If you own or run a website, then it is highly likely that the web server you use utilizes either Apache or IIS. There are lots of similarities, and just as many differences, between these two pieces of software,
Web service software such as these are tremendously important, so we will look at multiple facets of these respective products, and try to elucidate the factors lead to their respective market shares.
Right off the bat, one major reason that Apache has held sway over a large portion of its market is the fact that it is open source, and therefore free. This is, of course, a great sales point when you are considering web server software. Being open source does not just mean that Apache is free, however. Apache being open source means that the program is eminently re-configurable and open to tinkering. The passionate Apache Software Foundation: http://www.apache.org/ means that you will have access to a forward-thinking and robust community, which, with your input and work, creates a positive feedback loop whereby you are contributing to the future of Apache.
This level of involvement and futurist intent is great, as it gives you, the user, a real feeling of having made a contribution, as well as the freedom to play and explore the software as you see fit. This type of freedom is not something readily seen in the approach of other software developers.
Trends in Market Share
Whilst Apache has traditionally held the lion’s share of worldwide sites under its sway, recent trends have indicated that IIS is taking strong steps toward challenging this:
Whilst it is clear that Apache still holds a large lead over IIS, it is also interesting to note that IIS has been gaining in popularity steadily for over a year, gaining another 6% of the market, whilst, in the same period, Apache’s popularity worldwide has dropped by over 10% in that same period. Couple IIS’s growth with Apache’s recent decline and it is clear that there is some kind of shift afoot. Now, this is not entirely down to Microsoft’s own doing, but is also contributable to a number of other factors. The continuing and growing popularity of Windows’ Azure cloud platform is one reason with 96% of the servers using IIS. It does pay to bear in mind the fact that Apache still has a large market share and, even with the recent shifts in mind, there is a reason that Apache jumped to, and held, such a dominant position.
Another contributing factor to Apache’s popularity is that it traditionally has more reliable and robust security functions than IIS and this has been the case for some time, which leads us on to our next area of interest.
With the current climate of personal data security – the US Government’s ‘Prism’ program comes to mind, users and operators of any online service are becoming more and more wary about the security of their personally identifiable information (PII) and data. Couple this with the reams of important data that may be flowing through your site on a daily basis – bank and card details, addresses, sensitive and important data, and so forth, and you need something that you can rely on. In this area, you not only need to consider the effects of lackluster security on yourself, but also the impact it may have on your site and business.
Ultimately, there are myriad reasons why Apache has maintained the level of dominance for the period of time that it has. The fact that is open source and so tweak-able is great if you have the know-how and inclination. Aside from this, the superior security of Apache provides great peace of mind with regards to both your own data and that of your users and customers. Whilst gaining ground, IIS still has several areas in which it lags behind the more flexible Apache.