What is a Web Server?

What is a web server and how does it work?

What is a Web Server?


In very general terms, a web server is a computer connected to the Internet that takes requests from clients, such as a web browser, and then serves the requested content back to these clients. Web servers make browsing websites on the World Wide Web possible.

Parts of a web server

A web server is made up of hardware and the software. A web server has the same hardware as any computer, such as a processor, memory, and disk storage. The key difference between a web server and a computer is that a server runs specialized software that enables it to take requests and serve content.

The piece of software that turns a computer into a web server is HTTP server software. This software enables the server to respond to HTTP requests, such as the request of a web browser to fetch an HTML file from the disk storage of a server.

Types of HTTP server software

There are many types of HTTP server software. Two of the most common HTTP server software are Apache and N

There are many choices of HTTP server software. Two of the most commonly used HTTP server software are Apache and Nginx. Nginx HTTP server software must be installed on Linux. Microsoft offers its own Internet Information Services (IIS) HTTP server for windows. If the web server uses Windows as its operating system, Microsoft offers its Internet Information Services (IIS) HTTP server. Windows also supports Apache.

These software are free and open-source. They are also high-performing and stable, capable of serving large volumes of HTTP requests on very modest hardware. Because they're supported by the Linux operating system, which itself is free, open-source, and stable, the operating costs of a web server using Apache or Nginx is much lower than Microsoft's IIS. All of these factors contribute to their popularity.

Other related software

HTTP server software is the most important piece of software for a web server, but HTTP server software is limited to server-only static content. The HTTP server software can only serve permanently-complete HTML web page files as-is. If the content on these web page files must be updated, they are updated manually and re-uploaded onto the server.

Serving dynamic content on web servers is increasingly common due to the popularity of content management systems such as Wordpress. There are two other types of software required to serve dynamic content.

Dynamic content differs from static content in that there are no permanently-complete HTML web page files on the server. Instead, HTML web page files are generated by scripts, a series of instructions that tell a program what to do. In this case, scripts tell the web server how to create and serve files when a web server receives a request.

In order to run scripts, the scripting language software must be installed on the server. One of the most popular scripting languages for hosting dynamic content is called PHP (which is a recursive acronym for PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor).

To serve dynamic content, a database management system software is also required. To generate HTML web page files, scripts also need to retrieve the most up-to-date information from a database. A database management system works with scripts to store and retrieve a website's information in real time. One of the most popular database management systems is MySQL.

The collection of software that turns a computer into a web server is sometimes called a stack. One of the most common stacks is the LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP) stack. Modern web servers typically require a stack to serve content on the World Wide Web.

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Hypertext Transfer Protocol. A protocol that connects web browsers to web servers when they request content.


Hypertext Markup Language. Websites use HTML to render visible pages.

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