NGINX vs Apache: What’s The Difference?

NGINX Vs Apache

A web server is a computer that stores, processes, and delivers web pages to the users. Apache server and NGINX are the two most renowned web servers powering the Internet today. More than 50% of the websites in the world run on these two web servers. They’re both designed to handle different workloads and to complement various types of software, creating an extensive web application stack.

Now, the question arises of which webserver to choose? They may be similar in many ways, but they’re not identical. Each one takes its approach to configuration management, performance optimization, and more. So, it’s important to understand these differences for making the right choice when deciding between NGINX and Apache as a Web hosting solution

So, let’s dive into knowing what these web servers are and answer the NGINX vs Apache question.

What is NGINX?

NGINX (also written as Nginx) is open-source software used for web serving, reverse proxying, caching, load balancing, media streaming, and more. NGINX came into the picture in 2004, when it was first publicly released by Russian developer Igor Sysoev. When it was released, NGINX was used mostly for serving static files, but today, it has grown into a complete web server that deals with the whole spectrum of server tasks. 

Benefits of NGINX

There are many advantages of the NGINX server. Some of them are as follows:

  • NGINX is open source and is free to use. 
  • NGINX has a simple configuration system, unlike Apache. The user must edit no more than two files.
  • The performance of NGINX when it comes to serving static files like pdf, zip, HTML, mp4, MPEG, Avi-, jpg, gif, png, and others is great.
  • NGINX handles traffic from any web app with no difficulties whatsoever and provides configuration guides for most of the apps. Various apps such as WordPress, python, ruby, Drupal, VBulletin, PhpBB, and many other popular apps are served by NGINX.  
  • NGINX is superior when it comes to handling concurrent connections, response time, and usage of resources as compared to other web servers such as Apache or Lighttpd.
  • NGINX makes websites faster thereby enabling them to get higher ranking by Google as they have already made various changes in the search ranking algorithm and recently they made the speed of the website also a part of the algorithm. The faster websites get maximum support from Google. NGINX can handle multiple client requests concurrently and effectively with heavy traffic. This makes the website more optimised and faster.

What is Apache?

Apache (also known as Apache HTTP Server or httpd) is an open-source cross-platform web server that delivers web content through the internet. It was designed by Tim Berners Lee and released in 1995. Apache became popular quickly, and now it is maintained by the Apache Software Foundation. Just like all Web servers, Apache hosts Web content – such as HTML pages, PHP files, and audio and video – and serves the content to users when they visit a website. 

Apache is the first choice among server administrators because of its architectural simplicity, flexibility, power compatibility, and multi-platform support. It is compatible with almost all operating systems such as Windows, UNIX, OSX, NetWare, etc. But it is commonly used in combination with Linux.

Benefits of Apache

  • Apache is open source which makes it free to use and allows community developers to extend and modify it easily.
  • Apache is flexible due to it the presence of dynamic modules.
  • Apache is compatible with Unix-like OS such as Linux, BSD, etc, and MS Windows.
  • Apache has a huge community and easily available support in case of any problem.
  • Apache has optimal deliverability for static files and is compatible with any programming language.

Key Differences Between NGINX and Apache

Let us look at some key differences between NGINX and Apache:

  •  NGINX is an open-source, high-performance web server and reverses proxy server whereas Apache is an open-source HTTP server. NGINX being a reverse proxy server sits behind the firewall in a private network and directs client requests to the appropriate backend server ensuring a smooth flow of network traffic between clients and servers.
  • The fundamental difference between the two is in their architecture. NGINX has a single-threaded architecture where multiple client requests are handled in a single thread. On the other hand, Apache has a multi-threaded architecture where one process is created for a request. The event-driven architecture of NGINX ensures better performance even under heavy traffic.
  • NGINX is well equipped to handle static content. It’s 2.5 times faster than Apache. When it comes to dynamic content, Apache processes dynamic content natively within the web server itself whereas NGINX cannot process dynamic content internally and depends on external processes for execution.
  • NGINX and Apache servers both are great at handling security, but the NGINX code base is significantly smaller, so this is a big plus from a security perspective.
  • NGINX fully supports almost all Unix Operating systems but the support for Windows is partial. On the other hand, Apache fully supports Unix-like OS and MS Windows.

