Developers and agencies alike are continually trying to serve their websites faster. And for those that manage their server environment, the typical question is which web server software is best for your server.
If you are trying to choose between using LiteSpeed vs Apache, we can help. For those upgrading to using HTTP/2 or HTTP3 (HTTP is the protocol your browser uses to view webpages), or using leading CMS platforms like WordPress, there’s a clear winner.
LiteSpeed Web Server (LSWS) is, hands down, the best web server you can use.
Today, we are going to cover LiteSpeed vs Apache Web Servers.
What is Apache HTTP Server Project?
Apache is a free, open-source, and cross-platform (works on servers based on both Unix and Windows) web server software. It is maintained and developed by a community of developers under the Apache Software Foundation. Their goal is to create a robust, commercial-grade, featureful, and freely-available source code implementation of an HTTP web server.
What is LiteSpeed Web Server?
LiteSpeed Technologies is an independent and privately held company founded by a team of engineers led by George Wang. Their goal is to enable a faster internet while simultaneously lowering infrastructure costs. They aim to do this by innovative software solutions like LSWS and LSCache.
What is a Web Server?
A web server can refer to both hardware or software. For this article, we will discuss the software side.
A software web server features several components that control how users access hosted files; in short, an HTTP server.
An HTTP server is a software that understands web addresses (URLs) and HTTP. It can be accessed through the website domain names it stores and delivers its content to the end user’s device.
On a basic level, whenever a browser needs a file hosted on a server, the browser requests it via HTTP. When the request reaches the correct hardware server, the software HTTP web server accepts it, finds the exact requested documents, and sends them back to the browser, also done through HTTP. If unable to find the right document, it returns a 404 response.
Apache Features and Performance
Apache supports several features; many implemented as compiled modules that extend its core functionality. It is highly customizable because of the module-based structure. They range from authentication schemes to supporting server-side programming languages such as Perl, Python, Tcl, and PHP.
Apache is a reliable, stable web server software that is easy to configure and beginner-friendly. Because of the large open-source community, it gets frequent updates and regular security patches.
It also works out of the box with most WordPress sites.
Bottom Line: Apache Web Server has many strengths, but is not the end-all web server solution.
Why LiteSpeed is Better
First to HTTP/3 Implementation
Currently, LiteSpeed Web Server is the only available production-grade web server with a reliable HTTP/3 implementation. For developers and agencies looking to be on the bleeding edge and serve their sites via HTTP/3, LiteSpeed is the only web server that can do it right now.
HTTP/2 introduced the concept of HTTP “streams:” an abstraction that allows HTTP implementations to concurrently send simultaneous HTTP exchanges onto the same TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) connection, allowing browsers to more efficiently reuse TCP connections. It solves the original problem HTTP had of inefficient use of a single TCP connection. But while HTTP/2 separates HTTP exchanges into different streams, TCP does not know the difference between them. In this instance, all requests and responses are affected by packet loss.
Instead of using TCP as the transport layer for a session, HTTP/3 uses QUIC (a general-purpose transport layer network protocol designed at Google). QUIC introduces streams as first-class citizens at the transport layer. Those streams share the same QUIC connection, so no added handshakes and slow starts are required to create new ones. The streams are delivered independently, so that packet loss affecting one stream doesn’t harm others.
HTTP/3 has evolved from QUIC, and LSWS was the first production-grade server to support both QUIC and HTTP/3. They continue to perfect their implementation as the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) works on publishing a final definition for the HTTP/3 protocol.
LSWS believes in doing its part to advance Internet technologies, and with that aim in mind, their LSQUIC project is open source and publicly available via GitHub.
The LSQUIC Library is a fully functional, actively maintained QUIC and HTTP/3 implementation in the C programming language. It allows you to incorporate the same QUIC functionality used in LiteSpeed servers into your projects.
LiteSpeed explicitly designed QUIC.cloud CDN (Content Delivery Network) to take advantage of the benefits of HTTP/3 and QUIC. QUIC.cloud serves content via HTTP/3 to visitors, but can also communicate with a site’s backend via HTTP/3 and QUIC, creating a complete HTTP/3-powered connection.
Similarly, they’ve been supporting HTTP/2 for as long as it’s been available, and continue to make strides in efficiency and speed. In recent HTTP/2 benchmarks showing requests per second accessing WordPress, LiteSpeed’s HTTP/2 implementation performed 10X faster than Nginx and 78X faster than Apache.
Other implementations use OpenSSL libraries, which provide no control over the Transport Layer Security (TLS) record. They cannot control its size, determine when to start a new one, or flush out buffered records. LiteSpeed’s implementation does not use OpenSSL libraries but handles the TLS record directly.
Some benefits to enabling this kind of customization include:
- Reducing data copies from the data buffer to the TLS record buffer.
- Adjust the TLS record size to deliver data quickly and improve TTFB (time to first byte).
- Combine multiple TLS records and send over one system call, reducing system-call overhead and network-packet-level fragmentation.
- Directly build the HTTP/2 frame in the TLS record buffer to further minimize data copies.
Improved WordPress Performance with LSCache for WordPress
LiteSpeed Cache (LSCache) for WordPress is their popular WordPress cache plugin, with over a million active installations. It’s an all-in-one acceleration plugin, with its signature feature powered by LiteSpeed Web Server’s built-in server-level cache. This built-in cache simplifies the server stack and makes for a faster, more efficient way to serve content.
The LSCache plugin adds built-in PageSpeed optimization, image optimization service, critical CSS generation service, third-party CDN integration, among other features. It also supports personalized WooCommerce cache as well as a highly-configurable cache crawler, noticeably improving user experiences across all of your sites.
The Verdict Between LiteSpeed vs Apache Web Servers
I mentioned earlier that there was a clear winner when comparing these two software web servers. LiteSpeed is miles ahead of Apache when it comes to the performance side and the implementation of HTTP/3. They continue to make improvements to HTTP/2, and are making WordPress run more efficiently.
Bottom Line: LiteSpeed Web Server is the clear winner in the battle of the software web server solutions.