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Home > Learn More > Page 5 > What Is A Web Server? A Common Hosting Question

What Is A Web Server? A Common Hosting Question

When you are researching web hosting companies to host your website on you are going to come across the term ‘web server’ everywhere you go.  The web server is where all of your files are stored and they include all of the equipment needed to keep your website up and running.  Let’s take a look at what a web server is, what it does for your business, and some of the most commonly used types used in the industry today. 

What is a web server?
A web server is actually more than just a huge computer in a room somewhere clicking away.  It is actually a bunch of different elements that are lumped together under the heading of ‘web server’.  A web server includes the computer itself that stores all of the website’s data and all of the software applications that run on the computer and is used to process web browser requests and other technologies for the client.  The web server can be the physical machine, the application software, or both working interchangeably. 

What does the web server do?
The web server uses applications to help the physical hardware display the websites that are contained in it when a request is put through to it through internet browsers such as Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox or others.  These requests are done by HTTP – Hypertext Transfer Protocol – and quite often the dedicated web server and its applications are referred to as HTTP servers.  Once the server has received the request, it runs the HTTP protocol that transfers information through the internet and connects the web server to the computer that made the initial request to view the website.  The request is actually fed through a remote computer to the web server which then feeds the request to the server in order for it to find the requested website.  If the server finds the site, the site will then be displayed for the user to enjoy.  If it is not found, an error message is returned. 

Commonly used web servers
When you are researching web hosting options you may come across the names of the type of servers the hosting company uses.  It’s good to know the names of two of the most popular and commonly used web servers that are being used by the web hosting community so that you understand the quality of the equipment that your website will be hosted on. 

The Apache HTTP server is currently the most widely used web server around the world based on a report that was issued by the Netcraft Web Server Usage Survey.  Close to 60% of the entire web hosting market uses this type of web server and its applications.  Apache can support many open-source programs as well as the Linux operating system and the MySQL database operations, two of the most popular computer applications in the world. 

Apache’s biggest rival is the IIS – Internet Information Services – web server.  This is a server application that was developed by Microsoft and it was designed to work with numerous server editions of the popular Microsoft Windows operating system.  It can also support MySQL and open-source software, but it was primarily developed for use with proprietary Microsoft producers like ASP (Active Server Pages) and SQL.


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