Choose Best Web Server from a Number of Open Source Web Servers

8 min read

When you hear about web servers, the question arises in your mind we have physical servers why do we need them and what is the key difference between a physical server (hardware) and a web server (software)? Don’t worry we will answer your question with a detailed discussion. In this article, you will learn about the best web servers from open source web servers giving you the option to understand which web server is suitable for your business and a detailed discussion on “Is web server software or hardware?”

What are Open Source Web Servers?

A web server is software hardware or a combination of both.

1. Hardware Side

A web server is a computer machine that stores the software of a web server and other components that are used for a website like HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and image files. This server is connected to the internet and performs data communication and exchange with devices connected to the internet. 

2. Software Side

A web server includes different protocols and methods that control the access of hosted files and is known as the best HTTP server. An HTTP server is software that recognizes website addresses (URLs) and the protocols that your browser uses to display the page (HTTP).

Consider an example to elaborate, any browser needs access to a file that is hosted on a popular web server, and the first operation that your browser will perform is the request of the required file using the HTTP protocol.  When this request is delivered to the right web server (hardware), the HTTP server (software) finds the requested document and sends the result of your request using the same HTTP protocol. If your requested document is not found, then the HTTP server will return the 404-page error. As you can see in the diagram given below: 

Software Side

Every website required either a dynamic or static web server:

1. Static Web Server

It is based on a physical server (hardware) and an HTTP server (software). When a client sends a request for a specific file from his browser the static web server sends the hosted files as it is.

2. Dynamic Web Server

It is also a static web server with the enhanced functionality of an application server or database. When any client sends the request the application server makes the changes or updates on the hosted file before delivering it to the client by HTTP server.

What are the Main Features and Functionalities of a Web Server?

  • Creates websites and supports large files
  • Configures log files and website or directory security
  • Specifies default documents (when we open simply localhost by entering http://localhost then index.html will be displayed)
  • Server-side scripting for dynamic pages

As you know, there are different types of businesses serving their clients online and every business has its specific requirements one needs the fastest web server and top web server software but others need only the most secure web server. There was a time when Apache was the only option for serving all kinds of needs. With the technology evolution, there are many solutions available and getting popular day by day.

Get ready to take a look at the top 10 web servers, carefully read all the features and functionalities, and select the best open source web server that is most suitable for your business.

1. Apache

Apache is the most widely used web server software developed and maintained under the Apache software foundation with the open community of developers that participates in this work. According to research, Apache is used by around 46.3% of websites and works on several operating systems. Apache is available to download and use without any cost.

Apache

Features:

  • Loads dynamic modules, handles index files, auto-indexing, and static files
  • Supports IPv6 and HTTP/2
  • Available for all major platforms including Linux, Windows, macOS, and others
  • Great collection of modules with wonderful functionalities
  • Apache makes easy scripting possible
  • Fault tolerance, load balancing mechanisms, and fine-grained authorization enable object-level security.

Final Words about Apache:

It is widely used and most favorite among technical persons because it is available without any license. The complete code is available they can change or edit it according to your requirements. If you want to get more information about the Apache, visit the Apache Foundation page. Nowadays, there are many Apache alternatives are also available in the market, we will try to discuss a few of them in this article.

2. NGINX

It is the second most popular open source web server that can also run on major operating systems. NGINX (pronounced as engine-x) comprises of IMAP/POP3 proxy server and is used by around 31.5% of websites all over the world. It was released in 2002 as a project but its first public release was in 2004. From simple HTML pages to Dynamic websites, NGINX supports all modern web components including http/2 and video streaming in multiple formats that’s why it is used by Netflix.

NGINX

Features:

  • High performance and good stability  
  • It can handle more than 10,000 connections simultaneously
  • Easy and simple configuration
  • Low resource usage
  • Handle the static files and auto-indexing
  • Load balancing with the compatibility of IPv6

If you are interested in knowing more interesting features, you can visit NGINX.

Final Words about NGINX:

Using NGINX, you can design complicated and advanced distributed systems with load balancing, powerful catching, and proxy. It has become a popular open-source web server among administrators due to its scalability and light resource utilization.

3. Lighttpd

Lighttpd (pronounced as lightly) was initially released in 2003 and powers approximately 0.1% of all websites. It is designed on an asynchronous model for handling requests and works in a single thread but there are no SSL and other HTTPS/2.

Lighttpd

Features:

  • Low memory footprint and easy on system resources
  • Small CPU load and speed optimizations
  • Ideal for more connections
  • Lighttpd is light, secure, fast and flexible

Final Words about Lighttpd:

If you don’t want to load your system resources, then it is the best option for you. Lighttpd is capable of handling a few hundred requests per second.

