The Ultimate Web Servers List: 11 Popular Web Servers To Use Today
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This is the web server list you’ve been looking for – the guide discusses the most popular web servers and their advantages.
Picking the right web server software makes a big difference for your company. While the ultimate goal of a web server is to provide information to people visiting your website, there’s more to it than that. Some types of content do better with specific server software. Likewise, the operating system you choose to host your site makes a big difference in determining which items on this web server software list are going to work for you.
To do its job, your web server software must serve code and content to display a web page to site visitors, regardless of what web browser they’re using. This means that your site’s web server must conform to the latest standards. It needs to provide those pages quickly as it gathers requested information from a variety of sources on your network and elsewhere. In addition, the web server must provide a secure environment and it may be required to serve web-based applications.
Most of the items on this web servers list are open source and may be available for free, but not all are. Some of the most widely-used server software is only available commercially, but they all have their role to play in providing your business with the presence on the internet that you need. As we go through this web servers software list, see how each server can fit into your enterprise and what role they can play for you.
The web server names listed here are in alphabetical order, not in any order of preference.
The Apache web server is the most popular web server in the industry. It is developed by the Apache Software Foundation, it’s free and open source. Apache is available for nearly every major operating system including Linux, Unix, FreeBSD, macOS and Microsoft Windows. Because of its popularity and support by a broad developer community, Apache has a wide selection of add-on modules for everything from security to performance enhancements. While Apache is written in C, it supports a wide variety of development languages in its add-on modules. Apache supports HTTP/2 and IPv6 along with a number of important network features.
To get started with the Apache HTTP server, you can consult our extensive library of Apache guides and tutorials.
Apache Tomcat is an open source web server based on a Jakarta Servlet, which is an evolution of Java EE. It was originally developed by Sun Microsystems and is now part of the Apache Software Foundation. It’s normally used to run Java applications, but is often extended with modules to work as a traditional web server. Tomcat is typically used in large-scale enterprise applications. Tomcat is free and open source. It’s frequently used in conjunction with Apache or another web server, and can also work as a stand-alone web server. Like the Apache HTTP server, Tomcat runs on most widely used operating systems, including Linux, Unix, FreeBSD, macOS, and Microsoft Windows.
The Caddy web server is an open source and free web server developed by Matthew Holt. Caddy runs on Linux, Unix, FreeBSD, macOS, and Microsoft Windows. Caddy automatically uses secure communications with HTTPS and TLS being the defaults. According to Caddy, the server is easy to configure, fast to deploy, and it will run in a variety of environments, including in containers without modification. It’s written in the Go language. Caddy supports HTTP/2, IPv6, reverse proxy and load balancing. Caddy version 2 is now available, which the company says removes some previous limitations. To learn how to install Caddy, refer to our guides on the Caddy web server.
Eclipse Jetty is a free and open source HTTP server, HTTP client, and java servlet container that runs under Java and Jakarta. The server can be used on Linux, Unix, and Microsoft Windows and any other operating system that supports Java applications. Jetty is designed to handle large numbers of connections simultaneously while retaining a small footprint. Jetty can run in containers and on cloud services, and it can be embedded in other applications. Jetty is used as the web server component in other open source projects including Hadoop, OpenNMS, and Eucalyptus. There are several versions of Jetty depending on what version of Java or Jakarta you’re using. Jetty is hosted by the Eclipse Foundation.
H2O is an open source, free, high-performance HTTP, HTTP/2 and HTTP/3 web server. It’s written in C and designed to serve prioritized content. H2O provides secure communications using TLS, and it features private key protection. It also functions as a reverse proxy server. H2O and AT&T developed a feature store to support artificial intelligence and predictive operations. The H2O feature store automatically recommends new features and feature updates to improve performance. H2O takes advantage of modern browser functionality to reduce latency. H2O operates in a Linux environment.
