NGINX vs. OpenLiteSpeed: Which Is the Better Lightweight Server?

The back of a server.

You might not give too much thought to the type of server your site runs on, but it’s a vital cog in the wheel. It’s the foundation of your entire site and its performance. As such, two leading server types often grab the headlines, although NGINX vs. OpenLiteSpeed isn’t a simple decision.

In this post, we compare NGINX vs. OpenLiteSpeed through features and performance. By the end, you’ll know exactly which one to choose as your server.

Introducing NGINX and OpenLiteSpeed

It wasn’t long ago that NGINX blew away Apache servers. The consensus is that NGINX is more flexible with regard to the needs of a modern website.

It has a lot of strings to its bow: it’s a web server, reverse proxy, mail proxy, HTTP cache, and load balancer all in one.

The NGINX logo.

NGINX is free and open source under a BSD license. This means it’s easy for web hosts to adopt. In fact, there are around 48 million sites that use NGINX as their server technology. Most web hosts now offer NGINX servers alongside the classic Apache type.

However, OpenLiteSpeed could give it a run for its money.

The OpenLiteSpeed logo.

It’s also open source, free, and based off of the proprietary enterprise version. Though there are less figures available for the open-source edition, there are only around five million sites running any version of the software.

It’s a scalable web server that also comes with a dedicated caching module. This is tempting: combined with rewrite rules that are compatible with Apache, it means we have to take a closer look.

NGINX vs. OpenLiteSpeed: Comparing Features

Starting with NGINX, it offers low memory usage and an event-driven asynchronous approach. In other words, it maximizes its processing time by working on other tasks while its waiting for a process to finish. It’s efficient and modern.

It offers much more than just a web server, too. For example:

While OpenLiteSpeed doesn’t offer load balancing, it does offer a full range of features:

In fact, there’s much more than we can cover in this article. Although, it’s worth noting that some desirable features of LiteSpeed’s enterprise edition, such as WordPress brute force protection, aren’t available in OpenLiteSpeed. It’s disappointing but doesn’t diminish the product too much.

NGINX vs. OpenLiteSpeed: Comparing Performance

Of course, performance is one of the most important aspects of choosing a server. It’s also hard to find unbiased opinions to carry out a proper comparison.

However, we can pull from other performance tests to provide a well-balanced view.

For example, CyberHosting saw an astronomical win for OpenLiteSpeed in its tests across all areas. Also, the WP Speed Matters website saw that OpenLiteSpeed has a better Time to First Byte (TTFB) and could handle more users.

You can also take a look at user-run tests, which also back up the results elsewhere.

Both NGINX and OpenLiteSpeed offer their own benchmarks and testing results, though they may be heavy reading for the average user.

Choosing the Right Server Type

It’s worth noting that NGINX vs. OpenLiteSpeed isn’t a one-sided contest. Both have their strengths, and we’d be comfortable running a site on both server types.

On the whole, the decision will be which one meets your needs. NGINX has a wide adoption rate. Many web-hosting providers haven’t long moved from an Apache-focused setup to a more flexible option. Over time, we may see OpenLiteSpeed become one of those options. We’d hope so, given the impressive performance results.

Yet, OpenLiteSpeed blazes past NGINX in terms of performance. The issue is whether you can find a reputable hosting provider that offers good servers with OpenLiteSpeed support.

Until then, NGINX will suit most average users, and it should be your go-to option, certainly over Apache.

In Summary

In this NGINX vs. OpenLiteSpeed comparison, we’ve offered two great options. Our conclusion is that NGINX is the way to go for the average user because it’s available through more hosts. Though, OpenLiteSpeed still impresses us enough that you’ll love its performance – if you can find a supporting web host.

If you want to add Secure Sockets Layers (SSL) to your NGINX server, we have the article for you. Do you think NGINX vs. OpenLiteSpeed is a one-horse race? Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments section below!

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Tom Rankin Tom Rankin

Tom Rankin is a quality content writer for WordPress, tech, and small businesses. When he's not putting fingers to keyboard, he can be found taking photographs, writing music, playing computer games, and talking in the third-person.

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