What are web servers?
A web server is a type of computer software and hardware that accepts requests either via HTTP (HyperText Transfer Protocol) or the more secure HTTPS (HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure).
Amongst allowing requests via the HTTP protocol, web servers also support SMTP protocols for simple mailing and FTP protocols for file transfers and uploads.
Examples of web servers:
There are many types of web servers that exist on the web, but these are some of the most common ones out there:
- Microsoft's IIS
The most popular web servers:
Currently, as of this moment, Nginx and Apache are the most popular in-demand web servers to date.
Nginx, which is pronounced as "Engine-X" is an open-source web server that was released in 2004 by Igor Sysoev. Initially, Nginx was used more to deal with serving static files, but now it's been completely transformed to handle a wide array of server tasks. With Apache, they both serve more than 50% of all the traffic that is on the web.
- It follows an event-driven approach
- Capable of handling multiple threads within a single thread
- Exceptional security with less code
- It's 3rd party core modules are not dynamically loadable
- It doesn't allow for additional configuration of any sort
- Doesn't process dynamic content at all.
Apache was originally released in 1995 by Tim Berners Lee. It is typically referred to as "httpd" or simply Apache. It is also an open-source web server like Nginx and is capable of handling everything server-related.
- It can process dynamic content well
- Highly reliable and customizable code
- Highly supported - can support all Unix-based systems
- It can only process a new thread for each new request that it receives
- Can run into performance issues on heavy-traffic websites
- It is a rather strict updating policy, which needs to be updated regularly
Although both Nginx and Apache are equally great choices for your web servers, both have their own benefits and limitations. The correct choice is a tricky one and will depend on several factors, and most importantly on your use case.
For instance, if you need a web that is excellent at serving static content, then perhaps Nginx would be the best option, however, if you need to process dynamic content, then Apache would be your best bet. The best thing to do is to take the time to evaluate what you need and base your decisions solely on your requirements.