What is Apache? A Detailed Guide For Beginners

Apache Web Server

Apache is open-source software. It is basically a web server and is quite popular across the globe, empowering more than 29% of all websites that are live on the Internet. The official name of Apache Web Server is Apache HTTP Server and Apache Software Foundation develops and maintains it. It is also one of the oldest web servers which are still alive and has not seen any decline in the level of popularity. Sources suggest that it is now the World’s second most popular webserver software and the lead is now taken by NGINX.

Apache HTTP Server Logo

It was initially released in 1995. It is a cross-platform software. In other words, it can work on different operating systems. The operating system on which it can work should be Unix-like or the Windows OS. As it is opensource software, therefore, it’s repository can be found on the following link.

What is a Web Server?

Before you better understand, Apache Web Server, you should first understand what exactly is a web server. As the name justifies itself, a web server is a software which is used to serve the web pages over the network. Therefore, the term web and server are used. For in-depth knowledge of a webserver, prefer reading it’s wiki here.

Web Server

There are file servers, mail servers, database servers, and web servers. For all of these, we require to install different software. Different types of servers utilize the different files present in the physical storage of your actual hardware server in different ways. Basically, the Web Server is a part of the server-client model, on which most of the applications of the Internet are based.

The process begins with the client. The client could be any computer requesting something from the server. So, basically, the client sends a request to the server for some content. The server analyzes the incoming request of the client and process it. After finding a valid request, the server responds with the content which the client has requested. This way, the communication of most of the websites over the Internet happens.

Whenever you type the URL of a website in the web browser, the request is gone to the web server corresponding to the domain name IP. Every web server on the Internet has got some IP addresses. Then the server responds with the website content, back to the client. Now, the content could be further some static content that was already stored on the server and is simply fetched and sent to the client. It could also be some dynamic content, which is being generated by the webserver on the demand of the client using the processing power of the server using any of the serverside scripting languages. PHP and Python are examples of server-side languages.

Working of Apache Web Server

Don’t get confused with the word server. The server term often means, something physical, but actually, we’re talking about the software type server. As we’ve already discussed in the above section about the client-server model on which most of the web servers works and Apache Web Server also works the same way.

Apache established the connection between the server and the client. Web Browsers are termed as clients in such communication over the HTTP protocol. Apache has the flexibility of customizations as it supports different types of modules for a number of different features. Modules basically bring in the different functionalities to your Apache Web Server.

You can install modules, for purposes like caching, authentication, security, rewriting of the URLs, etc. The index of different modules is provided on the official website. There’s .htaccess file, which is usually present in the root of the Apache Web Server. It is used for making configurations to your web server and several other different tasks.

You can install Apache Server on your own system locally and can have a better idea of its working. I’ve recently shared a tutorial on Installing WordPress locally on your computer, in which I demonstrated the process using a XAMMP stack that comes with Apache Web Server pre-installed.

Pros and Cons of Apache Web Server

Every software has some pros and cons, so are for Apache HTTP Server as well. The NGINX web server has recently started to gain more popularity than Apache and the reason is it is overcoming one of the biggest con that is being faced if using Apache Web Server. So, let’s find out the advantages and disadvantages of this software.Pros Of Apache Web Server

Pros

  • Opensource software and you can use it for commercial purposes as well.
  • Runs on different platforms and operating systems
  • Easy to set up and configure (Beginners can get started quickly with it)
  • Most of the Stacks like XAMPP and WAMP let you install Apache quickly without any technicalities with the simple setup wizard.
  • It allows adding more features with different modules.
  • Great for hosting WordPress websites.
  • Updated regularly as well as Security Patches are provided regularly

Cons

  • For heavy traffic websites, when the server has to generate thousands of connections at once, the Apache Server faces performance issues. (This is the major disadvantage of Apache, overcomes by NGINX)Apache HTTP Server Cons
  • Although, security patches are provided regularly but doing lots of customizations can result in loopholes or security vulnerabilities.

Comparison of Apache and Other Popular Web Servers

NGINX, pronounced as “Engine-X” and Apache TomCat are two popular alternatives of Apache Web Server and hence, we’ve compared them with Apache Web Server below.

NGINX vs Apache

Apache Vs NGINX

NGINX was released in 2004, almost 9 years after the initial release of the Apache Web Server. As we discussed earlier, it has overcome one main disadvantage of the Apache Server, which is handling a huge number of connections at the same time without degrading the overall performance of the physical server. There’s a problem termed as the C10k problem by Dan Kegel in 1999. It is a problem of serving 10,000 connections at the same time. NGINX was created to solve this problem as well. Basically, it is the problem of doing optimizations so as to handle a large number of connections or clients at the same time.

NGINX has got better architecture for request handling procedures than the Apache HTTP Server.

NGINX is used by some of the most popular web-based applications and services, which have to server huge data to thousands of clients at the same time. Two such popular services are Netflix, serving video content to millions of users every day and Pinterest, server millions of pictures on their website.

But Apache is better when you have to manage everything at not so large scale. Therefore, Apache is good for small businesses and websites with medium traffic. As mentioned earlier, Apache also has a positive side when it comes to ease of configuration, use for beginners and fewer complications. Apache’s approach of modules also makes ahead of NGINX for doing customization as per requirements.

Apache Tomcat Vs Apache

Apache Vs Tomcat

Tomcat is also offered by Apache. Tomcat is basically for serving web applications developed in Java Technologies. These include JavaServer Pages (JSP), Java Servlets, Java WebSocket Technology, and Java Expression Languages. Java is one of the most popular programming languages and therefore Apache Tomcat does the job of serving web applications written using Java.

Apache Web Server is generic and can be used for serving web applications written in different programming languages. On the other hand, Apache Tomcat is specifically for Java-related web applications. Therefore, comparing these two won’t make much sense.

Apache Tomcat has the ability to host static HTML webpages as well. But why to do so? When you can do it better simply with Apache Web Server. One more reason not to host static HTML sites with Apache Tomcat is that, as it is Java oriented, so it automatically pre-loads a lot of Java Stuff required to run Java Web Applications. For static HTML sites, they are useless and hence have performance issues.

When it comes to freedom of configurations and customizations, Apache Web Server is simply ahead of Apache Tomcat.

Conclusion

Consequently, the Apache server is a really good server software and beginners who don’t want to face many complexities in hosting their website on any of the platforms like Shared, VPS or Dedicated Hosting, you can go with Apache HTTP Server without any doubts. It’s just when you have to serve thousands of users at the same time as if you’re running a huge traffic website, then somehow, it’s alternatives like the NGINX web server is simply better at management. Apache is quite easy to use and set up than other web server software. I personally found configuring the things in Apache using the .htaccess file way easier than making .conf file on an NGINX web server.

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