If you run your web server and can select a web server platform independently of your web host. Who will usually provide you with a choice of either Apache’s HTTP Server or Microsoft’s IIS then you must think about Nginx.

Nginx is relatively new to the webserver crew but is fast-growing and very well-regarded.

Compared to Apache which first appeared in 1995, Nginx was first written.

And released in 2004 by Igor Sysoev, a senior systems administrator at Russian search engine company Rambler Media.


Like Apache, Nginx is freely available and open-source, but unlike Apache, it has a much smaller footprint.

That is, its executable is not only much smaller than Apache, but it uses less computer memory (RAM) as well.

Apache is extremely powerful.

And its feature set has grown over the years as the demand for various things has streamed in.

However, most people and even companies only require a small core set of those features.

Nginx has a much more restricted feature set and attempts to perform those features well.

This is not to say that Nginx is handicapped.

It performs the most important web server functions, including virtual hosts, SSL/TLS encryption, access control, server-side.

Includes, URL rewriting, Fast CGI, and custom logging.

In addition, Nginx performs load balancing and reverses proxying which can be used to implement some complicated.

And efficient web server architectures.

The vast majority of comparisons you will find of Nginx to Apache tout Nginx’s better performance, but why is this?

Many point to its different approach to handle incoming requests.

While Apache uses a multithreaded or process-oriented approach, Nginx uses an asynchronous event-driven architecture.

Most in-depth apples-to-apples tests demonstrate that Nginx uses far less memory than Apache particularly when it comes to serving static HTML pages.

Potential Downsides

Before you rush off to replace your Apache servers with Nginx, take a step back, and consider some potential pitfalls.

For starters, Nginx is not a drop-in replacement for Apache.

You will need to learn a new configuration syntax as well as how it structures its files and virtual hosts.

As a much newer piece of software, its popularity, documentation, and sheer community support do not match Apache’s.

This is not to say that it is lacking, but you may need to put in a bit more time to find answers to more esoteric questions.

As a counter to the popularity comment, Nginx’s growth has been tremendous, and according to stats tracker, Netcraft, Nginx usage accounted for 7.5% of websites as of Jan 2011.

Before you dismiss 7.5% as a small percentage, consider the number of websites that exist, or that Nginx added 12.9 million new websites in 2009 alone.

One other drawback to Nginx is that you won’t find quite that many web hosts that offer it as a web server option.

But you may instead have to use a VPS (Virtual Private Server) or dedicated server solution and either hire a knowledgeable sysadmin or learn it yourself.

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