Which is the Best Caching Solution for your Website – Varnish or NGINX?

A website that loads within the blink of an eye is the expectation of most users today. In fact, the website load time impacts your search engine rankings as well as your brand reputation. Website owners deploy various methods to increase the speed of their websites like caching, image, and video optimization, using a CDN (Content Delivery Network), etc. Collectively, these measures help in reducing the load times and lead to a faster website. In this article, we will focus on caching and look at the two most popular caching solutions – Varnish and NGINX offered by most providers offering Cloud Hosting in India.

Varnish Cache

The more popular of the two – Varnish Cache is a web accelerator deployed at the front-end. It is used by websites which have heavy or dynamic content to manage high volumes of traffic. Further, Varnish is an HTTP proxy (reverse caching) and helps the website by caching dynamic as well as static content. In fact, it can speed up your website up to 1000 times!

NGINX

NGINX was released in the year 2004 and is used as a proxy server. It is usually used as a reverse proxy, HTTP cache, load balances, etc. to help improve the website’s performance by reducing the loading time. It is known to be better at handling concurrent connections and is more popular with sites facing high volumes of traffic and having multiple application environments.

Which is better – Varnish vs. NGINX?

There are many similarities between Varnish and NGINX like they both are used as a load balancer and reverse proxy. However, there are some technical differences between them, as highlighted below:

 

Varnish NGINX
Flexibility The Varnish Configuration Language (VCL) allows developers to customize the caching solution as per the needs of the business. Factors like setting guidelines for handling incoming requests, managing user responses, etc. can be set easily. Unlike Varnish, NGINX does not offer such flexibility to users.
Support for SSL Varnish Cache does not have an integrated SSL support, and users need a service provider who can offer it in addition to the caching solution. NGINX offers native support for Secure Sockets Layer (SSL).
Managing static content You might need to add some functionality to manage static content using Varnish. However, it comes with an in-built mechanism for purging static content. NGINX outperforms Varnish if the static files and the NGINX proxy are on the same server. Also, the NGINX-OSS does not offer the option of purging static content; the user needs to opt for the NGINX Plus for the same.

 

Conclusion

In simple terms, NGINX is better as a caching server while Varnish has better caching features. It is important to remember that both these solutions have their own pros and cons and are best fits in specific situations. Remember, every website has a unique caching requirement, and hence, it is important to try both the solutions and see which works best for you. After all, you cannot compromise on the speed of your website, and hence, you must research well and take all aspects into consideration before buying a caching solution. Good Luck!