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Best Web Server Software

The comprehensive analysis and comparison of the best web server software available. Find the optimal server solution tailored for your exact hosting needs.

2024

Web servers come in various forms, each with its unique features, strengths, and weaknesses. From the open-source powerhouse Apache to the high-performance and efficiency of Nginx, from the user-friendly interface of Microsoft's IIS to the lightweight and speed of LiteSpeed, the choices are diverse and often overwhelming.

Whether you're running a small blog or a multinational e-commerce platform, choosing the right web server software is a critical decision that can significantly impact your site's performance, security, and scalability.

In this guide, we provide an in-depth comparison of the best options available in 2024. Our goal is to help you understand the nuances of each server, their suitability for different types of websites, and ultimately guide you in making an informed decision that best suits your specific needs.

Whether you're a seasoned webmaster or a novice venturing into the world of web hosting, read on to discover the best web server software.

Best Servers

Top web server software on the market.

Apache

Apache HTTP Server, also known as Apache, is an open-source web server software developed by the Apache Software Foundation. It's known for its robustness, simplicity, and high degree of customization. Providing comprehensive HTTP services, Apache supports a wide range of OS platforms and its extensive modular design makes it highly flexible for various environments.

Apache web server
  • Best for:
    Dynamic and static content websites
  • Popularity:
    Used by over 30% of all websites
  • Licence:
    Open source

Key Features:

  • Performance and Load Handling: Apache supports a variety of Multi-Processing Modules (MPMs) such as prefork, worker, and event to handle connections, optimizing performance according to specific load requirements.
  • Scalability and Redundancy: It provides options for clustering and load balancing to ensure optimal performance and redundancy. Modules like mod_proxy_balancer support sophisticated load balancing algorithms.
  • Integration and Compatibility: Apache integrates with a variety of server-side scripting languages such as PHP, Python, and Perl. It also supports various databases through modules like mod_sql and mod_dbd.
  • Security and Privacy: Apache offers several security features and modules like mod_security for intrusion detection and prevention, and mod_ssl for secure connections using SSL/TLS protocols.

Additional Features:

  • Network and Protocol Support: Apache supports a wide array of network protocols, including IPv6, HTTP/1.1, and FTP. It can also act as a reverse proxy server with mod_proxy module.
  • Content Management and Delivery: Its modules such as mod_autoindex for directory listing, mod_alias for URL redirection, and mod_speling for URL correction facilitate effective content delivery.
  • Database and Scripting Support: Apache supports a range of databases and server-side scripting languages, allowing users to serve dynamic content.
  • Email and Communication Services: Though primarily a web server, Apache can be used as a proxy for IMAP, SMTP, and other communication protocols.
  • Backup and Restoration: With proper configuration and auxiliary tools, Apache supports data backup and restoration processes.
  • Server Management and Customization: Apache's .htaccess files and mod_rewrite module offer powerful server-side customization options.
  • User Interface and Accessibility: Though Apache is often managed from the command line, tools like ApacheGUI and Webmin provide a user-friendly interface.
  • Task Management and Automation: Apache supports Cron jobs and offers modules like mod_cron for scheduling tasks.
  • Support and Documentation: Extensive documentation, active community support, and commercial support options are available.
  • Monitoring, Logging and Analytics: Features include access logs, error logs, server-status, and server-info modules.
  • Licensing and Cost: As an open-source software, Apache is free to use and modify under the Apache License 2.0.
Official website: https://httpd.apache.org

Nginx

Nginx, pronounced as 'engine-x', is an open-source web server software that also serves as a reverse proxy, load balancer, mail proxy, and HTTP cache. Developed by Igor Sysoev, it was specifically designed to address the performance limitations of Apache web server. With its asynchronous, event-driven architecture, it provides robust and scalable handling of requests, making it a popular choice for high-traffic websites.

Nginx web server
  • Best for:
    High-traffic websites, reverse proxying, and load balancing
  • Popularity:
    Used by 35.7% of all websites
  • Licence:
    Open source and commercial

Key Features:

  • Performance and Load Handling: Nginx uses event-driven architecture to handle thousands of concurrent connections with low memory footprint, making it suitable for high-traffic websites.
  • Scalability and Redundancy: It can act as a load balancer and an HTTP cache, improving scalability. Its master-worker architecture ensures service availability even when worker processes fail.
  • Integration and Compatibility: It integrates seamlessly with FastCGI, uWSGI, SCGI servers for scripting language support like PHP, Python, etc. Also, it can proxy HTTP, WebSocket, and mail protocols.
  • Security and Privacy: Nginx offers IP-based geolocation, supports SSL/TLS for secure connections, and can limit connection rates to deter Denial-of-Service attacks.

Additional Features:

  • Network and Protocol Support: Nginx has native support for protocols like HTTP/2, HTTP/3 and gRPC, and can be configured as a reverse proxy server.
  • Content Management and Delivery: It offers features like serving static files, index files, autoindexing, and supports URL rewriting and redirection.
  • Database and Scripting Support: Nginx doesn't support databases natively but it works well with applications built with any kind of databases.
  • Email and Communication Services: It can work as a proxy server for IMAP, SMTP, and POP3 protocols.
  • Backup and Restoration: Depending on the application used with Nginx, appropriate backup and restoration procedures can be implemented.
  • Server Management and Customization: The configuration syntax of Nginx is designed to be simple and straightforward, allowing significant customization.
  • User Interface and Accessibility: Typically managed from the command line, GUI-based configuration tools are also available like Nginx Config.
  • Task Management and Automation: Nginx itself doesn't support task scheduling but can work in conjunction with system cron or similar services for task automation.
  • Support and Documentation: It has extensive online documentation and community for support. Commercial support is available through Nginx Inc.
  • Monitoring, Logging and Analytics: Nginx provides access logs, error logs, and can be integrated with monitoring tools like the ELK stack for real-time analytics.
  • Licensing and Cost: Nginx is open-source and free to use under the terms of a BSD-like license. A commercial version called Nginx Plus is available with additional features.
Official website: https://www.nginx.com

LiteSpeed

LiteSpeed is a high-performance, lightweight, open-source HTTP server designed for handling high traffic and improving server load. Renowned for its high performance, security features, compatibility, and easy-to-use web administration interface, LiteSpeed is a drop-in replacement for Apache server and offers faster processing times, scalable event-driven architecture, and less resource consumption.

