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May 23, 2023

What Does a Web Server Mean?

A web server, which is both software and hardware, utilizes HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) and other protocols to respond to client requests made over the World Wide Web. Its primary function is to store, process, and deliver web pages to users, thereby displaying website content. Web servers are accessed via domain names and are responsible for ensuring the delivery of a site's content to the requesting user.

Web servers can be software, hardware, or both, and they communicate with browsers using HTTP. They can support SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) and FTP (File Transfer Protocol). Web servers are commonly used for hosting websites and data for web applications, and they can host single or multiple websites through virtualization.

When a web server receives a request for content, such as an HTML document, image, or JavaScript file, it processes the request and sends the content to the user's web browser. The efficiency of the web server used to power a website is crucial for its success, along with its content and functionality. Therefore, understanding the capabilities and limitations of a web server is vital when selecting the appropriate server for a website to ensure its success.

What are the Web Server Components?

A web server is a powerful tool used for hosting websites and applications, consisting of five essential components that work together to enable proper server functionality. These components include hardware, an operating system, web server software, a database, and a scripting language, each of which plays a crucial role in serving web pages and applications to users. Web server components are explained below:

  • Hardware: Hardware refers to the physical components of the web server, such as the processor, memory, storage, and network interface. It must possess adequate power, reliability, and security to handle the server load and protect data. Compatibility with the operating system and web server software is also essential.
  • Operating System: The operating system is the software that runs on the hardware, providing basic functions for the web server. It manages hardware resources, offers a user interface, and runs the web server software. Popular operating systems for web servers are Linux, Windows, and macOS, and compatibility with web server software and hardware is vital.
  • Web Server Software: Web server software is the software that runs on the operating system and serves web pages and applications to users. Apache, Nginx, and IIS are popular web server software options. Compatibility with the operating system and hardware, along with the ability to handle server load and ensure security, are crucial factors.
  • Database: The database is the software that stores web server data, responsible for storing and retrieving data. MySQL, PostgreSQL, and MongoDB are popular database options. Compatibility with web server software and the operating system, as well as security and reliability, are important considerations.
  • Scripting Language: Scripting language is the programming language used to create web pages and applications served by the web server. PHP, Python, and JavaScript are popular scripting languages. Compatibility with web server software and database, along with security and reliability, are essential factors.

By ensuring the compatibility and proper functioning of these components, a web server can effectively serve web pages and applications to users.

How Does a Web Server Work?

Web servers operate on a client-server model, where a client program, such as a web browser, requests resources or services from a server program. To handle requests from web clients, web servers follow several steps:

  1. When a web user wants to load a website, their web browser sends an HTTP request over the internet.
  2. The web browser looks up the IP address of the requested website by translating the URL via the Domain Name System (DNS) or checking its cache. This process identifies the web server where the website's files are hosted.
  3. The web server receives the HTTP request and processes it using its HTTP server.
  4. If the HTTP server accepts the request, it searches through its server files to retrieve the relevant data.
  5. The web server then sends the site files back to the web browser that made the request, allowing the web user to view the website content.
  6. However, if the HTTP server fails to find or process the requested files, it responds to the web browser with an error message, such as a 404 error for the file not found or a 403 error for permission issues.
  7. Additionally, if a web server does not receive a timely response from another server acting as a proxy or gateway, a 504 error may occur.

By following these steps, web servers are able to effectively process requests from clients and serve web content.

How does Working Principle of Web Servers change based on Types?

Depending on the type of web server in use, the operating principles of web servers can vary. There are several different types of web servers, including:

  • Static Web Servers: Static web servers serve web content that remains unchanged unless the server files are manually updated. The working principle of static web servers involves serving pre-existing HTML, CSS (News - Alert), and other files directly to clients without any processing or dynamic content generation. These servers are simple and efficient, as they do not require complex processing or database interactions.
  • Dynamic Web Servers: Dynamic web servers generate web content dynamically in response to client requests. These servers use server-side scripting languages, such as PHP, Python, or Ruby, to generate HTML or other content based on user input or other dynamic factors. The working principle of dynamic web servers involves processing client requests, accessing databases, performing calculations, and generating dynamic content on the fly before sending it to the clients.
  • Application Servers: Application servers are a type of dynamic web server that is specifically designed for hosting web applications. These servers provide additional features such as session management, authentication, and caching to support the development and deployment of complex web applications. The working principle of application servers involves handling client requests, processing business logic, interacting with databases, and managing application states to deliver dynamic and interactive web applications.
  • Proxy Servers: Proxy servers act as intermediaries between clients and other servers. These servers receive client requests, forward them to other servers, and then return the responses to the clients. The working principle of proxy servers involves routing client requests, caching content for faster delivery, and providing security features such as firewall protection or load balancing for distributing client requests across multiple servers.
  • Cloud-based Web Servers: Cloud-based web servers are hosted on cloud computing platforms, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft (News - Alert) Azure, or Google Cloud Platform. These servers are scalable, flexible, and can be easily managed and configured through cloud-based interfaces. The working principle of cloud-based web servers involves deploying virtualized server instances in the cloud, configuring them based on requirements, and scaling resources up or down dynamically as needed.

Are Computing and Web Server same?    

No, computing and web servers are not the same thing. A web server is a software and hardware device that responds to client requests across the World Wide Web using HTTP and other protocols. Its primary function is to show website content to consumers by storing, processing, and distributing web pages. Computing, on the other hand, refers to the use of computers to perform different activities such as data processing, storage, and communication. While web servers host websites and data for online applications, computing encompasses a wide variety of tasks such as software creation, data analysis, and network administration. online servers are one component of computers that distribute online material to consumers via HTTP and other protocols.

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