What is Apache web server? Everything to know about the versatile Apache Server

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What is a web server?

We use so many websites and search solutions for our queries on them. We search our queries using different search engines which then suggest us different websites. In closer terms, a webserver is nothing but a collection of the number of websites together. The results which we see are HTML documents which include videos, text documents, videos and other documents. A web server process the input network over various protocols like HTTP. A web server is a kind of server which satisfy the needs of World Wide Web clients. The communication between a client and web server which occurs in seconds is done using Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP). Let us read about Apache Web Server.

What is the Apache Server?

What is Apache web server? Everything to know about the versatile Apache Server
What is Apache web server? Everything to know about the versatile Apache Server

One of the well-known servers is Apache commonly known as Apache HTTP server was developed almost 25 years ago, that is in 1995. The latest and stable release was launched on August 14, 2019, that is 4 years ago. It can work on operating systems like Unix-like, Microsoft windows and is written in C and XML. It was developed by Apache Software Foundation whose original author is Robert McCool. Apache software foundation is situated in the United States. Apache server is used worldwide due to speed, security and privacy it provides.   

Apache is the foundation of the World Wide Web and in today’s date, it is the first web server to which store more than 100 million websites. That is why Apache is mostly used web server software. It is open-source software and runs on 67% of all webservers in the world. In fact, vendors or hosting providers of CMS like WordPress use Apache as their web server software. Apache is highly adaptable and is easy to use. You can customize it in any way to meet your need and preferences using modules and extensions. Many popular companies like Adobe, Xerox, LinkedIn, Facebook, Cisco, Hewlett-Packard, Siemens, IBM, General Electric, Salesforce and many more famous and powerful companies use this famous and ultimate server. In fact, Apache powers almost 47% of the websites with already known server and it is proved by the fact that whenever you surf any website on browser, Apache is the most popular web server.

Apache server is not used to create any web site, it is just used to redirect network request to other applications. It is easy to use and not at all complex to operate. It is not only the most preferred server but is also suggested to the beginners due to its ease to use. Apache’s main work is to act as an intermediate between the multiple networks. It just works according to the request it achieves from TCP (Transmission Control Permission). The binary code used by Apache is known as httpd under win 32 (3) and UNIX. Apache server can run almost on every operating system such as LINUX, windows etc., thus it is a platform-independent server. Due to the addition of various modules and extensions, the Apache server has become the most powerful server among different web servers. Apache supports the following services:

What is Apache Web Server? What are Apache Web Server Services?

1.      Proxy services

These services act as an intermediate to provide the sources of information for the request of the network from the client. Proxy services provide additional benefits such as privacy, load balancing and security. Thus, a proxy server works from the side of the client requesting service from the resource server. 

2.      SSL and TLS

Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) and Transport Layer Security (TLS) are cryptographic protocols developed to provide intermediate security over a different network. It basically helps in securing the communication even in internet traffic of all types.

Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) was developed in the mid 1990s by Netscape, the company which developed the ultimate web browser of that time. SSL 3.0 is the most stable version out of all. Another SSL released after SSL 3.0 is considered and versions before SSL 3.0 had very serious flaws.

Transport Layer Security (TLS) was released by the Internet Engineering Task Force in 1999. It encrypts internet traffic of all types. You can identify that your browser is connected to TLS or not by checking the starting of URL. If the URL starts with “https” then surely your web browser is connected with TLS.

3.      Virtual hosting capabilities

Using virtual hosting you can handle multiple domain names with separate handling name on a single server. It is mostly used by those officials or individuals who do not want to buy or manage their personal web servers. Virtual hosting capabilities allow a server to share its information and resources without requiring the details of another hostname of the same domain.

4.      Custom made error messages

This configuration allows the administrator to insert the documents rather than default error messages. The Apache web server software allows you to control the error response that any user who visits your website will see. Instead of displaying error messages you can simply redirect the users on another location.

5.      Digital certificates

Digital certificate are like an electronic password use for assuring the person that the website they are browsing is secure or not. It is also known as a public-key certificate or identifying certificate. Certifying a website with the digital certificate is very important because it ensures end to end encryption of the communication. Thus maintain the privacy of the user.