LiteSpeed web server
  • Best for:
    Websites requiring speed and efficiency
  • Popularity:
    Used by over 4.7% of all websites
  • Licence:
    Freemium

Key Features:

  • Performance and Load Handling: LiteSpeed features an event-driven architecture that can serve thousands of clients concurrently with minimal memory footprint and CPU usage, making it efficient for high-traffic environments.
  • Scalability and Redundancy: With its LiteSpeed Load Balancer, the server ensures optimal resource allocation, traffic management and provides high availability ensuring no single point of failure.
  • Integration and Compatibility: LiteSpeed is compatible with commonly used Apache features like mod_rewrite, .htaccess, and mod_security, and integrates easily with popular control panels such as cPanel and DirectAdmin.
  • Security and Privacy: LiteSpeed offers built-in anti-DDoS features, including bandwidth and connection throttling. It also supports per-IP and per-domain SSL/TLS and HTTP/3 QUIC protocols for secure connections.

Additional Features:

  • Network and Protocol Support: LiteSpeed supports HTTP/2, HTTP/3, and QUIC protocols. It also offers full IPv6 support and seamless integration with CloudLinux.
  • Content Management and Delivery: LiteSpeed features a high-performance, ESI-enabled (Edge Side Includes) cache engine and offers a cache plugin for popular CMSs like WordPress, Magento, and Joomla for improved content delivery.
  • Database and Scripting Support: While LiteSpeed doesn't directly interact with databases, it supports LSAPI for PHP, Ruby, and Python, enabling efficient communication with backend applications and databases.
  • Email and Communication Services: LiteSpeed does not directly handle email services but it can work seamlessly with an existing mail server on the same machine.
  • Backup and Restoration: LiteSpeed can be configured with server-level backup solutions and it supports graceful restarts and real-time recovery mechanisms.
  • Server Management and Customization: LiteSpeed includes a WebAdmin console for real-time server monitoring and configuration. It also supports server-level and virtual host-level PHP customization.
  • User Interface and Accessibility: Its WebAdmin GUI provides a user-friendly interface for server management.
  • Task Management and Automation: While LiteSpeed doesn't include a task scheduler, it is fully compatible with server-level task scheduling systems like cron.
  • Support and Documentation: It offers extensive documentation and a community forum for free users, and 24/7/365 support for paid users.
  • Monitoring, Logging and Analytics: LiteSpeed provides real-time statistics, event logging, and an interactive troubleshooting tool with real-time snapshot capabilities.
  • Licensing and Cost: LiteSpeed offers an open-source edition called OpenLiteSpeed for free, while its commercial versions are available under various pricing models based on the number of workers and features.
Official website: https://www.litespeedtech.com

Microsoft IIS

Microsoft Internet Information Services (IIS) is a flexible, secure, and manageable web server for hosting anything on the web. From media streaming to web applications, IIS's scalable and open architecture is ready to handle the most demanding tasks. Its integration with the Windows NT kernel and the .NET framework makes it a powerful platform for building enterprise-level web applications.

Microsoft IIS web server
  • Best for:
    Windows based applications and services
  • Popularity:
    Used by over 12% of all websites that use a known web server
  • Licence:
    Proprietary

Key Features:

  • Performance and Load Handling: IIS uses HTTP.sys, the same kernel-mode driver used by HTTP.SYS to route requests to the request queue, allowing it to handle large amounts of traffic efficiently.
  • Scalability and Redundancy: It can be scaled horizontally using Application Request Routing (ARR) for load balancing. Its shared configuration feature facilitates setting up redundant servers.
  • Integration and Compatibility: IIS is fully integrated with ASP.NET and supports other languages via the FastCGI protocol. It also supports WebSocket protocol for real-time communication.
  • Security and Privacy: IIS offers robust security features including URL Authorization, Request Filtering, and client certificate mapping. It also supports IP restrictions and SSL/TLS.

Additional Features:

  • Network and Protocol Support: IIS supports HTTP/2 for improved performance. It also supports FTP, FTPS, and SMTP protocols.
  • Content Management and Delivery: IIS includes features for content compression and caching for improved performance. The URL Rewrite module facilitates content redirection.
  • Database and Scripting Support: IIS provides connectivity to Microsoft SQL Server and other databases using ADO.NET. It also supports PHP and other scripting languages via FastCGI.
  • Email and Communication Services: IIS includes an SMTP feature for sending emails, making it suitable for web applications with email functionality.
  • Backup and Restoration: IIS includes features for backing up and restoring configuration settings.
  • Server Management and Customization: IIS provides a GUI for server management. Its modular architecture allows administrators to add or remove features according to their needs.
  • User Interface and Accessibility: IIS Manager offers a user-friendly interface. Command-line scripting is also available for managing the server.
  • Task Management and Automation: IIS includes a task scheduling feature that can be used to automate various tasks.
  • Support and Documentation: It has extensive documentation and community support. Commercial support is available through Microsoft.
  • Monitoring, Logging and Analytics: IIS includes features for real-time request and error logging. It can be integrated with Microsoft's monitoring tools for analytics.
  • Licensing and Cost: IIS is included with Windows Server and certain versions of Windows, so licensing costs are tied to the Windows license.
Official website: https://www.iis.net

Lighttpd

Lighttpd, pronounced as 'lighty', is a secure, fast, and flexible open-source web server optimized for high-performance environments. Its low memory footprint, small CPU load, and advanced feature set make it a suitable choice for servers suffering from load problems. It offers extensive features and flexibility through a modular design, with over 30 modules available for custom configurations.

