Apache Web Server

An Overview of the Apache Web Server

Businessman using computer in virtual server room
Getty Images/Colin Anderson

Apache HTTP Server (usually just called Apache) is generally recognized as the world's most popular HTTP web server. It's fast and secure, and runs over half of all web servers around the globe.

Apache is also free software, distributed by the Apache Software Foundation that promotes various free and open source advanced web technologies. The Apache web server provides a full range of features, including CGI, SSL, and virtual domains; it also supports plug-in modules for extensibility.

Although Apache was originally designed for Unix environments, almost all installations (over 90%) run on Linux. However, it's also available for other operating systems like Windows.

Note: Apache has another server called Apache Tomcat that's useful for Java Servlets.

What Is an HTTP Web Server?

A server, in general, is a remote computer that serves files to requesting clients. A web server, then, is the environment that a website runs in; or better yet, the computer the serves the website.

This is true no matter what the web server is delivering or how it's being delivered (HTML files for web pages, FTP files, etc.), nor the software that's used (e.g. Apache, HFS, FileZilla, nginx, lighttpd).

An HTTP web server is a web server that delivers content over HTTP, or the Hypertext Transfer Protocol, versus others like FTP. For example, when you go to Lifewire.com in your web browser, you're ultimately contacting the web server that hosts this website so that you can communicate with it to request web pages (which you've already done to see this page).

Why Use Apache HTTP Server?

There are a number of benefits to the Apache HTTP Server. The most notable might be that it's entirely free for both personal and commercial uses, so you don't have to ever worry about needing to pay for it; even small one-time fees are non-existent.

Apache is also a reliable software and is updated often since it's still actively maintained.

This is important when considering what web server to use; you want one that not only will continually provide new and better features but also something that will keep updating to provide security patches and vulnerability improvements.

While Apache is a free and updated product, it doesn't skimp on features. In fact, it's one of the most feature-filled HTTP web servers available, which is another reason it's so popular.

Modules are used to add more functions to the software; password authentication and digital certificates are supported; you can customize error messages; one Apache install can deliver multiple websites with its virtual hosting capabilities; proxy modules are available; it supports SSL and TLS; and GZIP compression to speed up web pages.

Here's a handful of other features seen in Apache:

What's more is that even though there are lots of features, you don't have to worry so much about how you'll learn to use all of them them. Apache is so widely used that answers have already been given (and posted online) to virtually any question you could ask.