6.      Password authentication

Password authentication is used to validate the user. It is authenticated by Point to Point Protocol to remote servers which support the password authentication protocol. The user simply supplies the password for each server so that the administrator can keep the entire server separate. Thus it keeps the servers safe so that they don’t get mixed with each other. 

7.      Compression to speed up web pages

Compression of web pages is the solution of the website not getting them lent into conventional technologies. The compression of web pages boosts up the speed of websites. It can be done on the basis of static and dynamic websites.

Various versions of Apache

Following are list of version Apache foundation have been releasing since the year of their first launch of apace version in the year 1998.

  1. Version 1.3 – The initial release was in the year 1998 and it was again stably released in 2010.
  2. Version 2.0 – The initial release was in the year 2002 and it was again stably released in 2013.
  3. Version 2.2 – Initial release was in the year 2005 and it was again stably released in 2017.
  4. Version 2.4 – The initial release was in the year 2012 and it was again stably released in 2019.

Why choose Apache web server?

Apache is among the most powerful server among various web servers. It is open-source software that is the facility and source code provided by Apache are free. Apache has developed given a lot of contribution in the improvement of the internet. The best thing about Apache web server is that it is a backend. Most of the web servers are front end thus making it difficult for the users to interact with web servers. That is why Apache is even suggested for the beginners too.  

Normally we call Apache a web server, but it is not a server physically. It is software that runs on a server. Since it is cross-platform software thus it works on both Windows and UNIX. Due to its ability to use additional modules and extensions, these modules give permission to administrators to switch on and off the additional functionalities. In fact, you can also set up your own server configuration with the help of .htaccess, an Apache configuration file supported by all hosting plans.   

Features of Apache Web Server

The common feature of the entire web server is that they simply accept request from users and then respond to it accordingly. But Apache server has many special features which make it the most powerful server among all the servers. Following are some of the features of the Apache web server:

  1. Apache supports IPv6:

IP version 6 is the latest version of the internet protocol is a successor to IP version 4. It is designed by IETF. Since its launching year in 1995, Apache is always been a reliable web server. Apache foundation has released a lot of updated version of Apache in previous years, thus increasing the security and privacy of the user. Apache 1.3 when was launched, it was already successful in establishing itself as a high-performance web server. With Apache version 2.0, Apache now also supports IPv6 too. Now it also comes with IPv6 listening sockets. It is already default setting in the Apache server.

  • Apache supports Hyper Transfer Protocol version 2 (HTTP/2)

Hyper Transfer Protocol version 2 (HTTP/2) is the ultimate upgrade of HTTP network protocol which is used World Wide Web. After HTTP 1.1, HTTP/2 is the new version. Since the launching year of Apache, the Apache foundation has released a number of updated versions of Apache thus not only increasing the security and privacy of the user but also increasing the number of modules Apache supports. Apache 2.4.17 module was actually renamed mod_http2. Hyper Transfer protocol version 2 was published as an IETF standard in RFC 7540 in the year 2015. If you want to use Hyper Transfer protocol version 2 then first you have to enable HTTPS because maximum of browser gives permission of using HTTP/2 only over HTTPS. Make sure that you are using Apache 2.4.17 and your browser actually supports HTTP/2.

  • Session tracking

Session Tracking is a procedure followed by servlets Java programs that work on a java-enabled web server to manage the situation of a series request by the same user. Servlets requested by clients are shared among sessions. Session tracking is simply a series of request from the same browser for some period of time. Mod-usertrack is an Apache module which is used for session tracking. Session tracking Apache is available in Apache HTTP server version 2.4 and is currently in extension state.

Many users use the same IP address and we cannot count how many they are. We also cannot determine what an individual is doing with that IP address. In fact, many users use the internet using NAT or proxy services that mean that a large number of users are using one single IP address. Also if you find out the individuals behind the single IP address you can never identify what activities these users are doing by visiting so many pages. That is why mod_usertrack or session tracking is used to solve this problem. Mod_usertrack is nothing but another module of the Apache web server. It uses cookies to track the activities of users. When a user is using a web browser and is visiting a page, he or she is sent a cookie which using a unique ID keep on tracking the activities of users until a limited time outreach.  ­

  • Bandwidth throttling or limit throttling in Apache

Internet is a facility which is used in every corner of the world. Uncountable numbers of IP address are used through browsing per day. It is obvious that there can be internet traffic which can thus effect on the facilities provided by the internet throughout the world. That is why major Internet Service Provider (ISP) intentionally slows down the speed of the internet to regulate internet traffic. It can affect the user’s activity. The rate of video streaming downloads, sharing files and other surfing activities can be affected due to bandwidth throttling.   

