Apache vs Nginx – Whats the Difference ? (Pros and Cons)

In today’s world, IT and DevOps teams have two web servers of Apache and NGINX to use. Gone are those days where only a single feature-rich web server option was available to host and serve web content. While both of these options perform the same job: hosting content over the web at a high level, they differ significantly in the level of performance and security.

Not only this, but many other factors make the difference between the two crystal clear. These differences help one decide which one is better to use. They also help to understand how each platform takes its approach to achieve configuration management, performance optimization and more. Are you curious to learn the difference between Apache and NGINX? Are you also trying to figure out which is one is better? If you answered yes to the above two questions, then you are at the right place. In this article, we will cover the difference between the two most famous web hosting solutions.

Both web servers are amongst the most actively used open source servers on the Internet. According to Netcraft, as of July 2021, 61% of all active websites were either using Apache or Nginx.

Before we move on to the difference, let’s look at the basic overview of Apache and NGINX.

Apache Basic Overview

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Apache is a web server that was released under the open-source Apache 2.0 license. Similar to other web hosting solutions, Apache also hosts HTML pages, PHP files, audio and video. In short, it serves the content to all the users who visit the website for consuming content online. Apache can host content on various platforms such as the public internet, internal company websites and the intranet.

The official name of the Apache web server is the Apache HTTP server. However, most people like to keep it simple and short for verbal purposes and call it Apache. This practice of calling out the shortened name can be a little misleading as Apache also refers to a non-governmental organization: Apache Software Foundation that takes care of various open-source projects of which Apache HTTP is just one part.

Benefits Of Apache

Since its inception, Apache has been offering a bundle of benefits that have made it a preferred web hosting solution for many IT teams. One of the most likeable advantages, at least in the eyes of IT professionals, is the open-source platform. The open-source model of Apache not only makes the platform free of cost but also enables modification on the part of community developers. Moreover, the platform also offers a modular plugin system that makes it easy to add functionalities. These modules can be easily activated and deactivated and provide a flexible solution for controlling Apache’s behavior. In addition to that, Apache enables local configuration on a PC/ laptop. This helps web developers to test their websites directly on their workstations and boost performance.

Popular Companies Using Apache Web Server:

  • IBM
  • eBay
  • Adobe
  • PayPal
  • Linkedin
  • GTMetrix
  • Facebook

NGINX Basic Overview

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NGINX is a free and open-source web server  that is also designed to work as a reverse proxy server, a load balancer and an HTTP cache. Just like Apache, NBINX is an open-source platform but is governed by a BSD license. Although NGINX can be used to perform various additional tasks, it was originally designed to work as a web hosting solution.

Benefits of NGINX

Just like Apache, NGINX is an open-source platform too and enables users to get started for free. But in comparison to Apache, NGINX has certain aspects that differ. One such aspect is the configuration. The configuration of NGINX is relatively simple than the configuration of Apache. Some of the functionality that needs to be added in the Apache platform using modules is by default included in the NGINX platform. This means that there is less setup work to perform for the admins. The tradeoff of NGINX open source and simple configuration benefits comes as difficult functionality after installation. The reason behind the difficult functionality of the NGINX platform is the fewer number of modules present in NGINX as compared to Apache. Lastly. NGINX has a smaller overview resource footprint that makes than many other web servers. It consumes less memory, takes up less space and runs on less powerful servers. This is the primary reason why NGNX is considered one great option for those looking out for affordable hosting solutions.

Popular Companies Using Nginx Web Server:

  • Autodesk
  • Atlassian
  • VMWare
  • Xerox
  • Cisco
  • Twitter
  • Intel
  • Apple
  • Google

By now, you must have understood the nitty-gritty of Apache and NGINX. Let us see how they differ from each other with a detailed comparative analysis done below.

Apache vs NGINX - A Detailed Comparison (Pros and Cons)

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1. Performance

In terms of performance, it will not be wrong to say that NGINX performs better than Apache. Apache performs better when hosting sites that receive lower levels of traffic ie. 1000 requests per hour. On the other hand, NGINX is brilliant at hosting sites that receive massive traffic and a lot of requests simultaneously. This is not surprising at all because NGINX, as a server, was designed to perform well at scale. On top of this, the memory consumption of NGINX is also lower and it tends to handle more requests and connections simultaneously without overloading the host server much. If Apache is to face such a large number of requests, it would end up slowing down its performance and speed.

2. Static vs dynamic content

When static content is concerned, both Apache and NGINX take the same route to display content on the webpage: They deliver the static file asked by the website visitor. But with dynamic content, they take a significantly different approach. Apache, on one hand, interprets dynamic content directly and delivers the content to the website visitor. On the contrary, NGINX relies on different programs like FastCGI and Websphere to deliver dynamic content to visitors. These approaches have certain tradeoffs. While it is easier to configure Apache, it is not as efficient at interpreting dynamic files as a standalone server. NGINX tends to perform better when with dynamic content. But, the configuration process of setting up NGINX is tougher than Apache.

3. Operating system support

Both Apache and NGINX support various modern operating systems. NGINX support for Windows remains in beta, installing NGIX on windows also requires some manual effort. On the contrary. Apache offers full-fledged support to Windows, Linux and many other operating systems. So, if you want to work with Windows, then Apache is an option you should consider adopting.

4. Security

There are a lot of things to be considered such as application, external interaction and host operating system when discussing the security of Apache and NGINX. Therefore, a full overview of how strong Apache and NGINX are in handling these security issues is beyond the scope of this article. However, we still can argue that Apache is better than NGINX in handling security-related issues at hand. NGINX does not allow directory listings by default while Apache does in most cases.

5. Flexibility

When combined with modern deployment and management tools, both Apache and NGINX are extremely flexible to use. Still, Apache wins the game at this point with its simple loading and unloading of modules. Furthermore, it offers cross-platform compatibility with its full support to Windows and Linux in beta mode. On the other hand, NGINX requires external programs to handle dynamic content. The flexibility advantages with Apache makes it more competitive when flexibility is concerned.

6. Modules

NGINX’s module system is more rigid than Apache. It has two types of modules, static and dynamic. You can download static modules with any version of NGINX. With Apache, the modules are dynamic and flexible. It is worth noting that static modules are not very hard to work in NGINX. It is easy to replace an existing instance with a newer one. However, working with NGINX requires more effort than Apache’s module system would.

Conclusion

All in all, these are some bases that help distinguish Apache from NGINX. There is no single answer concluding that one is better than the other. But we can say that Apache performs better in respect of module, flexibility, security and operating system support and NGINX excels at performance and displaying static/dynamic content. We hope you found this article helpful. If you ever forget something, you can always come back and clear your doubts!

Avatar for Hitesh Jethva
Hitesh Jethva

I am a fan of open source technology and have more than 10 years of experience working with Linux and Open Source technologies. I am one of the Linux technical writers for Cloud Infrastructure Services.

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