How to enable output compression (gzipfile content compression) in nginx webserver

I have recently installed and configured a Debian Linux server with nginx
. Since then I’ve been testing around different ways to optimize the nginx performance.

In my nginx quest, one of the most crucial settings which dramatically improved the end client performance was enabling the so called output compression which in Apache based servers is also known as content gzip compression .
In Apache webservers the content gzip compression is provided by a server module called mod_deflate .

The output compression nginx settings saves a lot of bandwidth and though it adds up a bit more load to the server, the plain text files like html, xml, js and css’s download time reduces drasticly as they’re streamed to the browser in gzip compressed format.
This little improvement in download speed also does impact the overall end user browser experience and therefore improves the browsing speed experience with websites.

If you have already had experience nginx you already know it is a bit fastidious and you have to be very careful with it’s configuration, however thanksfully enabling the gzip compression was actually rather easier than I thought.

Here is what I added in my nginx config to enable output compression:

## Compression
gzip on;
gzip_buffers 16 8k;
gzip_comp_level 9;
gzip_http_version 1.1;
gzip_min_length 0;
gzip_vary on;

Important note here is that need to add this code in the nginx configuration block starting with:

http {
....
## Compression
gzip on;
gzip_buffers 16 8k;
gzip_comp_level 9;
gzip_http_version 1.1;
gzip_min_length 0;
gzip_vary on;

In order to load the gzip output compression as a next step you need to restart the nginx server, either by it’s init script if you use one or by killing the old nginx server instances and starting up the nginx server binary again:
I personally use an init script, so restarting nginx for me is done via the cmd:

debian:~# /etc/init.d/nginx restart
Restarting nginx: nginx.

Now to test if the output gzip compression is enabled for nginx, you can simply use telnet

hipo@linux:~$ telnet your-nginx-webserver-domain.com 80
Escape character is '^]'.

After the Escape character is set ‘^]’ appears on your screen type in the blank space:

HEAD / HTTP/1.0

and press enter twice.
The output which should follow should look like:


HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Server: nginx
Date: Fri, 08 Apr 2011 12:04:43 GMT
Content-Type: text/html
Content-Length: 13
Last-Modified: Tue, 22 Mar 2011 15:04:26 GMT
Connection: close
Vary: Accept-Encoding
Expires: Fri, 15 Apr 2011 12:04:43 GMT
Cache-Control: max-age=604800
Accept-Ranges: bytes

The whole transaction with telnet command issued and the nginx webserver output should look like so:

hipo@linux:~$ telnet your-nginx-webserver-domain.com 80
Trying xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx...
Connected to your-nginx-webserver-domain.com
.Escape character is '^]'.
HEAD / HTTP/1.0

HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Server: nginx
Date: Fri, 08 Apr 2011 12:04:43 GMT
Content-Type: text/html
Content-Length: 13
Last-Modified: Tue, 22 Mar 2011 15:04:26 GMT
Connection: close
Vary: Accept-Encoding
Expires: Fri, 15 Apr 2011 12:04:43 GMT
Cache-Control: max-age=604800
Accept-Ranges: bytes

The important message in the returned output which confirms your nginx output compression is properly configured is:

Vary: Accept-Encoding

If this message is returned by your nginx server, this means your nginx now will distribute it’s content to it’s clients in compressed format and apart from the browsing boost a lot of server and client bandwitdth will be saved.

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3 Responses to “How to enable output compression (gzipfile content compression) in nginx webserver”

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