What Is a Web Server Exactly?


Angela Bailey

What Is a Web Server Exactly?

A web server is a crucial component of the internet infrastructure that allows websites to be accessible to users. It acts as a storage center and delivers web pages to users upon request. In simpler terms, it is the technology that enables you to access websites on the internet.

How Does a Web Server Work?

A web server works by receiving requests from clients (such as web browsers) and responding with the requested web pages. Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of how it functions:

  1. Clients send requests: When you type a website’s URL into your browser, it sends a request to the web server hosting that website.
  2. Web server identifies the request: The web server receives the request and identifies which web page or resource is being requested.
  3. Web page retrieval: The server locates the requested web page or resource from its storage system, which can be physical hardware or cloud-based servers.
  4. Sending the response: Once the requested web page is located, the server sends it back to the client who initiated the request.

The entire process happens in just milliseconds, allowing for quick and efficient delivery of websites and their content.

Main Features of a Web Server

A typical web server comes with several essential features that ensure smooth functioning and efficient delivery of websites:

  • HTTP Protocol Support: Web servers understand and support Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP), which is used for communication between clients and servers on the World Wide Web.
  • MIME Type Configuration: They can be configured to handle different types of files, known as Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (MIME) types. These include HTML, CSS, images, videos, and more.
  • Security: Web servers have built-in security measures such as Secure Socket Layer/Transport Layer Security (SSL/TLS) encryption to protect sensitive data transferred between clients and servers.
  • Logging and Monitoring: They keep a record of client requests and server responses for troubleshooting, analysis, and performance monitoring purposes.

Types of Web Servers

There are several web server software options available, each with its own strengths and features. Here are some popular ones:

1. Apache HTTP Server

The Apache HTTP Server is one of the most widely used web servers. It is open-source software renowned for its stability, flexibility, and compatibility with various operating systems.


NGINX is another popular web server known for its high performance and scalability. It excels in handling concurrent connections efficiently, making it a preferred choice for websites with heavy traffic.

3. Microsoft Internet Information Services (IIS)

IIS is a web server developed by Microsoft specifically for Windows-based systems. It offers seamless integration with other Microsoft products and provides excellent security features.

In Conclusion

A web server plays a crucial role in serving websites to users around the world by storing and delivering web pages upon request. Understanding how it functions can help you appreciate the technology that powers the internet as we know it.

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