The Hiawatha web server is designed specifically to be highly secure. It runs on Unix and most flavors of Linux. It runs in containers or in the cloud, as well as other virtualization environments. It’s an open source web server that’s available for free. It supports web applications and features security by default. It includes intrusion detection, cross-site scripting and it responds to denial of service attacks. It detects attacks such as SQL injection, and when it detects an attack, it automatically blocks the sender’s IP address. It supports TLS with perfect forward secrecy. One important feature is its easy configuration environment, which helps reduce errors that can lead to security issues. Hiawatha also features excellent performance, and it supports load-balancing. Hiawatha is a lightweight application and runs on older hardware or on embedded systems.
Internet Information Services(IIS) is Microsoft’s web server for Windows. It’s not open source, but it is included with Windows 10 and Windows Server 2019 and later, at no extra cost. IIS is the second most popular web server after Apache. If you’re already running Windows, then you have IIS available, and all that’s required is to turn it on. IIS is very secure and Microsoft provides good support, making this an excellent choice for setting up a first web server. IIS supports containers and HTTP Strict Transport Security and now has new management enhancements. Microsoft supports additional enhancements to IIS if they’re needed for specific applications. IIS supports HTTP/2, HTTPS, FTP and SMTP among several web standards. IIS supports ASP.NET and it includes a number of applications to build and administer web sites and web applications.
The Lighttpd web server (pronounced “lighty”) is part of the FreeBSD operating system, but it’s also available for Linux, Solaris, macOS, and Windows. It’s designed to be a lightweight web server that’s secure and very fast. Lighttpd is optimized for high performance environments. It has a small memory footprint, and is presented as a solution for servers suffering from load problems. Lighttpd is the software that powers a number of Web 2.0 sites where it’s highly scalable. This server is open source and free, and it’s supported by a developer community that plans its updates and changes well in advance. This means that you can see what’s coming down the line and be ready for it when the updates arrive. In addition, you can see planned deprecations in advance, and find alternatives to those features if you’re using them.
NGINX (pronounced “Engine X”) is considered by many to be a preferred alternative to Apache. It’s a free and open source web server with a wide variety of other capabilities including load balancing, mail proxy, and the ability to provide predictable performance under heavy loads. While the total number of web sites using NGINXis smaller than the number using IIS, NGINX appears on a greater number of large sites, and depending on how you count, it may be as many as Apache. NGINX runs on a number of high-profile sites including Microsoft and IBM, each of which have their own web server software. The server handles a large number of concurrent users using an event-driven approach that avoids multiple threading. NGINX handles secure communications with TLS/SSL and minimizes memory usage.
While NGINX is free and open source, there’s also a company of the same name that’s part of F5 as the F5 NGINX Application Platform, which is not free. However, the commercial version provides a number of enterprise level enhancements including security and scalability. Refer to our documentation library to learn how to install and configure an NGINX web server on Linux.
OpenLiteSpeed is the free and open source version of the enterprise LiteSpeed Web Server. The difference is that the enterprise version has commercial support versus community support for the open version. The enterprise version does have a free tier, but otherwise isn’t free. According to LiteSpeed, the OpenLiteSpeed version is best used for individual sites that don’t change often, because it requires a restart to reload a new
.htaccess file. However, it has unlimited worker processes. In addition, the open version does include the important security features of the enterprise version. The most important difference between the two is that the commercial version has full Apache compatibility and uses Apache configuration files.
Each item on this web server software list exists for a different purpose. Depending on which meets your needs, you still need to solve the other half of the web server equation, which is the hardware and infrastructure required to support the software. For some users, this could mean an existing server in your data center, but doing your own hosting comes with its own set of challenges, including managing traffic to your site, protecting against attacks and ensuring uptime for software that is a critical part of your business.
A better solution is to hand off the infrastructure part of the process to those with deep experience in providing a reliable environment such as Linode. This way you can focus on creating a web environment that meets your needs, without having to deal with the risk and expense of operating your own web server hardware. To make matters easier, many of the web servers in this list are already available with Linode, and can be enabled as needed.
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