This article will present you with the three best free and reliable NGINX alternatives for your production Linux web servers.
According to Netcraft’s most recent data, as of June 2022, NGINX serves roughly one-third (30.71%) of all global Internet traffic. And there’s a reason behind that.
NGINX is a high-performance asynchronous web server that uses event-driven architecture to handle massive amounts of connections. It operates on a multi-process basis, with one master process spawning numerous worker processes to handle all network events.
Aside from its lightning-fast performance, its flexibility to function as a cache or reverse proxy makes it an obvious choice for millions of system administrators and developers. Furthermore, configuring it is pretty simple, and there is a wealth of information on the Internet about accomplishing everything with it.
However, despite NGINX’s undeniable qualities, several other web servers remain in its shadow. At the same time, without making bold claims that they are superior, we can clearly state that they do not fall short of the major benefits for which NGINX is famous – the speed and functionality provided.
This article will present you with the three best NGINX replacements that can serve your websites securely, reliably, and fast.
We placed Lighttpd on top because we believe it is the web server with which NGINX admins would be most comfortable. In addition, its overall administrative and configuration feel is comparable to that of NGINX, although it does not lack the primary advantages that NGINX provides – speed and functionality.
Lighttpd (pronounced “Lighty”) is a high-performance open-source web server with a very low memory footprint compared to other web servers. As its name suggests, it is incredibly light while offering fast speed.
Additionally, just like NGINX, Lighttpd serves requests asynchronously. In other words, it can manage multiple requests without slowing down your site.
One of the things I’m guessing readers are most interested in is its integration with PHP. And here’s the good news: Lighttpd provides an entirely straightforward and easy-to-implement integration with PHP via PHP-FPM (FastCGI Process Manager). This is precisely the way NGINX uses to make its PHP integration possible.
Let’s now look at the other two primary characteristics that set NGINX apart: reverse proxy and load balancer. Both are available and have a great Lighttpd implementation via the mod_proxy module. In fact, one of its most common use cases is as a reverse proxy.
Of course, the core Lighttpd functionality includes all other features such as caching, URL rewriting, redirects, etc.
In conclusion, if you want to replace NGINX with another web server, we strongly advise you to consider using Lighttpd. Our personal experience with it has been entirely positive, and we have never had a single issue with its functionality or security.
If we’ve already mentioned the term “fast” several times, it’s time to switch to “light speed.” And we’re not just saying that because it’s a play on the server’s name. The name here perfectly reflects the reality.
OpenLiteSpeed (OLS) is a high-performance, lightweight, open-source HTTP server that helps your website to load faster than ever before. It is a powerful, modular HTTP server and can handle hundreds of thousands of simultaneous connections with low resource usage.
Yes, both NGINX and Lighttpd are great fast web servers, but in our opinion and experience, nothing compares to the speed that OpenLiteSpeed can offer you. WPJohnny and WP Speed Matters have written a lot of good material on the subject that is well worth reading.
However, in the case of OpenLightSpeed, we are dealing with a different kind of beast than other commonly used web servers. Let us explain what we are referring to.
The main difference distinguishing OpenLightSpeed from the rest is that it offers all the functionality you need in a single package. Of course, we mean that you get a ready-made integration with PHP (albeit you must install the PHP packages separately), a ready-made caching module, HTTPS integration, and so on.
Furthermore, OpenLightSpeed has one significant advantage: a convenient and functional web-based interface covering all server administration and configuration tasks.
So, if you don’t feel comfortable using the command line, you can accomplish everything you need to set up the OpenLightSpeed server utilizing a mouse and a graphical interface.
This allows even intermediate Linux users to achieve outcomes that would be challenging for an experienced system administrator who would need to combine at least several technologies, for example, Hitch + Varnish + NGINX, to achieve comparable results.
Of course, OpenLightSpeed allows all of these actions to be performed in command-line mode, but as previously stated, that is not its primary focus.
We don’t rank OpenLightSpeed #1 as the best replacement for NGINX just because the all-in-one solutions don’t fit our old-school view of how things should work in Linux. But, of course, this is just our opinion.
It does not change our conviction that OpenLightSpeed is the fastest web server available, combining at the same time, besides speed, reliability, and security.
So, if you want to learn how to install and configure OpenLightSpeed on your Linux system, the following two guides will be pretty helpful:
- Install OpenLiteSpeed with PHP 8 on Rocky Linux 8 / AlmaLinux 8
- How to Install OpenLiteSpeed Web Server and PHP 8 on Ubuntu 20.04
The latest offering in our rankings may be dubbed as the “new kid on the block,” as it has only seven years of history compared to the transients, with its initial release in 2015.
Caddy is an open-source, cross-platform, HTTP/2-enabled web server written in Go, best known for its automatic HTTPS features. It is designed to be simple, easy to use, and secure. And as is typical with Go applications, the entire program is distributed as a single binary, which is available for Windows, Mac, Linux, and BSD and includes all of its dependencies.
By default, Caddy includes automated HTTPS provisioning and renewal through Let’s Encrypt. So, of the three web servers mentioned here as the best NGINX replacements, Caddy is the only one that includes this functionality out of the box, as well as automated HTTP traffic redirection to HTTPS.
Caddy is quite fast, with the ability to simultaneously process hundreds of requests per second. In addition, many well-known, high-traffic services (such as Netflix) employ Golang Net HTTP servers as the foundation for their services, just as Caddy does.
Just as is the case with NGINX and Lighttpd, Caddy can be integrated with PHP through PHP-FPM. On top of that, Caddy also can act as a reverse proxy and load balancer. So, as you can see, none of the features you’re used to are lacking here.
Caddy web server is famous for its ease of use, flexibility, and performance. However, everything focuses on the basic concept of simplicity in configuration and usage. In other words, its primary goal is to provide a simple server management experience that includes useful functionality by default.
However, to avoid confusion, it is worth mentioning the following. What is known today as Caddy is actually Caddy 2, which is a completely redesigned from the ground up implementation of the original Caddy web server.
The devs spent 14 months developing the solution in an entirely new architecture, building on five years of experience and feedback from the prior version.
In conclusion we can say that Caddy is a versatile, reliable, and user-friendly solution. However, while it may not be the greatest option for a large, complex website, it is worth considering if your business is small to medium-sized.
In other words, Caddy might be what you’re searching for if you need a lightweight, flexible web server for static web pages, web apps, or containers.
That concludes our roundup of the top three NGINX replacements worth considering. But now, however, we would like to clarify something.
As you may have noticed, the term “fast” appears many times in this article. This is because NGINX, Lighttpd, OpenLightSpeed, and Caddy are the fastest web servers.
However, when it comes to speed, their true potential comes to light only when a website generates, for example, a minimum of several hundred simultaneous requests per second. In other words, we’re talking about a pretty limited set of business sites.
So, if this is not your case, we recommend that you not base your choice solely on speed but on other factors such as applicability to your specific case, available features, etc.
We hope that this article has helped you choose a replacement for the NGINX web server and would appreciate hearing your pros and cons recommendations in the comments section below.