If you’ve looked into web development before, I guarantee you have heard of Apache. It is the most widely used web server software on the market by a wide margin. In fact, it has a market share of nearly 31%.
It has gained market dominance by offering users the most flexible environment to run a server. As such, it has become the go-to web server software that nearly every web hosting company offers.
Today, we will be discussing what exactly Apache is and what does it actually does.
What Is Apache?
Apache is a web server software that is responsible for accepting HTTP requests from visitors and sending them back the requested information in the form of web pages.
Or in simpler terms, it allows visitors to view content on your website.
Another way to look at it is that Apache is responsible for ensuring that the server your website is stored on can communicate with the device a visitor is using. It’s what connects the visitor hardware to your own.
Without web server software, your website will not work and it directly impacts the performance of your website.
What Is A Web Server?
Before I can explain how Apache actually works, it’s important to define what a web server is as it is an integral part of the process.
When most people think of a web server they imagine a physical system that houses all of the data your website uses. And this is completely accurate, when you sign up for a web hosting plan, you are actually renting one of these servers.
However, this is where is it gets tricky.
Generally speaking, Apache is the software that the webserver is running on, but when you look around the internet, a lot of people use the terms interchangeably.
Without Apache or another software, you can’t really call a web server a web server, it won’t work. It’s just hardware with no software running.
This is why Apache is often referred to as the Apache Web Server.
So when most people refer to a web server, they are referring to the software behind it.
How Does Apache Work?
Apache is the software running on the web server. The first step is for it to establish a connection between the server and web browsers. This allows users from those web browsers to send requests to the server, and Apache is responsible for handling this.
So for example, if a visitor clicks on your homepage from Google, their web browser is sending a request to that server to display the information. Apache accepts this request and then sends the necessary data from the server to the browser.
The end result is that the visitor gets to see the content on that web page.
This is just the basics of it. Apache has a host of features to take advantage of that come in the form of modules. These include key features like security and caching.
This is what gives the platform so much flexibility; it can be altered to fit into just about any web development environment.
Advantages of Apache
The internet is a huge place full of millions of websites that all have unique needs.
Apache can be used by so many websites because it provides a flexible closing environment that allows it to operate as needed. In truth, two Apache web servers could be very different from one another, and that’s necessary for websites to be unique.
Easy to Setup
For the most part, new websites are typically made by individuals with no web design experience.
As a result, the industry has gravitated into easier web development platforms that use as little code as possible, like WordPress. Apache is the perfect web server software for beginners. It’s easy to install and works out of the box for most CMS.
There is power in numbers, and when a community gets large, so do the helpful resources.
Apache is the most widely used web server software available, and as such, it has the most support available. Beginners can easily find answers to the questions they are looking for.
Many take this for granted, but trust me, if you use another web server, finding answers is much harder.
Disadvantages of Apache
Customization Can Lead to Security Vulnerability
While Flexibility is one of the biggest advantages of the software, there’s no denying that it is a double-edged sword.
Customizing various aspects of Apache gives you greater control over everything, but it can also open up security vulnerabilities. These modifications can create an open door for hackers to exploit.
More experienced web developers can avoid this, but the fact remains, it can be dangerous.
Apache Modules Are Hard to Recognize
There are a lot of modules that add specific features to your web server. Many are quite useful.
However, some of the features may be unnecessary or serve no purpose. It really depends on the website. In those cases, it can be troublesome to recognize which modules are necessary and which are not without being knowledgeable about the software.
This really depends on the individual, but the number of updates Apache may roll out can be…a lot.
In the grand scheme of things, this shouldn’t impact anything you do, but many people don’t like to update often. However, in the case of Apache, it’s really important. The updates often close security vulnerabilities that are found.
Not staying up-to-date can make your website vulnerable to hackers.
Does Apache Work With WordPress?
Yes, and right out of the box.
Most web hosting companies will default to Apache as the main web server software. Some may offer additional options, but due to the ease of use, popularity, and resources available, most WordPress sites stick with Apache.
It’s also worth noting that a lot of WordPress plugins are built with the assumption you are using Apache. These plugins will make that clear, but it’s something to be aware of.
Otherwise, those plugins could fail.
How Does Apache Perform Under High Traffic?
It’s no secret that when a website gets a lot of traffic, it starts to slow down, and the web server software is typically to blame.
In the case of Apache, every time a request is made, the software generates a new process to handle that new connection. This isn’t an issue for smaller websites, but when a lot of traffic occurs at the same time, you could generate hundreds or thousands of processes in seconds.
That’s when websites start to take a very long time to load. The good news is that there are workarounds, but they require reconfiguring Apache to handle it.
To be completely fair, just about every web server has the same problem, some just handle it differently.
If you are looking for a better alternative for a high-traffic site, Nginx gets better performance in this case.
How Do Other Web Server Softwares Compare to Apache?
Apache is not the only web server software available. You have a ton of options to consider.
In general, each web server software has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Thus, it really depends on what kind of website you run and how much traffic you receive.
However, the market share of Apache speaks volumes.
For those interested, some of the main competitors of Apache include:
- Microsoft IIS
Each of these has its own pros and cons just like apache. Just keep in mind that web hosting companies typically default to Apache. You have to request a different web server, and that is not available on a shared hosting plan.
Is It Really Free?
It may be hard to believe that the most popular web server software is actually free, but it really is.
However, it’s not that rare. In fact, you could go as far as to say that Apache forced other web server software to become free and open source. It’s very hard to compete against a free product that performs very well.
In this regard, it’s quite similar to WordPress.
How Does Apache Make Money?
Apache is a 501(c)3 charity, not a company.
Instead, it makes its money from donations from the millions of users it has, especially bigger corporations. And this money funds the development of the Apache software and multiple other projects they produce.
For those not familiar with the US tax system, donations made to a 501(c)3 charity are tax-deductible. Essentially, companies get to donate money and write it off and in turn benefit from the software produced.
It’s a win-win situation for everyone.
What Languages Does It Support?
Apache was written in C but supports a multitude of coding languages.
These include PHP, Python, Java, HTML, and more. As a whole, this is just scratching the surface. There are multiple third-party modules you can install to gain access to more languages.
It’s a big reason the platform is so widely used.
Apache Is A Great Piece of Web Server Software
A server running on Apache is a great choice for most websites. It’s easy to use, customizable, and has a vast library of resources for users to take advantage of. As a result, it is the best option for beginners, especially in WordPress.
That said, it is always good to be aware of the other options that exist. Depending on the nature and size of your website, another option may be better.
What web server software do you use and why? Do you think Apache is a good choice for beginners?