When talking about high-performance alternatives to the Apache web server, two names are most often seen as alternatives:
The former – NGINX – is an open-source alternative to Apache that boasts an event-driven architecture, is used by many web hosts looking to add extra features to their service. LiteSpeed on the other hand uses a paid license. It has an open-source version, but that comes with several limitations. NameHero uses LiteSpeed on all its hosting plans – one of the few web hosts to do so.
And here is why I think LiteSpeed is better than NGINX – both of which are alternatives to Apache.
1. LiteSpeed has In-Built Caching (Dynamic AND Static)
One of the biggest benefits of LiteSpeed is that it has in-built support for server-side caching. When running a dynamic website like WordPress, one of the biggest (if not THE biggest) improvements to speed you can make, is to store the HTML of the generated page and serve that to subsequent visitors, so that the server doesn’t need to do the same work over and over. Several WordPress plugins handle this caching on an application level. W3 Total Cache is my favorite example.
However, application-level caching is slow. Even better if it were handled on the server itself. And this is what LiteSpeed does. You still need to install a plugin on your site to coordinate with the backend server, but all the heavy lifting and caching are done by LiteSpeed – not by the WordPress application. This generates a massive speed boost to any WordPress site.
This makes LiteSpeed caching vastly superior to plugin-based caching. NGINX too can cache files like this, but you need to configure it manually. It doesn’t work out of the box. This adds to maintenance issues, and you need to learn an entirely new syntax and architecture.
Static File Caching is Enabled as Well
As useful as dynamic caching is, LiteSpeed also handles the caching of static files by default. This improves the response of your server when an external service like a search engine is requesting dozens or even hundreds of static files like images in quick succession. Like LiteSpeed, NGINX also allows for the caching of static resources, but once again, it needs to be explicitly configured.
2. LiteSpeed is a Drop-In Replacement for Apache – NGINX Isn’t
Most people start off using Apache as a web server. Its syntax and configuration are well-known. When you move to NGINX however, you need to learn an entirely new configuration and architecture. The configuration files are different, and you have to relearn the whole paradigm.
LiteSpeed on the other hand is a drop-in replacement for Apache, which means it can read Apache configuration files like httpd.conf and .htaccess. So when making the transition, you won’t have to make any changes to your existing architecture or learn a new syntax. The entire process is transparent.
This makes LiteSpeed very attractive for those looking to migrate away from Apache. The ease of maintenance isn’t something to be glossed over. In fact, for many individuals like me, it’s a key factor when deciding whether or not to embrace a certain technology.
3. No Need to Run a Reverse-Proxy
One of the most popular uses for NGINX is that you run it as a reverse proxy to Apache. That way, you can keep your .htaccess files and other configuration settings, but add a layer of NGINX for caching and other benefits. This is a great system, when it works, and is one of the benefits of using a reverse proxy.
Unfortunately, this ends up complicating your server stack and can lead to any number of maintenance issues in the future. As a general rule of thumb, it’s better to have a simpler architecture than a complicated one. And with LiteSpeed, you don’t need to use a reverse proxy to get the benefits of server-side caching with an Apache configuration, but with NGINX, you do.
And these are some of the reasons why, if given a choice, I would prefer to use LiteSpeed over NGINX – either as a standalone server or as a proxy. And that’s what makes NameHero so cool!
I’m a NameHero team member, and an expert on WordPress and web hosting. I’ve been in this industry since 2008. I’ve also developed apps on Android and have written extensive tutorials on managing Linux servers. You can contact me on my website WP-Tweaks.com!