Lighttpd web server
  • Best for:
    High performance needs, low-resource usage
  • Popularity:
    Used by notable high-traffic websites
  • Licence:
    Open source (BSD)

Key Features:

  • Performance and Load Handling: Lighttpd uses an event-driven architecture, which can handle a high number of parallel connections, suitable for high-traffic websites and web apps.
  • Scalability and Redundancy: Load balancing support with FastCGI, SCGI and HTTP proxy, and it provides an interface for adaptive media streaming.
  • Integration and Compatibility: It supports FastCGI, SCGI, Auth, Output-Compression, Output-Caching, URL-Rewriting and many more features that enable it to integrate well in various environments.
  • Security and Privacy: It includes access control features, SSL/TLS support, and can prevent common web attacks such as CSRF and XSS with the mod_secdownload module.

Additional Features:

  • Network and Protocol Support: Lighttpd supports HTTP/2 and WebSocket, and can also act as a reverse proxy server.
  • Content Management and Delivery: It offers modules like mod_alias for URL redirection, mod_compress for compression, and mod_staticfile for static file serving.
  • Database and Scripting Support: While Lighttpd doesn't support databases directly, it is compatible with applications built using various databases.
  • Email and Communication Services: Lighttpd doesn't provide native email or communication services but can be configured with other software for these services.
  • Backup and Restoration: Depends on the application used with Lighttpd, but typically file and data backup is managed at the application level or with system-level tools.
  • Server Management and Customization: Lighttpd's simple and straightforward configuration file syntax allows for extensive server customization.
  • User Interface and Accessibility: Primarily managed via the command line, with third-party tools available for GUI-based configuration.
  • Task Management and Automation: Doesn't include built-in task scheduling but can work in conjunction with system-level cron or similar services for task automation.
  • Support and Documentation: It comes with extensive documentation and is backed by an active community for support.
  • Monitoring, Logging and Analytics: Basic access and error logging capabilities are provided. For detailed analytics, integration with other logging and monitoring tools is required.
  • Licensing and Cost: Lighttpd is open-source software released under the revised BSD license, free for use.
Official website: https://www.lighttpd.net

OpenLiteSpeed

OpenLiteSpeed is a high-performance, lightweight, open-source HTTP server developed by LiteSpeed Technologies. It's recognized for its event-driven architecture, optimization for PHP, and advanced cache engine. OpenLiteSpeed supports HTTP/3, IPv4/IPv6, SNI, HTTP/2, and QUIC. Its web admin interface simplifies the configuration and management, making it a user-friendly choice for many users.

OpenLightSpeed web server
  • Best for:
    Content-heavy websites and PHP web applications
  • Popularity:
    Growing popularity among web hosting providers
  • Licence:
    Open source

Key Features:

  • Performance and Load Handling: OpenLiteSpeed uses an event-driven architecture similar to Nginx, allowing it to serve thousands of clients simultaneously with minimal memory usage.
  • Scalability and Redundancy: It supports Anti-DDoS features, bandwidth and request throttling, providing robustness and scalability.
  • Integration and Compatibility: OpenLiteSpeed features native support for PHP7 and also supports Ruby, Python, Node.js, and more. It works well with existing Linux software, such as cPanel and DirectAdmin.
  • Security and Privacy: Supports mod_security rules, IP level bandwidth and request throttling, per client connection and request throttling in concurrent connections and requests, to enhance server security.

Additional Features:

  • Network and Protocol Support: OpenLiteSpeed supports HTTP/3, IPv4/IPv6, SNI, HTTP/2, and QUIC.
  • Content Management and Delivery: It includes a built-in page cache module, reducing the need for an external caching layer and improving content delivery performance.
  • Database and Scripting Support: Supports a variety of scripting languages including PHP, Ruby, and Python. It doesn't interact with databases directly but works well with database-driven applications.
  • Email and Communication Services: While primarily a web server, it can work with external email servers when properly configured.
  • Backup and Restoration: It supports Apache style .htaccess configuration and its own context-level configurations, enabling sophisticated backup strategies.
  • Server Management and Customization: OpenLiteSpeed features a WebAdmin GUI for server configuration and management, adding convenience for less technical users.
  • User Interface and Accessibility: It includes a user-friendly web administration interface which simplifies server management and configuration.
  • Task Management and Automation: Supports LSAPI for process management and communication between the server and external applications, enabling automation of certain tasks.
  • Support and Documentation: OpenLiteSpeed has extensive online documentation and community support, and also commercial support options from LiteSpeed Technologies.
  • Monitoring, Logging and Analytics: Real-Time stats, graceful log rotation, piped logger support and more are available for server monitoring and management.
  • Licensing and Cost: OpenLiteSpeed is free to use and open source, released under the GNU General Public License, version 3.
Official website: https://openlitespeed.org

Caddy

Caddy is a modern, open-source web server written in Go. It's known for its simplicity and revolutionary features. It was the first web server to implement HTTP/2 by default and is a pioneer in using the ACME protocol to automate the management of TLS certificates. Caddy is robust, capable, and built for the modern web.

