What is a Web Server?
Web servers are computers that store websites and deliver Web page information when a visiting computer requests it. Most often referred to as “Web hosting,” each Web server has a unique address (the internet protocol, or IP address) that tells other computers where to find the server on the vast network of computers that is the Internet.
How a Web server works
When someone connects to the Internet, their personal computer is given a unique IP address by their Internet service provider. The address identifies that individual’s computer location on the network. When they visit a website, their computer’s Internet browser sends out a request to the computer hosting the website and requests their IP address.
This request includes return information just like a postal letter, but transferred across the Internet. The communication then passes through several Web servers on its way to the destination, each routing it closer toward the end server.
Once the hosting server receives the request from the personal computer, the server then sends back the requested Web page in HTML along with the request for the sender’s IP address. This return communication then travels back through the Internet to the source computer. When the computer receives the code, the user’s browser interprets the HTML and displays a finished Web page in graphic form.
The qualities of good Web servers
When a business owner or website moderator is searching for a good Web server to host their website, picking a server comes down to several main factors. The most important of these is reliability or up-time. Picking a Web server that will remain online most is critical as much website traffic can be lost when a Web server is unavailable for maintenance.
Earning the quality of “reliable” entails at least a 99.5 percent up-time. Web servers need to run all day every day so that users from throughout the world have easy access to the website whenever, which makes this demanding level of availability understandable.
In addition to reliability, the speed of the Web server is also important. When visitors experience lengthy delays (lengthy being more than several seconds) loading a Web page, they’re more likely to leave the website. Thus, servers must be quick in their response times so that browsers can quickly bring up a Web page.
While the Web server may be using the best hardware, Web traffic can still detract from a website’s overall speed. If you run a website that an overwhelming number of visitors, most Web hosting services will not be able to keep up with the demand. In such an instance, you’d need to consider putting together your own Web server to handle these website requests.
Web servers also handle data requests for other protocols other than loading Web pages. These include SMTP for email and FTP for file transfer and storage. While each of these is an important request to handle, it is still ultimately the Web server’s ability to respond to Web page requests that keeps the World Wide Web up and running.