4. Caddy

Caddy is a production-ready open-source HTTP server, most productive, easy to use, and fast with enabled HTTPS by default. It was released in 2015 and supports a variety of website technologies. Caddy is similar to NGINX in syntax and many other things but it is extremely simplified. Let’s Encrypt (a non-profit certificate authority providing TLS certificates) SSL integration can be completed using three lines of config.   

Caddy

Features:

  • HTTPS enabled by default
  • Extremely easy configuration
  • Easy to extend with different plugins
  • Capable to run anywhere without any external dependencies
  • Virtual Hosting that enables multiple sites to work
  • Embeddable in other programs as a library

Final Words about Caddy:

Caddy is the best web server if you want to enable HTTPS and simplicity in your processes. It can serve up to 30,000 requests per second depending on your hardware. If you have large traffic on your website, other open source servers will be considered for better performance but if you want easy-to-use then it is the best option for you.

5. OpenLightSpeed

Open Light Speed is an open-source server that is a flavor of an enterprise web server. It is offered by LiteSpeed Technologies having all the features found in LiteSpeed Enterprise free of cost.

OpenLightSpeed

Features:

  • Rich GUI-based interface with good configuration experience
  • Google PageSpeedInsights optimization and a powerful Cache engine are available by default
  • Tons of Apache files can be migrated without major difficulties  
  • Compatibility of DirectAdmin and CyberPanel

Final Words about OpenLightSpeed:

It makes good sense for content-driven WordPress websites that it has already page optimization. OpenLiteSpeed is fine-tuned for PHP performance, PHP-based codebases and projects can benefit greatly.

6. MonkeyServer

Monkey web server is an interesting project because it provides support for embedded platforms.

MonkeyServer

Features:

  • Supports Linux, macOS, Raspberry Pi, and other embedded Operating systems
  • Completely support for the ARM processors
  • Minimal runtime with the support of IPv6 and TLS
  • Able to work with CGI and FastCGI

Final Words about MonkeyServer:

If your target is embedded devices, this server is pretty good for efficiently fulfilling your needs. MonkeyServer works equally well on the x86 and x86-64 architectures and can run large-scale applications on powerful machines. If you have any problem, you can ask an active community of MonkeyServer

7. Xitami

Xitami was originally developed by iMatix Corporation as an open-source product. It is a fast, simple, and free web server that will run out of the box. It is based on high-performance SMT multithreading technology which is also developed by iMatix and available open source.

Xitami

Features:

  • Fast speed based on SMT multithreading technology
  • Portable and secure
  • All non-portable functionality is encapsulated in SFL (Standard Function Library)

Final Words about Xitami:

If your purpose is to use the functionality of portability then it is good for you to store it on DVDs, USBs, or any other removable devices. It is suitable for you.

8. Cherokee

Cherokee is one of the lightweight and user-friendly Webservers. It offers a small listing of web application framework support. Cherokee is considered in small web server because it doesn’t have cutting-edge features like Nginx.

You don’t need to open the command line interface to configure your server, it is very easy and simple with a good web-based Graphical User Interface. It is perfect for those who want to do their work using click methods.

Cherokee

Features:

  • More suitable for usage among a wide variety of systems
  • Traffic shaping, LDAP, Reverse HTTP proxy, and authentication via digest
  • Offers native performance for Linux, Unix, and Windows operating systems
  • Supports content caching, video streaming, and Traffic Shaping

9. Eclipse Jetty

Eclipse Foundation provides the Eclipse jetty web server which is open source and available for commercial use and distribution. HTTP/2, Java ServletAPI, and WebSocket are supported by Jetty. It can be embedded in application servers, clusters, frameworks, tools, and devices without any difficulties.

Eclipse Jetty

Features:

  • More flexible and extensible
  • Fast servlet performance with the smallest memory footprint
  • Works on an asynchronous basis and supports JMX, JASPI, AJP, JNDI, and OSGI.
  • Also, support HTTP/2 and Java ServletAPI

10. Hiawatha

The primary focus of this open-source server is on security. The basic functional web server was first released in 2002. If you are not a CGI or HTTP expert, you can also use Hiawatha because of its ease of implementing configuration and syntax.

Hiawatha

Features:

  • Prevent SQL injections, XSS, and CSRF attacks
  • The configuration is easy to learn with proper documentation and examples
  • A lightweight server that is ideal for older hardware and embedded systems
  • Best web server specially designed for Unix with secure and advanced features.

One thought on

Choose Best Web Server from a Number of Open Source Web Servers

  • Hammad Mohsin

    Web server is the software that uses HTTP to serve the files that the client makes a request. Any web server whose source code is available for you to make a change or merely look into the code are called open source web server.

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