Bandwidth rate-limiting for clients in Apache server is compatible in Apache 2.4 version. Currently in extension state Apache’s module ratelimit_module is responsible for bandwidth throttling. Bandwidth throttling in Apache server is limited till HTTP response only and is not applied on IP/ client level. Thus, Apache can slow down the browsing speed using some of the directives. Before throttling the speed of the internet the users are provided with high-speed data of KiB. You can stimulate connection speed using the environment variable.

Why choose Apache when there exists the number of web servers.

Though Apache is used widely it also has many competitors. These rivals were developed for different purposes. Following are comparisons of different web servers with Apache.

Apache and Tomcat

Tomcat is another web server developed by Apache Software Foundation only. The original author was James Duncan Davidson. Tomcat was released by Apache software Foundation in 1999 almost 21 years ago. The stable release of tomcat was done almost 44 days ago on 12 December 2019. Tomcat though is part of Apache Software Foundation only but is not that stable and successful than Apache web server itself. Tomcat is written in java and is a servlet website it was basically written for java apps while Apache is an HTTP server but Tomcat has an HTTP connector tool which can be used to use it like HTTP server. It is one of the several open-source collaborations collectively called Jakarta. TOMCAT is less configurable in comparison to other web servers Apache is configurable friendly. Tomcat provides a rich Application program interface set, allowing the user to configure our application from the command line that is to start, stop, and deploy the command from the command line.

Tomcat is an extremely stable platform to build on and using it to build on and using it to run your application will contribute to your server stability. This server can also be integrated with eclipse software which can provide a large number of features for developers while working in large scale projects, usually taking few minutes of time to start a fully-fledged website allowing the client to allocate unnecessary elements of the system.

It has a variety of good documentation available, including a large number of online tutorials that can be viewed. Tomcat covers a wide variety of start-up settings, and security guides, instruction regarding installation or server configuration. Tomcat is a server let container it is a java class JSP files are embedded into java code which is then compiled to .class files by the server and executed by java machine.

On comparing both Apache and TOMCAT we get that both the webservers are developed by Apache foundation doesn’t mean they are similar to each other. Both the Apache server and TOMCAT are very different from each other.

  1. The use of both the webserver is different. TOMCAT is specifically developed for java applications like servlets, JSPs etc. you can serve web pages even with TOMCAT but it will give you a less efficient result and you will not be satisfied with the solution it suggests. TOMCAT, developed from Apache Jakarta Project is used to render web pages that use java server for loading page. TOMCAT is used to access a wide number of applications related to java across the internet. But Apache is not dependent on such servlets and is independent of it. It is a web-sever which is meant to load static web pages. Apache summing up with PHP, Python, Perl and other languages can give appropriate results. These languages in Apache use different modules such as mod_php, mod_python, mod_perl, etc.
  2. TOMCAT can also be used as a server for static web pages but it won’t give efficient results. For this purpose, the Apache web server will serve better because they are developed to load and server static pages. Whereas TOMCAT loads servlets related to java such as java virtual machine and other java related applications. TOMCAT provides pure java HTTP web results.
  3. TOMCAT can also be used on Apache web server. In this ultimate combination, Apache loads the static web pages and load other server-side functions. Apache mostly loads HTML web pages. Whereas TOMCAT serves java servlets mostly.

If you are using TOMCAT web server only, but then it just loads results only related to java applications.

  • TOMCAT is also less configurable than Apache web server and other servers like Nginx. It cannot run applications like Word press because such application need server which is strongly developed to serve for the HTTP server.

Therefore, Apache has too many leading points which put it ahead of web servers like TOMCAT and Nginx. Apache being the oldest server is still ahead of many servers released after it. Even though TOMCAT is developed by Apache foundation, users still choose Apache web server for browsing work.

