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Which Web Server Should You Choose?

The Most Popular Web Servers

So which web server should you choose to operate your website? That depends on a number of factors. But first, let’s take a look at popularity.

The web-server space is dominated by four web servers: Apache, Microsoft IIS, NGINX and Google Web Server.

A NetCraft survey in April 2015 showed the following market-share breakdown:

Choosing the Right Web Server

As with any infrastructure decision, your choice hinges on a few key items:

  • Cost
  • Support
  • Capabilities

Cost and support tend to go hand in hand. While you may choose a particular web server because it is open source, there may be hidden costs associated with maintaining your choice — specifically, supporting it. Many open-source companies now charge for professional support, so when you have an issue, you can jump to the front of the line by contacting a dedicated and experienced support team instead of having to solve the problem yourself or going on a forum and parsing through other users’ discussions of the issue.

The capabilities you desire may also determine which web server you go with. If we were setting up a brand new server Presence would use the LAMP stack environment as this tends to be less expensive and easier to implement. One popular “stack” to consider is the pairing of operating system and web server with a database and programming framework. There are a few of these to consider, including:

  • LAMP: Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP
  • WIMP: Windows, IIS, MySQL/MS SQL Server and PHP
  • WAMP: Windows, Apache, MySQL/MS SQL Server and PHP
  • LEMP: Linux, NGINX, MySQL and PHP

There are other variants of this as well. If you go down the “free” and open-source route, the most popular are LAMP and LEMP. It is important to note, though, that you can install Apache, MySQL and PHP on Windows-based machines.

A Breakdown of Each Web Server

As the statistics show, Apache, and IIS are the primary players in this space.

Apache

  • Home Page: http://httpd.apache.org/
  • Cost: Open source, free, no licensing fees
  • Advantages:
    • Is flexible because of ability to pick and choose various modules
    • Has enhanced security (notable, because vulnerabilities typically are attacked in Windows-based machines)
    • Has strong user-community support
    • Runs on UNIX, Windows, Linux, Mac OS
  • Disadvantage:
    • Is a process-based server, which means each simultaneous connection requires a thread that can incur significant overhead
  •  Popular Sites Using It: Baidu, Wikipedia, PayPal, Apple, Huffington Post

Microsoft IIS

  • Home Page: http://www.iis.net/
  • Cost: Comes with Windows (could mean increased costs through licensing)
  • Advantages:
    • Is supported by Microsoft
    • Provides access to .NET framework & ASPX scripts
    • Integrates with other Microsoft services (Active Directory, MS SQL server, ASP, etc.)
  • Disadvantage:
    • Isn’t able to customize as much as open-source web servers
  • Popular Sites Using It: (mainly Microsoft properties) Live.com, Bing.com, Microsoft, MSN, Barbie.com

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