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LiteSpeed vs Apache – What’s best for you?

It’s a classic tale of the Reigning Champion vs the New Comer.

Every Linux web server comes pre-installed with Apache. Unless you really dig in and look for alternatives, you are not likely to even know about Litespeed.

But still, here you are. Looking at how well Litespeed compares with Apache.

People usually look for Litespeed vs Apache because Apache has been performing poorly lately, and no amount of setting changes seem to fix it.

Yes, LiteSpeed is indeed a viable drop-in replace to Apache, but it might be an overkill for many.

Why? We’ll come to that.

But, before that, let’s lay some ground rules.

I’ll take a chance and assume that you are not a tech guru, and is here for business advice. So, I’ll spare you the tech talk and tech specifications of each Web server.

Instead I’ll tell you several stories of our customers who wanted to replace Apache, and what we found ideal for them.

 

Case 1 : Static content (image, CSS, JS, etc.) heavy website

Litespeed vs Apache for business websites

This is the most common category of website that we’ve seen.

People would use WordPress or Joomla or Drupal to setup a website, and make it beautiful using several modules and images.

All those files make a website heavy. Each page will need 50 or more resources and the total size could easily exceed 1 MB.

Now, add to that more than 20 simultaneous visitors.

Stock Apache with default configuration in a 2 GB VPS is going to crawl under that load.

Apache’s latest version (v2.4) made a valiant effort to perform better under these kinds of load using something called an Event MPM, but it still couldn’t match the performance of other free web-servers such as Nginx or Lighttpd.

Did you see I wrote “Free”?

Yes, there are free alternatives to handle high traffic in static content heavy websites.

You really don’t have to choose a paid option such as LiteSpeed if you have a simple website with no database heavy loads (eg. eCommerce).

What works

One solution that has worked well for many of our customers is to use Nginx as a Reverse Proxy.

This means, Nginx sits in front of Apache and accepts all web requests. It’ll quickly serve all static files and recently accessed pages from memory.

It’ll only bother Apache if a page request comes in that is not present in Nginx cache.

Result? Overall the site will be super fast as content gets quickly served from memory. And with Nginx’s ability to handle multiple connections, you have a scalable solution for the foreseeable future.

Litespeed vs Apache - Litespeed replaced with Nginx

With Nginx acting as a fast reverse proxy for static files, Litespeed is not really needed for simple websites.

 

If you have an Apache server, and is looking for alternatives to host your business website, we can help you get he right solution. Click here to talk to our web server experts. We are online 24/7.

 

Case 2 : Database heavy websites with more read access than updates

Apache alternative for online publishers, blogs & forums

The next popular category of websites that we’ve seen are online publishers, who release many articles everyday, and receive thousands of hits a day.

These sites have equal load on the database and the static content. So, during high traffic, the stress falls as much on Apache as it does on PHP engine and the Database.

In many such sites, we’ve seen the performance issue is not with Apache at all, but on other sub-systems. Some of these are:

  1. PHP compiler – Older PHP engines like v5.x mod_php are the default in many servers. We’ve found them to be up to 3x slower than new engines like PHP 7, PHP-FPM, etc. If you’ve not changed it, or enabled PHP-cache, that could be the bottleneck, not Apache.
  2. Database server – As data is constantly added and removed from the database, the database settings should be adjusted regularly to ensure quick response. If you’ve not optimized the DB settings in a while, your DB might be slowing your site down.
  3. Hard disk – The majority of servers out there still use SATA II hard disks. That works fine for small websites with a few hundred hits a day, but for database heavy applications that need frequent disk access, new tech like SSD may be needed.
  4. Memory – Large databases need a lot of server memory to do complex join operations. If the memory isn’t sufficient, the server will start using hard disk based Swap memory, which will cause a significant drag on the site speed.

 

So, while it seems Apache is slow, it could be any one of the underlying systems that’s at fault.

In such sites, we’ve resolved performance issues by:

  • Switching to a fast PHP compiler and customizing it for server traffic.
  • Enabling PHP opcode caching so that page compilation times can be saved.
  • Database defragmentation and settings optimization to fix DB access bottlenecks.
  • Setting up database cache like Memcached and Redis to reduce access to hard disks.
  • Setting up a HTML cache like Varnish in front of web server to minimize access to the web server.
  • ..and more

 

Yes, there are still sites that get a surge of traffic during breaking news releases, marketing campaigns or seasonal events.

