX’s codebase succeeds it to become a supreme secure web server, even more than Apache, because of using a forward-thinking security approach. Concerning SSL issues, the directory listings aren’t enabled in NGINX, which bans the anonymous users’ access from browsing the website directory’s content.

4. Apache vs NGINX 2021: Configuration

Apache use .htaccess for additional configuration. Any modification in .htaccess applies to the system as quickly as possible. .htaccess is itself a plain text configuration for Apache, and it’s also known as distributed configuration files.

.htaccess changes the website’s configuration without touching server configuration files and approves configurations at the directory and subdirectory level. It includes the whole shooting match you ever want to configure your Apache web server with!

Find out more about .htaccess: What is htaccess file?

In another word, NGINX does not help at this level. It doesn’t provide you with additional configuration, making NGINX less customizable. As the configuration is centralized in NGINX, changes are done by editing one particular file that runs the entire thing.

Although it makes it easier to edit, it’s not that flexible like Apache. With all that said, you should write directives into the main configuration file to apply changes in your NGINX web server.

5. Apache vs NGINX 2021: Flexibility

Apache and NGINX web servers are flexible in installing and controlling. You can install them through Docker containers on operating systems that support this feature. Migrating from one host to another is also fairly straightforward with these two notorious web servers; it won’t be overwhelming at all.

However, loading and unloading modules in Apache is easier than NGINX. Let’s just recall that NGINX needs an external program in handling dynamic content; this is where Apache’s flexibility sparkles! Therefore, it’s quite apparent that Apache is considered more flexible than NGINX in many far-fetched ways!

6. Apache vs NGINX 2021: Customization

Another fundamental characteristic of Apache is the dynamic module support. It’s also known as DSO support. It allows you to stretch out Apache’s features and capabilities by adding specific modules without compiling the web server binary.

The fact that NGINX is less customizable than Apache is that NGINX modules can’t get dynamically loaded. That’s the difference! It implies that you should compile the server from the source if you want to incorporate non-standard modules.

Apache supports official and third-party modules that you can adapt and enjoy your particularisation! These modules can become handy for encrypting and rewriting URLs, compression, caching, authenticating clients, and so on and so forth!

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7. Apache vs NGINX 2021: Support

Apache is available on all operating systems such as Linux, Windows, and Mac OS. Similarly, NGINX is also accessible on most Linux distros, Windows, and Mac. 

The only possible distinction would be related to NGINX that it’s not really that stable on Microsoft Windows; people mostly tend to use NGINX on Linux, as its power indubitably shows itself up there.

If you’re on Windows and want to try a web server, Apache is recommended if you’re looking for a fully stable web server. You won’t experience any difficulty on Apache or NGINX as they’re comprehensively documented. You can access documentation via the links below:

Talking about community support, Apache has the benefit of mailing lists, IRC, and Stack Overflow. For NGINX, it’s done through mailing lists, IRC, Stack Overflow, and a forum. Consequently, there’s no prominent difference at this juncture.

8. Apache vs NGINX 2021: Feature modules

Apache is favored with 60 official dynamically loadable modules. In addition, there are a bunch of other unofficial modules that you can find on the internet. This is actually the bonus point of modules for Apache; however, they’re not frequently used. In view of NGINX, modules are compiled throughout third-party plugins and aren’t dynamically loadable.

Over and above, NGINX modules are very efficacious and supply you with every bit of the core features of a web server. What makes NGINX distinct from Apache is that NGINX gets the most out of arbitrary components, which makes it totally secure.

9. Apache vs NGINX 2021: Request interpretation

Request interpretation methods are thoroughly handled in a different way. Apache passes file system location, howbeit NGINX passes URI to interpret requests.

Apache interprets as a physical resource on the file system location, which demands extra evaluation. However, it doesn’t miss the boat for the URI location method; Apache makes good use of that for more abstract resources.

For NGINX, passing URI is indeed far better than passing file system locations because it helps NGINX easily function, and with NGINX’s architecture, it performs at a higher speedy transfer rate level.

A quick comparison between Nginx and Apache

Apache Nginx
Architecture process-driven event-driven
Performance slower faster
Security secure More secure
Configuration uses .htaccess for additional configuration less customizable
Flexibility More flexible Less flexible
Support Linux, Windows, MacOS Linux

Using Apache and NGINX together

You might wonder if you could use Apache and NGINX together to overlay their limitation. Well, yes! Apache and NGINX can work together to make a muscular web server that fulfills your needs.

You might have heard about the hybrid solution before. You can use these two hefty web servers hand in hand to get an optimum result. Apache and NGINX can conform to your demand all in all collectively, so you won’t get worried about any boundary as they cover themselves in partnership.

Is NGINX easier than Apache?

Well, yes, but actually no! It depends on your definition of easier. However, there’s a lot to debate on this topic. Both Apache and NGINX are the best web servers in 2021, and there’s no doubt about it. 

NGINX was originally built to solve the c10k problem. Later on, it was used to handle limitations on Apache’s side, so they used it besides Apache HTTP Server. As it progressed every day, people decided to consider NGINX as an almost complete web server. That’s how we recognize NGINX today.

In all probability, there are many resources, including documentation and support for Apache on the internet. You guessed right; that’s because it’s older than the NGINX web server.

NGINX’s documentation was first in Russian, and that’s reasonable because it was manufactured by a Russian software engineer. Later on, it got translated into English, NGINX was becoming more of a use.

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When to use Apache over NGINX?

Apache is the best choice in the case of functionality. NGINX gives you relatively more modules than Apache, but there are certain modules that you should shift back to Apache for that purpose.

