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NGINX vs Apache: Which Web Server for WordPress Hosting

When it comes time to choose a web server for your WordPress hosting, you’ll be able to pick from dozens of the most popular servers. If you are not technically savvy or unaware of what a web server is, don’t worry—essentially, web servers are the systems that will deliver your content to users browsing your web pages. Presently, the two most dominant web servers are Apache and Nginx, which control roughly 49% and 21% of the market share, respectively. Put differently, these two servers handle the majority of all of the internet’s traffic. In the following blog post, we’ll analyze each web server, shedding light on which server is ideal for hosting your business’s WordPress site. Read on for our comparison of Nginx vs Apache.

Nginx vs Apache: What are the Differences?

Apache: #1 in Market Share

First and foremost, Apache’s claim to fame is that it’s the most popular web server in the world. Founded more than two decades ago, Apache is a ubiquitous name in the industry and has had the largest market share since 1996. Consequently, many people immediately associate web servers with the name Apache, without even giving consideration to potentially more efficient alternatives.

Since it’s had such a strong presence for so long, one of the plusses of Apache is that there’s a lot of third-party support. Moreover, since Apache is open source, it’s prone to third-party configurations and has superb documentation.  With the rise of other web servers such as Nginx, however, this has become a less determining factor since reliable support exists outside of Apache as well. Given this reality, few developers would claim that this is a compelling reason for choosing to host your WordPress site with Apache over Nginx.

Another reason that many opt to host their sites with Apache is that it has wide-ranging features that can be of use to certain developers. Unfortunately, this comes with a downside, since all of the extra functionality comes at the expense of speed and simplicity. It’s undeniable that you can do a lot with Apache, but you should also anticipate slower speeds and greater complexity. Particularly with businesses that deal with heavy amounts of traffic, this is a major flaw to consider.

Nginx: Enhanced Optimization and Performance

Created in 2002, Nginx is a free and open source software that functions differently than Apache. The most important characteristic to know about Nginx is that it is event driven as opposed to Apache which is process driven. This means that while Apache’s structure requires it to start a completely new process for each request that it receives, Nginx is able to handle multiple requests with a single process. In fact, has shifted to Nginx for this very reason, as they found that only Nginx could handle a remarkable 8,000 requests on a single server. 

Likewise, one of the main reasons that the popularity of Nginx has been steadily growing is because it is optimized to a much higher degree than Apache. For users who were becoming disenchanted with Apache’s performance issues and were searching for something lighter and faster, Nginx was a tremendous breakthrough. Put simply, it can handle the same amount of traffic as an Apache server while using up far less memory to complete the task.

Nginx is particularly beneficial when it comes to static pages, since it uses far less memory than Apache, as has been demonstrated repeatedly via testing.   

Nginx vs Apache for WordPress Hosting

Now that we’ve broken down some of the main features in the comparison of Nginx vs Apache, it’s time to crunch the numbers and choose the more optimal option for hosting a WordPress site. The plus to Apache is that you’ll have nearly unlimited features for enhancing the functionality of your site, but this will necessarily come at the expense of your site’s performance. While Apache may be preferable if you’re committed to working with a language like Perl or Python for which it has built-in support, it’s more probable than you’ll have no use for most of its features. This means that for most WordPress sites, you’ll be compromising on the speed of your site without receiving anything worthwhile in return.

With Nginx, you’ll have the benefit of working with a much leaner and lightweight server that can handle a tremendous amount of traffic without slowing down. The key word to associate with Nginx is optimization, since there’s really no competitor on the market that offers such powerful performance while using such small amounts of memory. While it does have less built-in support than Apache, the reality is that it comes equipped with all of the features that you’re likely to use, and they’ll function at much faster speeds than any alternative.

Conclusion: While Apache and Nginx both have their respective benefits, only the latter can offer compatibility with WordPress without compromising on security, efficiency, or performance.