Difference Between NGINX and Apache

FeaturesNGINXApache
SimplicityNGINX is complex to develop and innovate as it has a sophisticated architecture to handle multiple connections concurrently.Apache is easy to develop because of its one-connection-per-process model.
Operating system supportNGINX runs on Unix-like systems but has limited support for Windows.Apache is compatible with all Unix-like systems such as Linux, BSD, etc. as well as completely supports Windows.
Basic ArchitectureNginx follows an event-driven/single-threaded approach to handling client requests
Nginx handles multiple requests within one thread
Apache follows process-driven/multi-threaded approach to handling client requests.
Static ContentNGINX can run thousands of connections of static content simultaneously and is 2.5 times faster than Apache.In Apache, a new thread is created for each request
Apache is slower in displaying static content.
Dynamic ContentNGINX does not process dynamic content.Apache processes dynamic content within the web server itself.
Traffic handlingNGINX can handle multiple client requests concurrently and effectively with heavy traffic.Apache cannot handle multiple client requests concurrently with heavy web traffic.
Memory ConsumptionNginx uses limited hardware resources to handle client requests and consumes less memoryThe memory consumption for Apache is more.
UsageNGINX is developed to be both a web server and a reverse proxy server.Apache is developed to be a web server.
Centralized ConfigurationNGINX has a relatively simpler configuration system.
Nginx doesn’t allow additional configuration.
The configuration system in Apache is not that simple.
Apache allows additional configuration on a per-directory basis through .htaccess files.
Request InterpretationNginx passes URI(Uniform resource identifier) to interpret client requests.Apache passes file system location to interpret client requests.
SecurityNginx provides better security with a smaller codebase.Apache also provides good security but is considered less when compared to Nginx. Also, the codebase of Apache is very high.
Feature ModulesThe core version of NGINX does not support dynamic modules but NGINX plus which is a paid version of NGINX supports dynamic modules.
Loading and unloading of modules are complex.
Apache consists of dynamically loadable modules that can be turned off/on.
Loading and unloading of modules is simpler in apache
SupportNGINX is handled by NGINX, Inc company founded in 2011. Community support is done through IRC (Internet relay chats), mailing lists, and stack overflow.Apache server is handled by a community of users from around the world and coordinated by the Apache Software Foundation. Community support is done through IRC, mailing lists, stack overflow, and forums.

NGINX or Apache

It is fair to say that both NGINX and Apache offer quality performance — they’re flexible, they’re capable, and they’re powerful. Both have their place in today’s market, but NGINX is the one in the ascendancy. When new, Apache captured the webserver space but gradually there has been a shift. NGINX is lightweight and has event-driven architecture. Due to which it can handle heavy web traffic more efficiently. Moreover, it is faster than static file processing. These features hold more value today where streaming and internet consumption is at their peak.  Therefore, Developers are finding NGINX architecture more suitable for modern web application development. This is evident by the below graph showing usage of selected web servers for websites

Nginx or Apache

Conclusion

NGINX and Apache are the two of the most popular web servers today. Deciding which server works best for us depends largely on our requirements and mapping the requirement with the capabilities of the server will help decide the best option. Our requirements and experience might lead you to choose one or both, or even a different path. Both? Yes, you heard it right. Apache and NGINX can be friends too! It is possible to use each server’s strengths by using them together. 

In today’s era, internet consumption has been at its all-time high and there is cut-throat competition in the web application development space, knowledge of NGINX and Apache holds a lot of importance. This is integral for developers and organizations to decide which web server or web servers will serve them the best.


FAQs

Why is NGINX faster than Apache?
NGINX follows a single-threaded approach where each thread handles multiple requests. On the other hand, in the Apache server, a multi-threading approach is followed where a new thread is created for each request. This leads to Apache consuming more memory due to the presence of more threads and NGINX consuming a lot less. This makes NGINX is faster than Apache

Is Apache or NGINX better for WordPress?
Both Apache and NGINX work well with WordPress. However, NGINX might be the better option if you want improved performance.

Can you run NGINX and Apache at the same time?
Yes, NGINX and Apache can run simultaneously

Do I need Apache with NGINX?
If the requirement of the project is such that the web application should possess capabilities of both Apache and NGINX, then you need to integrate both. Otherwise, the one whose capabilities are aligned with requirements should be used.

Is NGINX easier than Apache?
Yes, NGINX is easier than Apache.

Can I use NGINX for free?
NGINX is open-source and thus can be used for free.

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