Thanks to .htaccess, nonprivileged users can also change the critical aspects of their website through Apache .htaccess. Furthermore, If you’ve got a low-traffic website or dynamic content, you’d like to use Apache over NGINX as Apache will come out better.

Apache punches NGINX at configuration and customizable. It’s very flexible if you compare it to the NGINX web server that NGINX might look a bit tough.

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When to use NGINX over Apache?

If you’re confronting a high-traffic website, NGINX is wonderful! As NGINX is even-driven and can handle requests concurrently, it’s brilliant for fast content processing. Websites with NGINX web server power through with dedicated hosting or VPS hosting at a threshold that no other web server can beat them.

Although both Apache and NGINX come into view of security in the same manner, NGINX is a bit more secure because of its small codebase. Compared to Apache’s configuration, NGINX has gained more security if you’re very concerned about this topic.

NGINX vs Apache: Best Web Server for WordPress?

best web server for wordpress

Finding the best web server for WordPress might look sneaky and even more vague if I say both! But don’t sweat it! I’ll explain all this in two tips below. Choose NGINX if performance and scalability matter! NGINX is event-driven, so it’s excellent at handling high-traffic websites.

With this characteristic, NGINX is faster than Apache under any circumstances with a look at static content. As the best performing web server, NGINX solves all performance problems you may one day experience in the Apache web server. If you’re to manage a huge website in terms of traffic, then NGINX is yours.

Choose Apache if you’re on WordPress! Yes, it might be shocking, but Apache provides you with an easy-to-configure web server, which is also beginner-friendly. Having lots of modules and compatibility with many programming languages have made Apache the best working web server for WordPress users to experience a peerless outcome. HTTPD is highly customizable, and there are a huge community and much support for it out there.

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How to check if you’re running Apache or NGINX?

If you’re using Google Chrome as a web browser and want to know whether a website uses Apache, NGINX, or anything else as the web server, here’s what you can do:

  1. Write the URL and press enter
  2. Once completely loaded, click right on the page
  3. Then, click “inspect” to enter the Dev environment
  4. Find “Network” in the menu section and click on it
  5. Find the website’s header

You’ll then see something like server: Nginx. That’s how you can find out the running web server.

Integrating Apache and NGINX with Cloudzy

After choosing your web server, whether Apache, NGINX, or both, the next step would be finding a proper web hosting service. Cloudzy helps you integrate your web server with its wondrous Windows 10 VPS and even offers you to create your own hosting plan, which I’ve never seen anywhere so far! You can also read our article on Best Windows 10 VPS Providers in 2021.

So what does a VPS actually do for me?

To run your website, you need a substantial amount of resources, such as CPU, RAM, SSD storage, etc. to host your website on it. A Virtual Private Server (VPS) acts as a virtual computer that is privately held to serve you ample scalability, performance, and anything you want to get started from zero to hero!

Today, many gigantic companies have immigrated from shared hosting to VPS hosting to handle their high-traffic websites, whether they’re on Apache or NGINX. However, you can also use VPS to run your very first website to make a great foundation for the future without worrying about performance and security.

For instance, if one website gets a virus on a shared hosting plan, all other websites will get vulnerable, whereas, on VPS hosting, each website is distinct from another one, and there is an extra layer of security that prevents a single website from getting a virus. At $7.95, you can get a functional Windows VPS at Cloudzy with Apache and NGINX support.

Some of exceptional Cloudzy’s Windows VPS features are as follows:

  • 7-Day Money-Back Guarantee
  • Custom plan
  • Free setup
  • 24/7 caring support
  • Guaranteed 99.95% uptime
  • Multi-protocol connectivity
  • High-spec infrastructure
  • Full admin access
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Apache and NGINX are the two most widely used web servers in 2021. Each of them provides you with its peculiar features. Apache is a perfect choice if you care the most about flexibility and customization. Apache’s configuration is also at a higher level compared to NGINX by virtue of .htaccess.

NGINX is a better choice if you’re concern about performance and scalability. It gives you everything you want to manage a high-traffic website, and it’s unbelievably faster than Apache, 2.5x faster! Once you chose your web server, it’d be time to find your appropriate web hosting plan. At Cloudzy, we’ve integrated your wish with any web server you may want to work with at the very low price ever, $7.95 with 2vCPU, 2GB memory, 30GB NVMe/SSD storage, 3TB bandwidth, and 1Gbps connection!


Is Apache better than NGINX?

To say which one is better, we need to clarify our goal. On the one hand, Apache beats NGINX at configuration and customization. On the other hand, NGINX is more than just a web server, as it offers reverse proxy, mail proxy, load balancer, and HTTP cache.

Why is NGINX faster than Apache?

NGINX goes through an event-driven approach to handle all requests in one single thread, and it refuses context switching that Apache benefits from. Besides, NGINX runs HTTP‑related heavy lifting, making it 2.5x faster than Apache, and it’s the Jack Robinson of our time!

Should I use Apache or NGINX for WordPress?

Both Apache and NGINX are okay with WordPress; however, NGINX is one step ahead of Apache, as you’ll achieve better performance by using NGINX for WordPress.

Why is NGINX so popular?

NGINX is a lot faster than any other web server, and it works very well with minimal hardware. Being more than just a single web server, NGINX has many utilities, including but not limited to reverse proxy, load balancer, etc., which really stick it out among other rivals.

Why is Apache still used?

Apache is an authentically reliable web server that comes with the best configuration, speed, and security among other known web servers. Apache is easy to configure and customize. That’s why Apache is still widely used.

An avid technical writer and a scripturient literarian.


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5 thoughts on “Apache Vs NGINX 2021”

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