Caddy web server
  • Best for:
    Modern websites, especially those emphasizing security
  • Popularity:
    Growing rapidly
  • Licence:
    Open source

Key Features:

  • Performance and Load Handling: Caddy is built in Go and designed for speed. It performs efficiently under varying loads and handles requests asynchronously.
  • Scalability and Redundancy: Caddy supports clustering and failover mechanisms for increased redundancy and availability, essential for scaling web applications.
  • Integration and Compatibility: Caddy can be extended with plugins for more functionality and can serve applications written in any language.
  • Security and Privacy: It automates the provisioning of TLS certificates via Let's Encrypt, enforcing HTTPS by default for improved security.

Additional Features:

  • Network and Protocol Support: Caddy supports HTTP/1.1, HTTP/2, and HTTP/3 out of the box. It also supports WebSocket and FastCGI.
  • Content Management and Delivery: Caddy serves static files, can act as a reverse proxy, and supports on-the-fly gzip compression and headers customization.
  • Database and Scripting Support: It can interface with any backend service supporting HTTP/HTTPS.
  • Email and Communication Services: A SMTP plugin can be added to Caddy to handle email services.
  • Backup and Restoration: Can be handled by the underlying system or by relevant plugins.
  • Server Management and Customization: Caddy's configuration is done through a simple, flexible Caddyfile, and it can be dynamically configured through an API.
  • User Interface and Accessibility: Caddy is typically managed from the command line, but it also features an optional admin GUI.
  • Task Management and Automation: Caddy automates common tasks like TLS certificate renewal and can be easily extended with plugins to automate other tasks.
  • Support and Documentation: Caddy offers detailed online documentation and a supportive community. Commercial support options are available.
  • Monitoring, Logging and Analytics: It provides detailed logs and can be integrated with metrics services like Prometheus and Grafana.
  • Licensing and Cost: Caddy is free and open source. Its source code is available under the Apache 2.0 license.
Official website: https://caddyserver.com

Tengine

Tengine is an open-source web server originated by Taobao (Alibaba), the largest e-commerce website in Asia. It is based on the Nginx HTTP server and has evolved with many advanced features such as dynamic request throttling, improved load balancing, and advanced monitoring. Tengine has been proven very stable and efficient in many large-scale web applications including Taobao.com and Tmall.com.

Tengine web server
  • Best for:
    High traffic e-commerce websites and web apps
  • Popularity:
    Used by many large scale e-commerce websites in Asia
  • Licence:
    Open source

Key Features:

  • Performance and Load Handling: Tengine improves upon Nginx's already excellent performance and load handling by integrating cutting-edge features like Syslog support, dynamic request throttling to protect against traffic surges, and enhancements to the event model for even lower latency.
  • Scalability and Redundancy: It supports all Nginx features like proxying, caching, and load balancing and adds input body filter, output body filter, variable support in limit_rate, limit_rate_after, and more.
  • Integration and Compatibility: Tengine is fully compatible with Nginx, and integrates seamlessly with existing Nginx configurations. It supports AJP protocol, making it compatible with Apache Tomcat, Jetty, JBoss, etc.
  • Security and Privacy: Tengine adds security features to Nginx such as upstream keepalive connections, anti-CSRF tokens, and access control based on cookies.

Additional Features:

  • Network and Protocol Support: Tengine inherits Nginx's wide array of network protocol support and adds features like upstream request/response dump for easier debugging.
  • Content Management and Delivery: It supports all Nginx content management and delivery features, adding support for dynamic scripting languages using its Dynamic Module.
  • Database and Scripting Support: As a web server, Tengine doesn't directly support databases but is fully compatible with database-connected applications running on its server.
  • Email and Communication Services: Tengine carries over Nginx's email proxy server capabilities.
  • Backup and Restoration: Tengine doesn't directly handle backup and restoration but works with systems that do. As it is fully compatible with Nginx, it supports all backup/restore procedures applicable to Nginx.
  • Server Management and Customization: Tengine's configurations and server management options are similar to Nginx's with added enhancements.
  • User Interface and Accessibility: Tengine, like Nginx, is typically managed from the command line, but GUI tools for Nginx can be used due to its full compatibility.
  • Task Management and Automation: Tengine can work in conjunction with cron or other task scheduling services for task automation.
  • Support and Documentation: Tengine has extensive online documentation and community for support. Since it's fully compatible with Nginx, resources for Nginx are also helpful.
  • Monitoring, Logging and Analytics: Tengine provides access logs, error logs, and adds syslog support for more flexible logging.
  • Licensing and Cost: Tengine is open-source and free to use under the terms of a BSD-like license.
Official website: https://tengine.taobao.org

Hiawatha

Hiawatha is an open-source web server software known for its security, easy configuration, and lightweight operation. Originally developed by Hugo Leisink, Hiawatha is built with a strong focus on security and has been free from known vulnerabilities due to its advanced security features. It's also renowned for its efficiency and small memory footprint, making it a good choice for both large-scale and smaller server deployments.

Hiwatha web server
  • Best for:
    Secure and lightweight web hosting
  • Popularity:
    Adopted primarily in security-focused environments
  • Licence:
    Open source

Key Features:

  • Performance and Load Handling: Hiawatha employs a lightweight, event-driven architecture, enabling it to handle multiple client connections simultaneously with minimal resource consumption.
  • Scalability and Redundancy: Its small footprint makes it ideal for scalable deployments. The built-in reverse proxy feature can be used for load balancing, increasing its redundancy and reliability.
  • Integration and Compatibility: Hiawatha is compatible with FastCGI, allowing it to work with various server-side scripting languages such as PHP and Python. It can also be used with popular CMS systems like WordPress and Joomla.
  • Security and Privacy: Known for its security, Hiawatha offers protection against SQL injection, cross-site scripting (XSS), and CSRF. It also supports secure connections using SSL/TLS protocols.

