Best Apache Hosting: Which Host Is Right For Your Site?

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What is Apache Hosting?

The Apache HTTP web server hardly needs an introduction. This highly configurable server platform is free and since it is open source, Apache it can be customized in a number of different ways. Apache also features a library full of add-ons that provide support for additional features. If you can't find quite what you need or want, you can alter it to your specifications. Tweaks can be shared among members of the Apache development community, which is a good place to start in case you need some custom features.

What makes Apache so popular

Community support for Apache remains strong, despite the advent of numerous competing solutions. Although Apache runs on Windows-, Mac-, Unix- and Linux-based servers, it is usually associated with Linux.

Apache supports a variety of technologies, including MySQL, PHP, and SSL. It also includes support for Common Gateway Interface (CGI), Server Side Includes (SSI), URL redirection, HTTP header metafiles, proxy caching and more.

The cross-platform compatibility means that no matter what operating system the server computer is running, Apache can still host your website with ease. Apache servers typically run more smoothly and more securely in comparison to other servers, so if security is a concern, Apache is a safe bet under many circumstances.

Many shared hosting plans offer Apache servers, as do many dedicated server plans, because it is a more cost-effective option compared to Microsoft Internet Information Services (IIS). Because of its flexibility and affordability, it is the most popular web server software available today.

However, in recent years Apache has lost ground to IIS and open-source competitors like Nginx. A few years ago Apache ran more than 60% of all web servers, but in early 2014 the share dropped to 42%.

While Apache still has a lot going for it, critics claim it has become bloated over the years, offering numerous advanced features that a lot of users simply do not find necessary. Apache’s process-based nature also means it creates a lot of thread overhead, as every simultaneous connection requires a separate thread. Some users find IIS more appealing thanks to its unparalleled .NET support.

Endless choice of Apache hosting options

Since Apache can run on virtually any platform, it can be deployed on numerous versions and custom variations, on practically any hardware platform on the market.

However, not all companies offering Apache hosting are created equally, as pricing may vary significantly from one host to another. Luckily, with so much choice, it is easy to shop around, compare features and pricing before you decide what will work best for your project.

Apache hosting plans tend to be somewhat cheaper than comparable Windows plans. Bear in mind that Apache is free, so most hosts pair it with free operating systems like Linux. The combination is known as LAMP, which stands for Linux Apache MySQL PHP. On the other hand, Windows hosting requires IIS, Microsoft SQL or ODBC and of course a Microsoft operating system. Hardware requirements may differ, too.

Most of the savings are transferred to the customer, making lean and frugal Apache hosting plans popular among small businesses and individual users. However, even these entry level Apache hosting plans offer a lot of functionality – they often suffice for sites built on popular platforms such as Wordpress, Drupal, phpBB and Joomla.

Three most common Apache hosting plan tiers

Although there is no industry standard and there are a range of different options, the most common plans and price tiers are shared Apache plans, virtual private server (VPS) plans and managed private server (MPS) plans.

The most affordable options are usually shared Apache plans, including cloud-based plans. They tend to offer basic functionality, cPanel, MySQL, PHP, POP email and other basic features and services.

More expensive and comprehensive VPS plans are designed for multi-site hosting and medium load sites. They usually include dedicated hardware, usually using a virtual private server model, multiple domain hosting, more storage and other features.

Top end Apache managed private servers are designed with more demanding clients in mind. They can handle a number of websites, or high load sites. Virtualisation is usually supported, many hosts now offer e-commerce functionality as well, along with more advanced features for niche users.

Needless to say, dedicated servers tend to end up pricey regardless of platform and in most cases the price gap between LAMP and Windows/IIS packages tends to be bigger on entry-level plans.

Apache Hosting Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is Apache?

    Apache is the most popular web server software in the world. It was first developed in 1995. Today, Apache serves over half of all of the websites in existence.

  • Who owns Apache?

    The Apache software is owned by the Apache Software Foundation, an American non-profit corporation. It's maintained by the members of the foundation, a group of developers. To join the Apache Software Foundation, a developer must have a history of actively contributing to one of the foundation's projects and be nominated by a current member and voted in by a majority.

  • Is Apache free?

    Yes. Apache is distributed as free and open-source software. The Apache Software Foundation's bylaws specifically state that Apache projects are to be distributed free of charge.

  • What operating systems can Apache be run on?

    Apache is most commonly used on Linux servers, but the software is also available for a variety of operating systems including Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X.

  • Which web hosting companies use Apache servers?

    Most web hosting plans that are Linux-based will run Apache servers, though Apache may not be specifically mentioned. You may want to double-check with your hosting company before purchasing a plan if you require Apache.

    For VPS or dedicated server hosting, depending on the web hosting company and the plan you purchase, you may be able to install Apache on your server yourself, or request it to be installed for you.

  • Why is Apache still the most common web server software?

    Despite other newer web server software applications, Apache remains the most popular on the web. It's a time-tested, vetted, secure system that's well-known and well-understood by many developers, making it the most common first choice for server configurations.

  • How does Apache compare to Nginx?

    Nginx is what is called an asynchronous server, while Apache is a process-based server. There are many differences in exactly how Apache and Nginx handle connections, interpret requests, extend via modules, and so on.

    Community support for Apache is more plentiful because the software has been in existence for many years.

  • How does Apache compare to Lighttpd?

    Lighttpd (pronounced "lighty") is a free and open-source asynchronous server that runs as a single process with a single thread, similar to Nginx. Lighttpd was first released in 2003, and like Nginx, tends to have have less community support than Apache.

  • What is a process-based server, and how does it compare to asynchronous?

    Process-based serving is a more traditional technology. With a process-based server, a new thread must be created to handle each HTTP request. Under heavy loads, this system can use a lot of RAM, and result in slower performance.

    With the newer asynchronous servers (also called event-based or asynchronous I/O), multiple HTTP requests can be handled within one thread, which uses less RAM and may process heavier loads more efficiently.

    The Apache Software Foundation notes that performance benchmarks tend to be a measure of configuration rather than the underlying quality of the server.

  • What kinds of modules are available for Apache?

    There are many modules available to extend Apache's functionality. Modules can be added to provide CGI ability, add options for user authentication, generate automatic directory listings, set bandwidth limits, stream flash video, enable specific programming languages, and much more.

  • Can I host my own website on my home computer using Apache?

    Yes, it is possible to host your own website at home using Apache software. However, running your own server at home can be a time-consuming task, and unless you're an expert, it can open up your website and entire computer to various security issues.

    If your goal is to save money on hosting, it's better to go with a low-cost web hosting company than to run your own server at home. For one thing, ISPs usually don't allow you to run public servers using residential connections.

  • What's the difference between Apache HTTP Server and Apache Tomcat?

    Apache HTTP Server is written in C and, as its name suggests, is a general-purpose HTTP server. Tomcat is written in Java, and its main purpose is to host servlets and JSPs. Tomcat can serve as an HTTP server for static content, but Apache HTTP Server offers many advanced options that Tomcat does not.

  • Where is Apache support available?

    The Apache Software Foundation maintains extensive documentation on Apache on its official website. Third party companies provide commercial support for Apache, but the foundation doesn't maintain a list of them or endorse any particular companies.

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