When website visitors connect to the server on which the website is stored, a piece of software called the ‘web server’ manages the connection and serves (sends) the web page back to the web browser which requested it.
The term ‘Web Server’ can also refer to the physical server or computer the website is hosted on. This can range from a IoT (Internet of Things) device such as a IP Camera with a web interface to a commercial web server hosting thousands of websites.
Common Web Server software include:
Apache HTTP Server
Launched in 1995 and open-source, Apache HTTP Server is the most widely used ‘web server’ on the internet since 1995. This is mostly due to its use being widely documented, very comprehensive feature set and it is straightforward to get setup.
Apache HTTP Server Project: https://httpd.apache.org
Microsoft Internet Information Services (IIS)
Included and exclusive to Windows Server, IIS is commonly used to host ‘ASP.NET’ applications and ‘ASP’ websites.
Windows-based hosting tends to be more expensive due to licencing costs however is very easy to use if you rely on GUI’s.
Microsoft ISS: https://www.iis.net
Designed with scalability in mind, Nginx is a lightweight web-server written by Igor Sysoev in 2004.
It uses an ‘event driven’ architecture which can handle multiple requests per process and is often far superior in performance when serving static content. It is commonly used in heavily optimised environments such as ‘reverse proxy servers’ where high traffic is anticipated or where server resources are a premium.
LiteSpeed Web Server
A drop-in replacement for ‘Apache HTTP Server’ which offers Commerical Support and heavily optimised event-driven architecture making it many times faster than ‘Apache HTTP Server’ while using fewer resources. LiteSpeed Web Server is very popular with web-hosting providers who can use these advantages to lower infrastructure costs and increase performance for customers.
LiteSpeed comes in both a limited free version for basic use, and paid plans for heavier commercial use.
cPanel by default uses the free ‘Apache HTTP Server’, but can be switched to LiteSpeed once licenced for additional functionality and performance. Nginx can be used as part of a Reverse Proxy in conjunction with Apache within cPanel, however this is not for the faint-hearted and should be heavily tested before the web-server is bought into production.