Additional Features:

  • Network and Protocol Support: Hiawatha supports HTTP/2, IPv6 and lets you define binding on specific IP address and port.
  • Content Management and Delivery: It has URL rewriting capabilities, URL toolkit for fine-grained manipulation, and can perform automatic caching of static content.
  • Database and Scripting Support: While Hiawatha doesn't directly interact with databases, it is compatible with server-side languages which can interact with databases, such as PHP.
  • Email and Communication Services: Hiawatha doesn't offer email and other communication protocol services natively.
  • Backup and Restoration: Backup and restoration are typically handled at the application or operating system level, not directly by Hiawatha.
  • Server Management and Customization: Hiawatha's configuration files are easy to understand and modify, allowing for substantial server customization.
  • User Interface and Accessibility: Configuration is done via flat files, with command line being the primary mode of interaction.
  • Task Management and Automation: Task automation and scheduling can be achieved by coupling Hiawatha with Cron or other task scheduling tools.
  • Support and Documentation: Hiawatha's website offers comprehensive documentation and a community forum for support.
  • Monitoring, Logging and Analytics: Hiawatha has a built-in access and error logging mechanism and supports the Common Log Format (CLF).
  • Licensing and Cost: As open-source software, Hiawatha is free to use and modify under the GNU General Public License.

H2O

H2O is a high-performance HTTP server with a focus on latency. It is renowned for its efficiency and speed, capable of serving static and TLS traffic at high rates. The server supports HTTP/1.1, HTTP/2, and even offers experimental QUIC and HTTP/3 support. H2O also provides improved SSL performance by using session resumption methods and OCSP Stapling. It's especially suitable for environments where low latency and high performance are critical.

H20 web server
  • Best for:
    High performance, low latency applications
  • Popularity:
    Gaining popularity among tech giants
  • Licence:
    Open source

Key Features:

  • Performance and Load Handling: H2O leverages multi-threading and event-driven programming, allowing it to serve many connections concurrently and efficiently.
  • Scalability and Redundancy: The server uses scalable network I/O, supporting epoll, kqueue, and event ports, ensuring high scalability. Standalone and Reverse Proxy modes provide redundancy options.
  • Integration and Compatibility: H2O can integrate with FastCGI, reverse proxy, WebSockets, and MRuby for extensibility. It also supports TLS, HTTP/2, and QUIC for enhanced compatibility.
  • Security and Privacy: H2O supports TLS and offers OCSP Stapling out of the box. It provides efficient SSL performance with session resumption methods, safeguarding user privacy.

Additional Features:

  • Network and Protocol Support: H2O has native support for HTTP/1.1, HTTP/2 and some experimental ones like HTTP/3 and QUIC.
  • Content Management and Delivery: It uses features like server push and conditional GET for efficient content delivery.
  • Database and Scripting Support: While H2O doesn't directly support databases, it can integrate with various scripting engines like FastCGI and MRuby.
  • Email and Communication Services: H2O primarily serves as a high-performance web server, focusing less on email and communication services.
  • Backup and Restoration: H2O doesn't directly offer backup and restoration features. However, depending on the application used with H2O, appropriate measures can be implemented.
  • Server Management and Customization: H2O offers a JSON-based configuration format, providing fine-grained control and easier automation.
  • User Interface and Accessibility: H2O is typically managed from the command line. However, it does provide detailed error messages and logs for better accessibility.
  • Task Management and Automation: H2O allows for effective task management and automation through its JSON-based configuration format.
  • Support and Documentation: H2O has extensive online documentation and an active community for support.
  • Monitoring, Logging and Analytics: H2O provides detailed access logs, error logs, and supports integration with third-party monitoring tools.
  • Licensing and Cost: H2O is open-source and free to use under the MIT License.
Official website: https://h2o.examp1e.net

Cherokee

Cherokee is an open-source, high-performance web server software designed to be fast and fully functional. Developed by Alvaro Lopez Ortega, Cherokee offers an array of features such as support for HTTP/1.1, HTTPS, FastCGI, and SCGI protocols, making it a versatile option for various types of web development projects. It also stands out with its intuitive web-based administration interface, making server configuration and management user-friendly.

Cherokee web server
  • Best for:
    Small to medium-sized web applications
  • Popularity:
    A niche choice with growing popularity
  • Licence:
    Open source

Key Features:

  • Performance and Load Handling: Cherokee uses a fixed number of threads to handle requests which, combined with its epoll/kqueue support, enables it to handle many simultaneous connections with minimal memory footprint.
  • Scalability and Redundancy: It offers an advanced reverse HTTP proxy feature, allowing it to handle load balancing across multiple back-end servers for greater scalability.
  • Integration and Compatibility: Cherokee supports FastCGI, SCGI, PHP, uWSGI, SSI, and CGI, among others, ensuring wide-ranging compatibility with various web technologies.
  • Security and Privacy: Cherokee supports SSL/TLS for secure connections and offers access control based on client's IP address or geographical location.

