In order to make your WordPress site live, you need a web server to host it. This technology enables web browsers request your site’s data and display it to visitors. However, it can be difficult to know what type of server can offer you the best performance for your website.
Every web server needs software to operate, and there are various options. NGINX and Apache rule the market, hosting over 60% of all web traffic. Most web server software has similar qualities; however, there are differences that can help you determine which one is the best choice for you.
In this article, we’ll discuss web server software and how it can impact your site. Then we’ll look at the main options available on the market, and talk about which ones offer the best performance for WordPress users. Let’s dive right in!
An Introduction to Web Server Software for WordPress
A web server is a computer that stores, transfers, and delivers website files. To run a live WordPress website, you need to host it on a web server.
Web server software uses HTTP to deliver user requests to access your website. This is what lets web browsers request your site’s data and display it in users’ browsers. The process is highly technical, but in a nutshell:
- An internet user tries to access your website by typing in its URL or clicking on a link.
- Their web browser sends a request to the server where your site is located.
- The web server software receives this request, collects the data required to display your site, and sends it along to the browser.
- The browser uses that data to construct and display the site to the user.
Web server software does other things as well, but this is its primary task. As you might expect, that makes it a crucial element influencing how your site functions.
How Web Server Software Affects Your Website’s Performance
Another element that can affect your WordPress site’s performance is your hosting plan. Your choice of hosting provider and the type of web server it uses to store your website plays a significant role in your website’s speed. Opting for a host that doesn’t offer a quality web server could mean sluggish load times, which tends to keep visitors away.
So when you’re vetting a web host, you’ll want to consider what web server software it uses. Some options are simply better optimized for WordPress sites than others. While the type of software doesn’t completely control your site’s performance, it can have a noticeable effect.
Two Common Web Server Software Options for WordPress
Although there are many web server software options available for WordPress users, two platforms rule the market. As we mentioned earlier, these are NGINX and Apache. Let’s take a look at each option, and compare what they have to offer.
NGINX came out in 2004, and was developed to fix what is known as the C10K problem, an issue servers experience when handling 10,000 or more connections. This software was created as a non-blocking and event-based architecture. Today, it remains the top web server on the internet, serving over 33 percent of all websites.
The main features of NGINX are:
- Ability to handle heavy loads: Even when websites have a lot of traffic, NGINX remains highly responsive.
- Lightweight design: NGINX doesn’t require as much memory or hardware as other web servers.
- Static content capacity: Websites that have a lot of static (unchanging) content run smoothly on NGINX when compared to other software.
- User-friendliness: NGINX is relatively easy to learn.
NGINX handles requests using a non-blocking event loop. This means that the software continuously checks for and processes requests, so it can manage heavier traffic.
Apache is older than NGINX. It was developed in in 1995, and is the second most-used web server software, serving approximately 31% of sites. Apache is overall user-friendly and easy to customize.
Some of Apache’s key features include:
- A large community: Apache’s community base is very active, with strong user collaboration.
- Flexible design: Apache makes customization easy because of its modular design.
- A powerful module loading system: Its module system prevents you from touching the main package when the server is updating.
Apache uses a forked solution to handle requests. This means it provides Multi-Processing Modules (MPMs) that determine how requests are handled. It’s also compatible with both Unix and Windows servers.
How to Choose the Right Server for Your WordPress Site
In most cases, you don’t get to directly choose what type of web server software will run your website. For most hosting plans, this will be pre-determined. Some VPS and dedicated hosting plans may enable you to pick your web server software, but these are typically expensive options that require a lot of technical know-how.
For most users, web server software simply affects what hosting provider and plan you select. Each provider’s choice of software will play a role in the potential speed, security, and performance of your website.
Overall, we think that NGINX is the best choice when it comes to web server software. It can handle more traffic than Apache, and is especially effective at managing concurrent connections.
While Apache is known to be more user-friendly, NGINX is speedier and more efficient. That makes it ideal for users who don’t intend to manage their server software personally, and just want something that will support a high-performance and stable website.
Of course, when choosing a hosting provider and plan, you’ll also want to consider:
- Primary features: It’s important to opt for a host with offerings that match up to your priorities. You may want to look for features such as security options, free migrations, and included themes and other tools.
- Reliability and uptime: Your provider should have a good reputation for keeping websites online and available. Its uptime should be as close to 100 percent as possible.
- Pricing: WordPress hosting starts at completely free, and can go up to several hundred dollars a month. How much you’re willing to spend on a monthly or yearly basis will play a big role in your decision.
- Backup options: Many hosts provide backup options in case your site gets hacked or a file becomes corrupted. Be sure to check for information regarding how often backups are created and how long they will be stored.
- Support: Having a 24/7 support team from your hosting provider can be invaluable when it comes to fixing bugs, troubleshooting, and getting quick answers to any questions you might have. It’s also crucial to choose a company that’s familiar with WordPress, so they can help you manage a site that’s optimized for the platform.
What you prioritize will depend on the type of site you’re building and your goals for it. Ultimately, you can create and run a high-performance site on just about any web server software, but a quality option like NGINX can help you get a head start.
Web server software plays a key role in making your website available to online visitors. The software your hosting company uses will therefore affect how your site performs, which can improve or hinder important metrics such as views, clicks, and conversions.
Apache and NGINX are by far the most popular options, and both provide stability, security, and speed. For most users who don’t plan to manage their servers directly, NGINX typically offers the best overall performance. However, keep in mind that web server software is just one element of a quality hosting provider and plan, and should be weighed alongside other considerations such as price, features, and support.
Do you have any questions about choosing the right web server software for your WordPress website? Let us know in the comments section below!