The Hostway Blog

Which Web Server: IIS vs. Apache

If you have an active website, the computer storing your files needs Web server software in order to process requests and deliver data. Chances are that software either Apache or IIS.

Apache HTTP Server

The Apache HTTP server is an open source Web server application developed by the Apache Software Foundation. The server software is freely distributed, and the open source license means users can edit the underlying code to tweak performance and contribute to the future development of the program.

Although Apache will run on pretty much any operating system, it is frequently used in combination with Linux, which is also open source. These two – combined with MySQL and PHP database and scripting language – comprise the popular LAMP Web server solution.

Apache and LAMP have several principle advantages:

  • Lower costs, since there are no software licensing fees
  • Programming flexibility due to the open source
  • Enhanced security. Since Apache was developed for a non-Microsoft operating system, and the majority of malicious programs have traditionally been written to take advantage of vulnerabilities in Windows, Apache has always enjoyed a reputation as a more secure option than Microsoft’s IIS.

Microsoft Internet Information Service

Microsoft’s IIS is the second most popular Web server software. It consists of a series of services including File Transfer Protocol (FTP), Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP), Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) and others that enable a Windows machine to manage Web sites. The latest version also includes various modules for security, filtering, caching, ASP.net integration, compression, redirects, logging and diagnostics.

Because IIS is provided for Windows systems only, the choice to use IIS necessitates the choice of a Windows Server, and therefore increases running costs. Windows is also prone to more malware attacks, and has a reputation as a less secure server option. So why might you consider a Windows/IIS option over a LAMP system?

  • Windows and IIS are supported by Microsoft, whereas Apache is supported only by the user community
  • IIS supports Microsoft’s .NET framework, and ASPX scripts
  • Media pack modules are available to enable audio and video content streaming
  • IIS offers in-depth diagnostic tools such as failed request tracing, request monitoring and runtime data

Summary

If cost is your primary consideration, the LAMP combination will work out cheaper as there are no licensing costs. Where security is concerned, Apache is widely acknowledged as the more secure option. If you want to run anything other than a Windows operating system on your servers, you not be able to run IIS. However, if you want to run a script that relies on ASPX, you’ll want to go with IIS, which does present some troubleshooting advantages over LAMP.