Additional Features:

  • Network and Protocol Support: Cherokee offers support for HTTP/1.1, WebSocket, and also includes IPv6 support.
  • Content Management and Delivery: Cherokee's content management features include traffic shaping, URL rewriting, HTTP Ranges support, and custom error pages.
  • Database and Scripting Support: While Cherokee doesn't directly support databases, it provides excellent integration capabilities with applications that interface with various databases.
  • Email and Communication Services: Although Cherokee doesn't directly handle email protocols, it can be integrated with mail server software.
  • Backup and Restoration: Cherokee's configuration is stored in a single file, making it easy to back up and restore settings.
  • Server Management and Customization: Cherokee comes with a web-based interface called Cherokee-Admin for easy server management and configuration.
  • User Interface and Accessibility: Cherokee's standout feature is its intuitive web-based administration interface, making it more user-friendly compared to many other servers.
  • Task Management and Automation: Cherokee can work with system task schedulers for task automation.
  • Support and Documentation: Comprehensive documentation and community support forums are available for assistance.
  • Monitoring, Logging and Analytics: Cherokee offers detailed logging and can be integrated with external tools for server monitoring and analytics.
  • Licensing and Cost: Being open-source, Cherokee is free to use and modify under the terms of the GNU General Public License.
Official website: https://cherokee-project.com/

Abyss

Abyss Web Server is a compact and robust web server software produced by Aprelium Technologies. It's acclaimed for its ease of use, low resource consumption, and broad compatibility. With an intuitive web-based management interface, SSL/TLS support for secure connections, and advanced URL rewriting capabilities, Abyss is well-suited for delivering both static and dynamic content on various platforms.

Abyss web server
  • Best for:
    Small to medium websites, Personal blogs
  • Popularity:
    Adopted by a niche community
  • Licence:
    Both Free and Paid versions

Key Features:

  • Performance and Load Handling: Despite being compact, Abyss Web Server can handle a fair amount of load, making it suitable for personal and small business websites.
  • Scalability and Redundancy: Abyss is lightweight and efficient, and its scalability is determined by the capabilities of the underlying hardware and network infrastructure.
  • Integration and Compatibility: It supports FastCGI, ISAPI extensions, reverse proxying, and is compatible with a wide array of web technologies like CGI, PHP, Perl, Python, ASP.NET, etc.
  • Security and Privacy: Abyss provides robust security features, including SSL/TLS support, anti-hacking measures, and IP address-based access control.

Additional Features:

  • Network and Protocol Support: Abyss supports HTTP/1.1 and IPv6, and can also operate as a reverse proxy server.
  • Content Management and Delivery: It offers automatic anti-leeching and anti-hacking systems, and an efficient URL rewriting tool.
  • Database and Scripting Support: Abyss supports server-side scripts written in various languages, including PHP, Perl, Python, ASP.NET, etc. The database support is handled by the respective scripting languages.
  • Email and Communication Services: It doesn't provide native support for email services, but supports integration with scripts and tools that do.
  • Backup and Restoration: Abyss allows easy backup and restoration of its configuration by simply copying the 'abyss.conf' file.
  • Server Management and Customization: Abyss offers a secure web-based control panel, allowing remote management of server configuration.
  • User Interface and Accessibility: Its user-friendly web management interface ensures easy configuration and maintenance.
  • Task Management and Automation: While Abyss doesn't have built-in task scheduling, it can work with external task schedulers.
  • Support and Documentation: Detailed online documentation and community support are available. Paid version offers priority technical support.
  • Monitoring, Logging and Analytics: Features comprehensive logging options, including custom log format and automatic log rotation.
  • Licensing and Cost: Abyss Web Server is available in a free version and a more feature-rich X2 version that's commercially licensed.
Official website: https://aprelium.com/abyssws

Jetty

Jetty is an open-source, standards-based, full-featured web server implemented entirely in Java. It is designed to be lightweight, high-performance, and highly scalable, ideal for static and dynamic content. Developed and maintained by the Eclipse Foundation, Jetty is often used for machine to machine communication within larger software frameworks.

Jetty web server
  • Best for:
    Microservices, large-scale websites, and web applications
  • Popularity:
    Preferred by Java developers for its flexibility and efficiency
  • Licence:
    Open source (Apache License 2.0)

Key Features:

  • Performance and Load Handling: Jetty is known for its efficient, scalable, and flexible network and application behaviors. It supports HTTP/2 and HTTP/1.1 for high speed data transport and lower latency.
  • Scalability and Redundancy: Jetty has native support for clustering and session replication, which are crucial for maintaining high availability and scalability of web applications.
  • Integration and Compatibility: Jetty provides first-class support for Java Servlets, JSP, JMX, JNDI, JAAS, and many other integrations. It can also be embedded in devices, tools, frameworks, application servers, and clusters.
  • Security and Privacy: Jetty supports SSL/TLS for secure connections. It offers integrations with Java's built-in security features, and can be coupled with Spring Security for robust web application security.

Additional Features:

  • Network and Protocol Support: Jetty supports WebSocket for full-duplex communication between clients and servers, and SPDY protocol for reducing web page load latency.
  • Content Management and Delivery: Jetty includes features like content caching, GZIP compression, and fine-grained control over content serving for optimized content delivery.
  • Database and Scripting Support: Although Jetty is not a database server, it can easily integrate with a variety of databases through JDBC and Java's JNDI for serving dynamic web content.
  • Email and Communication Services: Jetty does not provide built-in email and communication services, but these can be implemented through the JavaMail API and similar services.
  • Backup and Restoration: Backup and restoration with Jetty are typically handled at the application or system level, not within the server itself.
  • Server Management and Customization: Jetty supports hot deployment and is easily customizable through XML, programmatic configurations, or via Java's Service Provider Interface.
  • User Interface and Accessibility: Jetty is generally configured via XML files or programmatically in Java, although a web-based administration interface is available through separate projects.
  • Task Management and Automation: Jetty integrates well with Java's built-in concurrency and scheduling features, and tools like Maven or Gradle can automate the build and deploy processes.
  • Support and Documentation: Jetty has a wealth of online documentation and a large, active community for support.
  • Monitoring, Logging and Analytics: Jetty supports Java's built-in logging features, and integrates with JMX for monitoring and management.
  • Licensing and Cost: Jetty is free and open-source software, available under the Apache License 2.0.
Official website: https://www.eclipse.org/jetty

Compare Web Servers

Can't decide? Here's a brief comparison table of the best web server software of 2024.

