What Is on a Web Server?


Heather Bennett

A web server is a crucial component of the World Wide Web. It is a software application that runs on a computer and acts as a mediator between client devices, such as computers or smartphones, and the websites they want to access. When you type a website address into your browser’s address bar, the web server is responsible for delivering the requested web page to your device.

What Is Stored on a Web Server?

A web server stores and manages various types of files and data that make up websites. Let’s take a closer look at some of the common elements you can find on a web server:

1. HTML Files

HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) files form the backbone of websites. They contain the structure, content, and formatting instructions that browsers use to render web pages. HTML files are plain text documents saved with a .html or .htm extension.

2. CSS Files

CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) files control the presentation and styling of HTML elements on a webpage. They define properties such as colors, fonts, layouts, and animations to create visually appealing websites. CSS files are typically saved with .css extension.

3. JavaScript Files

JavaScript is a scripting language that enables interactivity on websites. JavaScript files (.js) contain code that can manipulate HTML elements, handle user interactions, perform calculations, and fetch data from servers dynamically.

4. Images

Websites often include various types of images, such as logos, banners, product photos, or background images. These images can be stored on the web server in formats like JPEG (.jpg), PNG (.png), or GIF (.gif).

5. Video and Audio Files

Web servers can also host video and audio files, allowing websites to provide multimedia content. Common video formats include MP4 (.mp4), while audio files can be in formats like MP3 (.mp3) or WAV (.wav).

Web Server Applications and Databases

In addition to static files, web servers can also run web server applications. These applications generate dynamic web pages by processing user requests and data from databases.

Databases are used to store and manage large amounts of structured data for websites. Web servers often interact with databases to retrieve, update, and store information. Common database systems include MySQL, PostgreSQL, and MongoDB.

The Role of Web Servers in Handling Requests

When a user requests a webpage by typing a URL into their browser or clicking on a link, the following process occurs:

  1. The browser sends an HTTP request to the web server specifying the URL.
  2. The web server receives the request and searches for the requested file or triggers the corresponding server-side application.
  3. If it’s a static file (e.g., HTML, CSS, image), the server retrieves it from storage and sends it back to the browser as an HTTP response.
  4. If it’s a dynamic page (e., generated by a server-side application), the server executes the necessary code, fetches data from databases if needed, generates HTML content on-the-fly, and sends it back as a response to the browser.
  5. The browser receives the response and renders it to display the webpage to the user.

Web servers play a crucial role in the functioning of the internet. Understanding what is stored on a web server and how it handles requests can help you gain a deeper understanding of how websites work.

So next time you browse the web, remember that behind each webpage, there’s a powerful web server working hard to deliver content to your device!

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