Nowadays, many website operators have quite high performance and speed expectations. They want ever-larger volumes of data to be processed and content to be loaded in a fraction of a second. But all of this very much depends on how powerful the web server being used is. Nginx is a web server that’s specifically designed to overcome these challenges, and Hostpoint customers can now also use it with shared Smart and Business web hosting services.
But what is Nginx? And how does this particular web server differ from the Apache web servers previously (and still) used in shared hosting?
From a problem-solver to the market leader
Nginx is pronounced “engine-ex” and describes web server software that was originally developed by Igor Sysoev, a Kazakh software developer, and was first published in 2004. Nginx has been owned by the network technology provider F5 since 2019.
For a long time, the Apache Software Foundation web server, published for the first time in 1995, was considered to be the web server standard. Even at Hostpoint, we’ve always used Apache web servers in our web hosting services. Its modular structure, fantastic flexibility, and sheer versatility allowed the Apache web server to hold a clearly dominant position on the market for a long time. But by focusing on individual strengths, other web servers succeeded in snatching market shares away from the industry leader over the years.
And this is where Nginx managed to catch up. According to various surveys conducted by the two highly regarded market analysts W3Techs and Netcraft, Nginx is only just behind Apache – or ahead, even, depending on your point of view. While Apache is still just ahead of Nginx according to W3Techs, holding a 35.6% market share compared to Nginx’s 32.5% (as of December 2020), Netcraft’s statistics have Nginx ahead at present, holding a 33.7% market share compared to Apache’s 26.8% (as of November 2020). According to W3Techs, Nginx is even the clear leader among the top 1,000 websites worldwide (measured in terms of visitor numbers). Here, Nginx comes in at an impressive 46.2% compared to Apache’s 14.0% (as of December 2020).
Clever caching improves performance
But why is this the case? What exactly makes Nginx web servers so attractive, especially for well-known websites that have high visitor numbers, such as wordpress.com, bbc.co.uk, microsoft.com or netflix.com?
Nginx is set apart by the sheer simplicity of its software architecture. The web server was developed with the clear intention of being able to bypass a very high number of simultaneous requests. This focus on performance optimization still characterizes the Nginx web server today. The key advantage of Nginx is clever caching, which is why it’s particularly (but not exclusively) suited to websites that have particularly high traffic. It’s exactly this high performance and delivery speed that sets Nginx apart from other web server technologies.
In addition to performance, the modular software architecture and the fact that Nginx can be used flexibly as a “reverse proxy” are also often cited as advantages. But both web servers – Nginx and Apache – have their own advantages and disadvantages, hence why it might make sense to use a combination of both web servers. Nginx’s performance perks, gained through clever caching, can be easily combined with the Apache web server, since the latter’s advantages lie in its flexibility and compatibility with many content management systems. Apache can therefore be primarily used as a back-end server, and Nginx as a reverse proxy for front-end requests.
Finally, there’s another advantage that shouldn’t be underestimated. Thanks to extremely fast loading times, using an Nginx web server on your own website can also help with search engine optimization (SEO) – a factor that is incredibly important for many website operators today.
Nginx and Apache can be used in parallel in shared hosting too
Nginx isn’t completely new territory for Hostpoint. Since 2019 and the launch of our Managed Flex Server, customers have benefited from the performance perks and configuration options of the Nginx web server.
Hostpoint is now also giving shared hosting customers the option of using Nginx and Apache web servers specifically in parallel operation within a web hosting account. Customers don’t have to choose one web server for all their hosting needs; instead, they have the option of choosing one of the two web servers for each website. Various settings are available for both web servers in the Hostpoint Control Panel. They are easy to understand, so customers can make changes themselves without requiring extensive technical knowledge to do so. For more information about using caching with Nginx, please visit our Support Center.
All Smart and Business web hosting customers can change the settings for using Nginx in the Hostpoint Control Panel and get started right away. Standard web hosting customers have the option of upgrading to Smart web hosting, for instance, for just CHF 2.00 extra per month. Upgrading is even possible in the Hostpoint Control Panel. Anyone who isn’t a Hostpoint web hosting customer yet can make the most of the free, no-obligation 30-day trial of Nginx and Apache in parallel!