For these sites, we’ve setup Nginx as a reverse proxy that (1) acts as a fast caching server, and (2) load balances the traffic to multiple backend Apache servers.

If you are an online publisher facing Apache load issues, we recommend that you get a Web server expert to audit your server and pin point the performance bottleneck. Else you’d end up spending money on a solution that won’t solve the issue, and you’ll anyway be forced to fix the real bottleneck later on.

Click here to consult our web server experts. We are online 24/7, and can look at your server within 1 hour.

 

Case 3 : Transaction heavy websites with a lot of dynamic content

Ideal web server for large eCommerce websites

eCommerce sites, especially those with a large number of products are notoriously prone to performance issues.

A typical example is Magento based shops.

They have many ways to sort, filter and display products that the sheer number of permutations and combinations itself can overwhelm normal 2 GB VPSs or Servers.

Add to that session handling variables, and things can get quite difficult for an out of the box Apache server.

An easy solution adopted by many sites is to use LiteSpeed + LiteMage extension or Nginx + Tuerpentine extension.

While the former is paid, the later is free.

Regardless of which solution you choose, it is necessary to customize the server settings to match your site traffic and load.

Further, it is not enough to configure it once and forget it. Traffic to your site changes every month. The size of your code base changes (with new features, extensions, etc.). So, you’ll need to continually adjust the server settings to keep your site loading fast.

That is why we recommend large eCommerce site owners to subscribe to a Server Maintenance Plan from Bobcares.

Included in our service is an initial audit, server hardening and server tune-up.

Once the server is tweaked to be blazing fast, we monitor it 24/7 for performance issues, patch it to prevent security errors, and periodically tune-up server settings to make sure the site remains fast and secure.

If you have an eCommerce store that use Magento, WooCommerce, Prestashop or any other software, get it audited by a Web server expert today to know how to get the best value for your money.

Click here to consult our web server experts. We are online 24/7, and can look at your server within 1 hour.

 

Case 4 : Servers that host multiple web applications

Apache alternative for Shared hosts and Managed hosting providers

Bobcares supports web servers of hundreds of web hosts around the world. In fact, that is our signature speciality.

Almost half of these servers are shared hosting servers that contain anywhere from 200 to 800 websites per server. Some of these are specialized WordPress or Magento managed hosting servers, while others are generic shared servers that host all kinds of applications.

These servers consist of several small low-traffic websites, but can receive up to 400 or more simultaneous connections.

So, the primary challenge for a web server in Shared hosting is concurrency – that is the ability to handle high number of parallel connections.

In the recent years, Apache lagged behind Nginx, Lighthttpd and Litespeed in this test, but with the latest version (v2.4), Apache has come back as a viable high traffic web server.

For a majority of shared servers, we’ve been able to ensure stable performance using Event MPM in Apache 2.4, with a bit of support from a fast PHP engine (eg. PHP-FPM), Opcode caching and an optimized Database.

However, there are a couple of situations where this configuration won’t hold:

  • Servers that host sites with seasonal high traffic : We have some specialist web hosts who host forums, news sites or bloggers specifically. These sites get a sudden surge of traffic from time to time. Apache is sometimes unable to accommodate such sharp surge in traffic. For these servers, we use Nginx as a reverse proxy for Apache.
  • Managed Magento or WordPress servers that have large eCommerce sites : eCommerce sites need caching systems that recognize sessions and can efficiently manage a large amount of dynamic cache. We’ve seen LiteSpeed Cache for WordPress and LiteMage for Magento to make a big difference for these servers. However, the same result could also be achieved by Nginx and Varnish.

 

If you have a shared server, and Apache is not performing well, you might need a good performance tweak, a switch to Nginx or even need LiteSpeed.

To know which one is the ideal solution for you, we recommend you get your server audited by a Web Server expert.

Click here to consult our web server experts. We are online 24/7, and can look at your server within 1 hour.

 

Conclusion

Apache is the reigning king of web servers. But in its out-of-the-box configuration, it can cause performance lags. Today, we’ve taken a look at Litespeed vs Apache comparison in a business perspective.

Based on your business type, you may need an Apache tune-up, a server optimization, Nginx front-end, and in some select cases Litespeed. There’s no one-size-fit all solution here. Have a web server expert audit your server to exactly identify where your performance bottleneck is, and get a solution that works best.

 

 


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Bobcares
Bobcares is a server management company that helps businesses deliver uninterrupted and secure online services. Our engineers manage close to 51,500 servers that include virtualized servers, cloud infrastructure, physical server clusters, and more.
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