What is a web server?
A web server is a computer that can store and serve content over the Internet. It can accept requests from browsers (for example, Internet Explorer or Firefox) and then return the appropriate content in HTML format and linked objects (images, videos, audio, etc.). It can store large files and serve as a field for different programming languages (mySQL, etc.) It can send and receive email.
Computers that provide services, such as the above, are called servers. There are numerous types of servers in addition to web servers, from mail servers to IRC servers. In the web hosting industry, web servers are usually just called servers.
Each web server has a unique IP address. Often numerous websites share the same IP. People who are visiting websites only need to click on or type in the website URL, and the web server does the work to bring the requested web page to them.
How web servers work
To understand how web servers work, let’s look at the steps involved when someone wants to visit WHTwiki.
- Using a web browser, a person types in the URL: http://www.webhostingtalk.com/wiki.
- The browser breaks down the URL into the protocol (http) and the domain name (webhostingtalk.com).
- The browser communicates with a Domain Name Server to look up the IP address of the webhostingtalk.com URL.
- The browser connects to the server that the website is hosted on and sends a request asking for the site webhostingtalk.com.
- The web server then locates and retrieves the requested file and sends it back to the browser in HTML format.
- The browser reads the HTML file and renders the page on the screen.
- The WHTwiki home page appears on the person's computer screen.
All of the above takes only seconds in most cases.
Web Hosting Wiki article text shared under a Creative Commons License.