Server Best Used For Advantages Disadvantages
Apache Dynamic and static content websites Extensive module system, robustness, widespread use May consume considerable resources under heavy load
Nginx Handling static content, reverse proxying, load balancing Efficient event-driven architecture, robust caching capabilities Less intuitive configuration than Apache for some users
LiteSpeed High-traffic websites, serving static content High performance, HTTP/3 support, easy Apache replacement Free version has limited concurrent connections
Microsoft IIS Windows-based applications Great integration with .NET and other Microsoft technologies Not open source, less community support than some alternatives
Lighttpd High performance environments with memory constraints Low memory footprint, fast CGI support, event-driven design Not as feature-rich or widely used as some other servers
OpenLiteSpeed SMBs, WordPress hosting Free, high-performance, built-in anti-DDoS features Some configuration and compatibility limitations
Caddy Serving static sites, personal projects Simplicity, automatic HTTPS Not as mature or widely adopted as some alternatives
Tengine High concurrent traffic, serving static and dynamic content Developed by Alibaba, based on Nginx, support for multiple protocols Documentation is not as comprehensive as other servers
Hiawatha Security-conscious applications, websites Focus on security, simplicity, and performance Not as feature-rich or widely adopted as other servers
H2O HTTP/2 or HTTP/3 services HTTP/2 and HTTP/3 support, lightweight and fast Less mature and less community support than some alternatives
Cherokee Beginners to web server technology Easy to set up and configure, good performance Limited developer activity and community support
Abyss Web Server Small to medium-sized businesses Easy to use, supports secure connections Limited features compared to larger servers
Jetty Large-scale web applications, especially those using Java Lightweight, fully-integrates with the Java ecosystem Requires more Java knowledge to use effectively

Facts and Stats

The most fascinating facts and stats that illuminate the hidden world of web servers!

  • Dominant Players: Apache and Nginx dominated the web server market, powering over 65% of websites globally. Especially among high-traffic sites, Nginx had a strong presence, being used by over 47% of the top 10,000 websites.
  • Performance & Scalability: Known for their performance capabilities, Nginx claims to handle over 10,000 simultaneous connections with a low memory footprint, while LiteSpeed can serve thousands of clients concurrently with minimal memory consumption and CPU usage.
  • Growth and Adoption: Both Nginx and LiteSpeed have seen impressive growth since 2010, with an 900% increase in usage for Nginx and a massive 1800% growth for LiteSpeed. Meanwhile, OpenResty, based on Nginx, expanded its usage by 55% since 2018.
  • Apache's Longevity and Flexibility: With a history spanning more than 25 years, Apache HTTP Server boasts over 60 loadable modules, enabling it to handle a diverse range of tasks from URL rewriting to load balancing.
  • Microsoft and Windows Ecosystem: IIS, Microsoft's web server software, is used by approximately 7% of all active websites and dominates in the Windows server ecosystem, powering over 75% of Windows-run websites.
  • Innovation and Protocols: In terms of innovation, Caddy was the first web server to offer built-in support for the HTTP/3 protocol. On the other hand, Nginx is the most popular web server for Docker, showcasing its versatility.
  • Web Servers in Different Applications: Apache Tomcat is a popular choice for serving Java applications, and Node.js has become a preferred backend technology for real-time applications. Additionally, lightweight web servers are increasingly being utilized in over 10 billion Internet of Things devices.
  • Static Content and Speed: Nginx is renowned for efficiently serving static content, handling thousands of static web pages per second, while H2O has built a reputation for speed and lightness.
  • Security Measures and Concerns: Apache has patched hundreds of vulnerabilities over the years, reflecting its robust commitment to security. However, the issue remains critical across the board, with over 4000 vulnerabilities reported in various web server software in 2022 alone.
  • Support for Different Platforms: IIS dominates in the Windows server ecosystem, while Nginx is highly prevalent in the Docker platform, highlighting the importance of platform-specific compatibility in web server software.

Web Servers Explained

New to web server software? We've got you covered.

Web server software is a specialized type of software that is designed to serve files to other computers over the internet or a local network. These files are most often web pages in the form of HTML documents, along with their associated assets such as images, scripts, and stylesheets. However, web servers can serve any type of file, and they are used for a wide range of applications beyond just serving web pages.

Web server software listens for requests from clients (usually web browsers), processes these requests, and sends back the appropriate response, which is often a file, but can also be data from a database, a message indicating an error, or other information. In essence, the job of a web server is to facilitate the communication between clients and servers on the web.

Web servers are used to store, process, and deliver web pages to users. Whenever you're browsing the internet, every website you visit is hosted on a web server. When you type a URL into your browser's address bar or click on a link, your browser sends a request to the server where that website is hosted. The server processes this request and returns the requested page.

Beyond serving web pages, web servers are also used for a variety of other applications. They can be used to store and distribute files, to host APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) that mobile apps or other services can connect to, and to host databases and other types of data. They can also be used to run server-side scripts, which allow for dynamic websites that can change in response to user input.

Web servers operate based on a client-server model. The client, usually a web browser, sends a request to the server via HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol). This request can be for a specific file, such as an HTML document, or it can be a request to perform some action, like submitting a form. The server processes this request and sends back a response, which includes a status code and often a file or some data.

This response is then processed by the client. If the response includes an HTML document, the browser will parse this document and render it as a web page. If the response includes other types of data, the client will process this data in an appropriate way.

Web servers are able to handle multiple requests simultaneously, and they can also manage connections from multiple clients at the same time. They do this by spawning a new process or thread for each connection, which allows them to serve many clients concurrently.