Apache And Nginx

Nginx came into light in 2004 pronounced as Engine-X.

It is another web server which can also be used for proxy services, load balancer, HTTP cache and much more. It was developed by Igor Sysoev and was developed by Ngnix Inc. This web server was first released 15 years ago on 4 October 2004. The stable release was made in 2019 19 November. It was basically produced to tackle the problem of c10k which is related to handling a large number of clients at the same time connected to the server. It can work on operating systems like Linux, Windows, macOS, IBM AIX and BSD variants. The basic advantage of using Nginx is it creates a single thread for upcoming clients means it is event-based server and handles each request by engaging it in a single thread. If an enterprise needs to manage high traffic of clients Nginx is the best choice for them due to its client handling methodology. While in low traffic conditions on a server, APACHE is better in comparison to Nginx as it is customizable and has an easy to go experience for the beginners.

It is written in c and is not only known as a web server but also as the proxy server. Though Apache is already a web server Ngnix also give it a tough competition. Following are some ultimate advantages of Apache over Ngnix which describe why we should always go for Apache web server developed by Apache Foundation.

  1. If we compare the performance rate of both the webserver than we have to look for both the dynamic state and static state.

Static State:-Many statistics have shown that Ngnix is way faster than Apache in static content. Ngnix is almost 2.5 times faster than Apache. In fact, Ngnix in static content consumes less memory than Apache, almost 4% less memory is consumed by Ngnix in comparison to that of Apache. So if you want to work on static contents than you should probably choose Ngnix.

Dynamic state:-Many reports and comparison have proved that content served by Ngnix in the dynamic state is almost the same that served by Apache. Both of these web servers, when paired with PHP, set almost the same benchmark. The reason is both the webserver using the same PHP runtime environment rather than working on the core part of the web server.

  • Security is the main base of comparing any software. Both Apache and Ngnix have almost the same security level. But Ngnix web server however is smaller browser than Apache so that is where the security issue arises. In fact, Apache with the release of the constant update and new software of Apache web browser always increase the privacy and security in their software. For example Apache versions 2.2 and 2.4 have excellent security concerns. Apache also provide DDoS attack handling and also give additional benefits to its modules. The module mod evasive is made to respond to attacks on HTTP DoS and DDoS.
  • Both servers have their own complexity and flexibility to operate. Apache has a number of additional modules which in dynamic condition load for the longest time and therefore this is the same situation with all the Apache modules. But Ngnix doesn’t have any additional modules. Though in 2016 Ngnix got the back of dynamic support for module loading. Most of the modules in Ngnix do not even support this late loading or dynamic loading thus giving the lead to Apache in this concern.

Although core modularity is supported by both the web servers but still Apache web server is a bit more successful in this case because it is supported by a large number of additional modules. In fact, Ngnix doesn’t even support anything like Apache’s .htaccess file. Using this file one can overlap system-wide settings easily.

Therefore Apache being the oldest web server among so many web servers but is still on the top of the list. The additional extensions and modularity in Apache make it leads ahead of all the web servers existing.

Advantages of using Apache web server

  1. It is flexible in nature in comparison to other web servers.
  2. Using Apache web server multiple websites can be opened using the same server that is creating virtual hosts on the same server.
  3. Apache web server is regularly updated and maintained.
  4. Multiple operating systems can be host means it can run any operating system like Ubuntu, windows etc.
  5. Regular updating can be done in it means without restarting the server various updates can be installed.
  6. It is a highly reliable and better performer in comparison to other web servers with easy to install operation.
  7. It is available to all the users around the world means free to anyone no license is required to use it. Also, it can be modified to adjust the code and to fix the error occurred.
  8. Its ability to add more features and modules is advantageous for the users.
  9. A lot of documentation is available and the client can choose and can get help on multiple levels.
  10. Technical support is readily available around the world and suggestions or help can be taken Apache web servers.
  11. It serves better when to share secure content to a specific audience.
  12. It’s fast and successively uses fewer system resources, hence performance optimization is better if compared to others.

In an enterprise, the performance of a web server its reliability and efficiency is the primary point of concern. With its open-source architecture, it provides a balanced drift to business activities with global development and support with stability, fast and reliable web server.