What is Nginx - The Versatile Web Server

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Nginx pronounced as Engine—ex, is an accessible, open-source, high-performance web server and a rear proxy server that has become a pillar of ultramodern web structure. Initially designed for effectiveness and scalability, it has evolved into an important tool for purposes beyond essential web services.

Nginx was initially released in 2004 by Igor Syseov. It has become one of the most popular web server solutions in two decades and has empowered multiple websites and operations worldwide. Its efficient architecture makes it particularly suitable for handling high concurrency and heavy traffic loads.

Core Functions of Nginx

Web Server

At its core, Nginx is a web server responsible for admitting incoming HTTP requests from web cybersurfers and delivering the corresponding web content,  similar to HTML  lines, images, etc. It excels because its event-driven armature efficiently handles a high volume of connections. This architecture contrasts with traditional web servers, which have a separate process for each request, which leads to increased resource consumption. 

Reverse Proxy

reverse proxy is a peacemaker between a customer and multiple web servers. It receives requests and routes them to the applicable reverse-end server based on pre-defined rules. Then, it returns the response to the client. This function is crucial in modern web architecture, providing a single point of entry for clients and distributing load across multiple servers, offering an additional security layer.

Load Balancing

It's a process of distributing workload across multiple servers to optimize performance and ensure high accessibility. Nginx functions as a load balancer, directing incoming business to be available back-end servers based on varied algorithms like round-robin least connections. It helps prevent overload at any single server and quickly serves user requests.


A web cache stores frequent data and content to reduce server load and enrich customer response time. Nginx is a caching server that stores stationary content similar to HTML  lines, images, and CSS. It delivers this data directly to guests without the involvement of back-end servers. This significantly improves website performance and is valid for repeat visitors who request the same content.

Media Streaming

Nginx efficiently handles media streaming protocols like HTTP Live Streaming( HLS) and RTMP(Real-Time Messaging Protocol), making it suitable for delivering audio and video content to web clients. 

Mail Proxy 

Nginx is not limited to web functions only. It also functions as a proxy server for dispatch protocols like IMAP, POP3, and SMTP. It can admit incoming emails and route them to appropriate correspondence servers, acting as a load balancer for email business. 

Install Nginx and configure

sudo apt install nginx

sudo nano /etc/nginx/sites-available/default

server_name _

    location / {
        proxy_pass http://localhost:3000;
        proxy_http_version 1.1;
        proxy_set_header Upgrade $http_upgrade;
        proxy_set_header Connection 'upgrade';
        proxy_set_header Host $host;
        proxy_cache_bypass $http_upgrade;

Note: Follow this article, to get more details about installing NGINX on EC2  

Nginx Commands That Can Be Useful

1: Start Nginx

sudo systemctl start nginx

2: Stop Nginx

sudo systemctl stop nginx

3: Restart Nginx

sudo systemctl restart nginx

4: Reload Nginx Configuration

sudo systemctl reload nginx

5: Enable Nginx to Start at Boot

sudo systemctl enable nginx

6: Disable Nginx from Starting at Boot

sudo systemctl disable nginx

7: Check Nginx Status

sudo systemctl status nginx

8: Test Nginx Configuration

sudo nginx -t

9: Show Nginx Version

nginx -v

10: Show Nginx Version and Configuration Options

nginx -V

11: Reopen Log Files

sudo nginx -s reopen

12: Upgrade Nginx Without Dropping Connections

sudo nginx -s reload

13: Stop Nginx Gracefully

sudo nginx -s quit

14: Force Stop Nginx

sudo nginx -s stop

15: Access Log

tail -f /var/log/nginx/access.log

16: Error Log

tail -f /var/log/nginx/error.log

17: Show Help

nginx -h

18: Reload Nginx with Modified Configuration

sudo systemctl reload nginx

Use Cases of Nginx

Nginx's versatility makes it a valuable tool for various web-related tasks. It has emerged as a dominant player as a web server. It can easily handle high volumes of concurrent connections and thus provides scalability to businesses. Let’s discuss some prominent use cases where Nginx can be used and if you want to explore installing Nginx in EC2 Instance click here.

High Traffic Websites and Web Applications 

Nginx can handle high business volumes efficiently, making it a favored choice for websites and operations with significant user loads. Some popular websites, such as Netflix, Hulu, and Airbnb, calculate on Nginx for their web structure. Its effective running also helps mitigate distributed denial-of-service ( DDoS) attacks. 

Content Delivery Networks (CDNs)

CDNs distribute content across geographically dispersed servers,  perfecting website performance and user experience. Nginx plays an essential part in CDNs by effectively serving cached content from edge locations closer to druggies. 

Reverse Proxying

Nginx acts as a reverse proxy and provides a single entry point, with requests distributed to multiple back-end servers. It helps in simple server management and enhances security by shielding back-end servers from direct client interactions.

Media Streaming and Static Content Caching

Nginx efficiently handles media streaming protocols, making it suitable for audio and video content on web platforms. It also has caching abilities to improve website content by directly serving frequently accessed static content, reducing the load on back-end servers.

Custom Configurations

Nginx offers a high degree of configuration flexibility, which allows administrators to tailor its behavior according to specified needs. It helps define custom access rules, configure load-balancing algorithms, and integrate with various modules for extended functionalities.

Web Serving and Beyond: Nginx for Advanced Tasks

Nginx has web services as its core function, but it has capabilities that extend beyond traditional web infrastructure. Let’s take a look at some examples.

Load Balancer for Internal Applications

Nginx balances the load traffic for internal applications within the organization's network, optimizing performance and smooth operation for critical business applications.

Mail Proxy

Nginx can function as a mail proxy server and handle email traffic. It can route the data to appropriate mail servers, thus improving email server performance and scalability.

Web Socket Server

A WebSocket server enables real-time, two-way communication between web clients and servers. Nginx can also serve as a WebSocket server, facilitating real-time data exchange for operations that require constant updates, such as chat operations. 

Reverse Proxy for APIs

Nginx can act as a reverse proxy for APIs and provide a layer of security and abstraction between API clients and back-end servers. This helps manage API access and enforce security policies.

Custom Module Development

Nginx's modular architecture extends its functionalities using custom modules developed in languages like C++. This helps developers modify Nginx to address specific needs that the built-in features might not address.

Why Nginx Remains a Top Choice

Nginx has solidified its position as a pillar of modern web infrastructure development. It has an efficient event-driven architecture, versatility, and robust features, making it an obvious choice for various web serving and application delivery scenarios. Nginx has empowered inventors and system directors to make scalable, high-performance, and secure web architectures, from high-business websites to complex microservices architecture. With the ever-evolving web geography and terrain, Nginx will remain an essential tool for engineers and inventors looking to deliver exceptional web experiences.

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