When you hear about the web servers, the question arises in your mind that we have physical servers why 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 server and a list of web servers giving you the option to understand which web server is suitable for your business and detailed discussion on “Is web server is software or hardware?”.
What is open source web server?
A web server is a software or hardware, or the combination of both.
1. Hardware side
2. Software side
A web server includes different protocols and methods that control the access of hosted files is known as best HTTP server. An HTTP server is a 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 the access to a file which is hosted on a popular web server, 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 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 diagram given below:
Every website required either a dynamic or static web server:
1. Static Web Server
It is based on a physical server (hardware) and HTTP server (software). When a client sends a request for a specific file from his browser then 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 by an application server or databases. When any client sends the request then application server makes the changes or updates on hosted file before delivering to 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)
- Sever 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 may be one needs fastest web server and top web server software but others need only most secure web server. There was a time when Apache was the only option to serving all kind of needs. With the technology evolution, now there are many solutions are available and getting popular day by day.
Get ready to take a look on top 10 web servers, carefully read all the features and functionalities and select best open source web server that is most suitable for your business.
Apache is a 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% websites and works on a number of operating systems. Apache is available to download and use without any cost.
- Loads dynamic modules, handle 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 the easy scripting possible
- Fault tolerance, load balancing mechanisms, and fine-grained authorization that enables object-level security.
Final Words about Apache
It is widely used and most favourite among the technical persons because it is available without any license. The complete code is available they can change or edit according to your requirements. If you want to get more information about the Apache, visit Apache Foundation page. Nowadays, there are many apache alternatives are also available in the market, we will try to discuss few of them in this article.
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 used by around 31.5% 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.
- 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 to know more interesting features, you can visit NGINX.
Final Words about NGINX
Using NGINX, you are able to design complicated and advanced distributed systems with load balancing, powerful catching and proxy. It becomes a popular opensource webserver among the administrators due to its scalability and light resource utilization.
Lighttpd (pronounced as lightly) was initially released in 2003 and powering 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.
- Low memory footprint and easy on system resources
- Small CPU load and speed optimizations
- Ideal for more number of connections
- Lighttpd is light, secure, fast and flexible
If you don’t want load on your system resources, then it is best options for you. Lighttpd is capable to handle few hundred requests per second.
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.
- 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
Caddy is a best web server if you want to enable HTTPS and simplicity in your processes. It can serve up to 30,000 requests per second depends 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 best option for you.
Open Light Speed is an open source server which is basically a flavour of an enterprise web server. It is offered by LiteSpeed Technologies having all the features found in LiteSpeed Enterprise free of cost.
- Rich GUI-based interface with good configuration experience
- Google PageSpeedInsights optimization and powerful Cache engine is available by default
- Tons of apache files can be migrated without major difficulties
- Compatibility of DirectAdmin and CyberPanel
It makes a 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.
Monkey web server is an interesting project because it provides the supports for embedded platforms.
- 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
If your target is embedded devices, this server is pretty good to fulfil your need in an efficient manner. MonkeyServer works equally well on the x86 and x86-64 architectures, and able to run large-scale applications on powerful machines. If you have any problem, you can ask an active community of MonkeyServer
Xitami is originally developed by iMatix Corporation as an open source product. Xitami 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.
- Fast speed based on SMT multithreading technology
- Portable and secure
- All non-portable functionality is encapsulated in SFL (Standard Function Library)
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.
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 servers because it doesn’t have cutting-edge features like Nginx.
You don’t need to open 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.
- More suitable for the usage among wide variety of systems
- Traffic shaping, LDAP, Reverse HTTP proxy and authentication via htdigest
- Offers native performance for Linux, Unix and Windows operating systems
- Supports content caching, video streaming and Traffic Shapping
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.
- More flexible and extensible
- Fast servlet performance with smallest memory footprint
- Works on the asynchronous basis and supports JMX, JASPI, AJP, JNDI, and OSGI.
- Also, support HTTP/2 and Java ServletAPI
The primary focus of this opensource 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 to implement configuration and syntax.
- 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