Apache HTTP Nginx

Nginx vs. Apache Comparison

Whenever it comes to deploying a website, the first thing that comes to your mind is choosing the right web server since, after deploying your website, your web server will be responsible for handling all the requests and serving the users with what they need.

Nginx and Apache are the two leading web servers in the market that handle more than half of the Internet traffic these days. Apache was launched back in 1995, whereas Nginx is relatively newer since it was launched in 2004.

The market share of both these web servers is more or less the same, which leaves users confused in choosing which web server they need for their particular website. Therefore, today we will try to draw a comparison between Nginx and Apache by discussing multiple parameters in which these web servers can be compared. After drawing that comparison, we will give you our take on which web server is better in certain situations. So let us try to find it out together.

Comparison between Nginx and Apache

There are certain important parameters against which Nginx and Apache can be compared. These parameters have been discussed one by one below:

Architecture:

While drawing a comparison between any two entities, the most crucial parameter that we need to consider is the architecture and working of both. In the case of Nginx and Apache, there is a core difference between the architectures of both web servers on which they operate. It means that how Nginx and Apache respond to their respective requests are significantly different. We will try to understand both the architectures by giving an example of how these web servers work.

In the case of Apache, whenever this web server receives a connection request, it creates a new thread to handle that request. It means that if there are thousand connection requests at any given instance, then Apache will have to create thousand different threads to serve these requests, which will prove to be a huge burden on the web server. On the other hand, Nginx handles the requests asynchronously as its single process is capable of handling thousands of requests at a time. It means that it does not have to create a different thread for each incoming connection request.

Performance:

The performance of a web server is mostly judged by two parameters, i.e., its capability of handling static as well as dynamic content. In the case of the static content, Nginx is considered way better than Apache because instead of going for the traditional file-based approach, it caches the static content, which makes it readily available whenever it is requested. On the other hand, Apache still works on the conventional file-based approach for handling the static content.

As far as the dynamic content is concerned, Apache processes the dynamic content within the same server, whereas Nginx is still incapable of processing dynamic content, and rather uses an external process for handling all the dynamic content. However, despite this difference in the ways of handling the dynamic content, the performance of both web servers is more or less the same in this regard.

Supported Operating Systems:

The support of Apache spans more operating systems than Nginx, as it provides supports for all the UNIX based systems, as well as the Windows operating system. However, Nginx does support most of the UNIX based systems, but its support for the Windows operating system is very minimal.

Customizability:

Apache web servers can be customized by writing modules of your choice to it, while Nginx web servers lack this capability, which makes Apache more flexible in this regard.

Security:

Although Apache web servers provide great security against DoS and DDoS attacks, because of the relatively smaller code base of Nginx, it is considered more secure than Apache web servers.

Modules:

Both Apache and Nginx provide official modules that you can download with these web servers to make them function the way you like, but as mentioned before, the Nginx web servers do not allow you to write customizable modules. Moreover, the Apache web server modules can be loaded dynamically, while the Nginx web server modules need to be selected and compiled with the software core.

Support and Documentation:

Support and documentation for both the web servers are more or less the same. However, a few years back, it was considered difficult to find detailed documentation for Nginx as it was relatively newer in the market However, now its documentation is also very well maintained by the company behind it.

A Critical Analysis of Nginx and Apache

Based on the parameters that we discussed above, we can deduce our opinion on choosing between Apache and Nginx. As far as the architecture of both web servers is concerned, Nginx clearly has an edge over Apache since the way it handles requests is a lot more efficient than Apache. In the case of static content, Nginx takes the lead again. As for the dynamic content, although both web servers handle it differently, they still give almost the same performance.

For OS support, Apache is ahead of Nginx since it is a very well-established platform, which has spent a relatively larger amount of time in the market as compared with Nginx. Also, Apache web servers are way more flexible than Nginx because of the customizable modules that they allow. Moreover, in terms of modules, Apache is better than Nginx because of providing the dynamic loading feature. The security of Nginx is ahead of Apache because of its smaller codebase, but the documentation and support for both web servers are almost the same.

Conclusion:

In this article, we gave you a brief overview of the Apache and Nginx web servers. We tried to draw a comparison between both web servers by discussing several factors that affect the overall performance and throughput of these web servers. Based on these factors, we tried to provide you with a critical analysis on which web server is better in which regard. Having said that, we would like to reiterate that choosing a web server highly depends on the use case and the scenario in which you are going to employ that web server.

It means that we cannot regard any particular web server as best or worst straightaway, rather it is the purpose for which it is used that makes it best or worst. Therefore, before choosing between Apache and Nginx, you carefully need to analyze your requirements, which you must want your web server to serve. Only then you will be able to make the right choice of a web server.

About the author

Karim Buzdar

Karim Buzdar

Karim Buzdar holds a degree in telecommunication engineering and holds several sysadmin certifications. As an IT engineer and technical author, he writes for various web sites. He blogs at LinuxWays.