Web servers are the backbone of the internet as we know it. They host the websites we visit, store the files we download, and provide the APIs that power many of the apps and services we use daily. Without web servers, there would be no World Wide Web.

Moreover, web servers play a crucial role in the delivery of dynamic content. While a static web page can be delivered to the client exactly as it is stored, a dynamic web page is generated in response to user input or other events. This dynamic generation of content is made possible by the server-side processing power of web servers.

Web server software comes with a variety of features, and the exact feature set can vary from one software to another. However, there are some key features that most web server software will have.

The first is the ability to serve static files. This is the most basic function of a web server, and it involves serving files as they are stored, without any processing or modification. Another key feature is the ability to run server-side scripts. This allows for the creation of dynamic web pages that can change in response to user input or other events.

Web server software also often includes features for handling security, such as SSL/TLS support for encrypted connections, and features for handling different types of media, such as streaming video. Other common features include load balancing capabilities, logging and analytics, and the ability to configure various settings such as default files, error pages, and URL rewriting rules.

There are many different web server software options available, but some of the most popular ones include Apache HTTP Server, Nginx, Microsoft's Internet Information Services (IIS), and LiteSpeed.

Apache and Nginx are both open-source software and are widely used across the internet. They are known for their robustness, flexibility, and wide range of features. IIS, on the other hand, is a proprietary server from Microsoft that is commonly used in Windows server environments. LiteSpeed is a commercial web server that is known for its speed and efficiency.

There are also many other web servers available, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. These include server software like OpenLiteSpeed, Lighttpd, Caddy, and many others.

At a high level, a web server can be broken down into three core components: the hardware, the operating system, and the server software.

1. Hardware is the physical machine or machines on which the server software runs. It could be a single computer or a network of computers. This hardware needs to have the necessary specifications to handle the demands of serving web content. This includes processing power, memory, storage space, and network connectivity. The hardware also requires a reliable power source and often needs to be located in a controlled environment to ensure its stability and reliability.

2. Operating system is the software that manages the hardware resources of the server and provides a platform for the server software to run on. Common operating systems for web servers include Linux distributions (like Ubuntu, CentOS, or Debian), Windows Server, and Unix-based systems such as BSD. The choice of OS can affect the performance, security, and compatibility of the server software and applications running on it.

3. Server software is the software that interprets HTTP requests and returns responses. Examples of server software include Apache, Nginx, IIS, and LiteSpeed. The server software listens for requests from clients (usually web browsers), processes these requests, and returns the appropriate responses. The server software can also run other applications, such as databases or content management systems, that are necessary for the functionality of the websites it serves.

Choosing the right web server software is crucial for the performance, reliability, and security of your website or application. Different web servers have different strengths and weaknesses, and the best choice will depend on your specific needs and circumstances.

For instance, some web servers are optimized for serving static content quickly and efficiently, making them a great choice for websites that serve a lot of images, videos, or other static files. Others are designed for dynamic content and can offer powerful scripting capabilities and database integration.

The right web server can also impact the security of your website or application. Features such as SSL/TLS support, firewall integration, and timely security updates can help protect your server and data from potential threats.

Moreover, different web servers come with different levels of support and community involvement. Some have large and active communities where you can get help and advice, while others offer commercial support options.

Server Selection

Find an ideal web server software for your exact needs.

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FAQ

  1. What purpose does a web server primarily serve?

    A web server's primary role is to render website content by storing, processing, and transmitting webpages to users through various protocols. The most common of these is the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP), although others such as the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) and File Transfer Protocol (FTP) are also supported. These protocols facilitate functions like email transfer and file management. Essentially, a web server acts as the bridge between a website and its user, delivering data across the internet to allow for seamless web browsing experiences.

  2. What is the operational process of a web server?

    The operational process of a web server commences when a user's browser sends a file request via HTTP. Upon receipt, the server uses an HTTP server, an integral component that comprehends HTTP and URLs, to retrieve the content and relay it back to the browser. The procedure involves the translation of URLs through a Domain Name System (DNS) or by referencing a cache. Consequently, the browser requests the specific file via an HTTP request, and the web server responds, either by presenting the requested page via HTTP or by displaying an error message if the process fails.

  3. What are the common applications of web servers?

    Web servers have a myriad of applications that enable efficient digital communication. They are instrumental in sending and receiving emails, processing requests for File Transfer Protocol (FTP) files, and designing and publishing webpages. Furthermore, they offer server-side scripting support, an advanced feature that employs scripts on a web server to personalize the client's response. Server-side scripting permits broad feature sets, including access to databases, by using scripting languages such as Active Server Pages (ASP), Hypertext Preprocessor (PHP), and others. This process enables the creation of dynamic HTML documents to deliver versatile web experiences.

  4. What differentiates a dynamic web server from a static one?

    Static and dynamic web servers primarily differ in content delivery. A static web server directly serves the hosted files to a browser without modification. In contrast, a dynamic web server, composed of a web server and additional software such as an application server and database, has the capability to update hosted files before their delivery to a browser. The application server modifies the content as per user request, and the web server generates content when the database requests it. This process, though more complex, adds a layer of flexibility to content rendering.

  5. What practices can enhance web server security?

    Enhancing web server security involves several measures. Implementing a reverse proxy can conceal an internal server and serve as an intermediary for traffic originating from it. Access restrictions, such as limiting the web host's access to infrastructure machines or utilizing Secure Socket Shell (SSH), can prevent unauthorized access. Regular patch updates can mitigate vulnerabilities, and network monitoring can detect unusual or unauthorized activity. Employing firewalls can scrutinize HTTP traffic, and incorporating Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) can help ensure data remains secure during transmission. Together, these methods form a comprehensive security approach for web servers.