Comparison between IIS and Apache and NGINX or do we need combination of it?

Technology , Posted by on 2019/04/07 0     Comments

The internet has helped the process of making high end applications easily available for business organisations who have in turn developed custom made software for their customers. In this entire process there is an element which plays a very vital role in making efficient and effective web based applications. This behind the scenes player is a web server which has a very important role in deciding the manner in which web pages show up at your device.

What is a web server?

In the earlier days, one could have defined a web server as a server which can run a website by returning HTML files over an HTTP connection. But with complex applications coming into the picture, the definition of a web server has changed and presently, one can define a web server as any internet server which responds to HTTP requests and delivers contents and services.

Popular web servers:

Presently, three web servers are the dominant forces in the web server market, namely:

  • Apache.
  • NGINX.
  • Microsoft IIS

This infographic will shed some light on the usage statistics of web servers for websites.

As is very evident Apache, NGINX and IIS leads the pack.

1. Apache web server:

Apache is an open source web server which was developed and maintained by a group of developers under the umbrella of the Apache Software Foundation. It is a result of the collaborative efforts which was aimed at creating a robust and secure commercial grade web server which adhered to all the HTTP standards. It has been the market leader since it entered the web server market in 1995 and remains the web server of choice for its ability to function across multiple platforms.

You might be knowing that Apache is equally efficient on almost every operating system but finds can be found to be in maximum use when combined with Linux.

Advantages of Apache:

  • As it open source, so there are no licensing fees.
  • It is flexible, meaning that you can choose the modules you want.
  • Has a high level of security.
  • Strong user community to provide backend support.
  • Runs equally well on UNIX, Linux, MacOS, Windows.

Disadvantage of Apache:

  • It is a process based server, hence has the scope of having an overhead because of thread characteristics.

2. NGINX web server:

NGINX is a robust web server which was developed by Russian developer Igor Sysoev. It is a free open-source HTTP server which can be used as a mail proxy, reverse proxy server when required. Most importantly, it can take care of a huge number of concurrent users with minimal resources in an efficient manner. NGINX, is particularly of great help when the situation of handling massive web traffic arises.

You shall like NGINX if you are on the lookout for a web server which has a lightweight architecture and is highly efficient. This is probably the only web server which can handle huge traffic with very limited hardware resources. It might surprise you to know that NGINX acts as a sort of shock absorber which protects Apache servers when faced with security vulnerabilities and sudden traffic spikes.

Advantages of NGINX:

  • Open source.
  • A high speed web server which can be used as a reverse-proxy server.
  • Can be used better in a virtual private server environment.

Disadvantage of NGINX:

  • Has less support from developer community and documentation as compared to Apache.

3. IIS web server:

The IIS web server comes from the Microsoft stable and runs only on the Microsoft Windows operating system. It is actually not free, since it comes as a part of the Windows operating system. You might feel comfortable with IIS if you have already used the Windows OS ecosystem and that is the advantage IIS has as a lot of people have been using Windows for quite some time. It also comes with the support of the .NET framework which was released by Microsoft and support services for IIS are provided directly by Microsoft, which is in itself a huge bonus.

Advantages of IIS:

  • Has the support of Microsoft.
  • You can have access to the .NET framework along with ASPX scripts.
  • Can be easily integrated with other Microsoft services like ASP, MS SQL etc.

Disadvantage of IIS:

  • Is not as much customisable like open-source web servers, so you might face an issue there.

Which web server should you opt for?

Well, by now you have already had a look at the advantages and characteristics of each web server. The usage will actually depend on the platform on which you are running the application and also the main services which you are looking for in your web server. If you are looking for open source systems, then you can go for Apache or NGINX. If your application is running on the Windows environment it definitely makes sense to go for IIS.

Best case scenario:

From our own first hand experience, we prefer to use a combination of Apache and NGINX in order to get the best value for our applications. The common configuration is to place NGINX in front of Apache as a reverse proxy. This allows NGINX to handle all client requests. This scenario actually takes the advantage of the fast processing speed of NGINX and its ability to handle a huge number of concurrent connections.

In case of static content, the files shall be very quickly and directly served at client end. In case of dynamic content, Apache receives the proxy request from NGINX which then processes the result and returns the rendered page. After this, NGINX passes the content back to client.

The reason for which developers prefer using this combination is that it allows NGINX to function as a type of sorting machine. It handles all the requests which it can handle and passes on those which lies beyond its ability to take care of.


Well, by now you have a complete picture of the leading web servers in the market and the manner in which you can use them in order to extract the maximum from their capabilities. It shall be best if you choose the one which fits best as per your business requirement.

Lastly, we have successfully designed and developed online properties for our clients which have gone on to become success stories of their own. During this process we had to acquaint ourselves and use Apache, NGINX and IIS as per the business requirements of the client. So, if you happen to have any such requirements for which you need our expertise in this area, please feel free to get in touch with us for a FREE CONSULTATION.

Also, do have a look at this blogpost which mentions in details the manner in which you can hire us for your specific requirements.

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