nginx

The Setup

I have been testing out different ways to optimize this site for performance, purely as a learning experience.  I have come across several guides explaining how server-side caching works, some of them are really good, and some of them a bit out of date in terms of what I consider “best practice” in the industry these days.  Most of the guides to server side-caching do not include the notion of SSL/TLS.  Just like setting up a web server with SSL/TLS is more complex than setting up a web server without, setting up a cache with SSL/TLS is more complex than setting up a cache without.  The goal of this article is to discuss some of the most popular methods and some of their advantages/disadvantages.

This article will be more about the overarching concepts and flow of information than actual configuration, but I’m hoping to do articles on how to actually configure the different options in future posts and incorporate them into this article.
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The Setup

I recently decided that I wanted to learn about Nginx. You may know that Nginx is a web server that has been growing in popularity in the last few years. People use it as an alternative to more traditional web servers like Apache or IIS. They even use it in conjunction with Apache or IIS with Nginx acting as a reverse proxy. Nginx excels at serving up static content and can use fewer resources than Apache or IIS if properly configured, in some scenarios. The one drawback that I had heard about with Nginx was it doesn’t have the breadth of modules that you find in Apache. To illustrate one of the differences, under Apache PHP is loaded as a module while Nginx loads it via FastCGI. Using FastCGI Nginx is able to get comparable performance with potentially lower resource usage.

In terms of configuration Apache is certainly an acquired taste, but once you get it, it is not all that complicated and many of the directives are well documented in the Apache docs. Coming from Apache, configuration of Nginx is surprising easy to pick up. Several things that take 2 or 3 lines on Apache take only 1 on Nginx.
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