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What is the web server?

Through a web server, web content can be saved and made accessible to users in a secure manner. When you load an Internet address into your web browser, the items you see on a page are always sent to your computer from a web server. For a website to be accessible at all times, the webserver on which it is hosted must be connected to the Internet at all times.

If you want to launch a website on the Internet, you must, therefore, use a web server. Large companies and organizations often have their own web servers for their intranet and internet content. Most Internet site administrators, however, use data centers hosted by Internet service providers. It doesn’t matter if you have a dedicated server or rent one externally, you always need software to manage a website’s data and keep it available to web users. There are many web server management programs to choose from that are designed for different operating systems and application areas.

Web server: definition and history

By Web server (also called HTTP server), we mean any type of server which makes it possible to distribute Web content on the Internet or Intranet. As part of a computer network, a web server transmits documents (from a web page to a browser, for example) to something called a client.

The term web server can generally refer to two different things: either the software of a web server or the machine on which the program is running. When it comes to the second definition, it is usually referred to as a web host or host (such a web host can host multiple web server programs).

Web server: how does this technology work?

The primary purpose of web server software is to represent web content data. For this purpose, the program communicates with a web client (usually a web browser or search engine).

If you want to visit a website, you must enter the corresponding Internet address in a browser. In other words, the browser sends a request to the Web server and the latter sends it response in the form of an HTML page. Such an HTML document can be saved on the host statically or dynamically. This means that the web server must execute program codes (PHP or Java) before the response. The browser interprets the response, which gives rise to new requests to the server which aim to integrate, for example, the images or the associated CSS data.

Choosing the appropriate server (host) (between a virtual, dedicated or cloud server) helps prevent overloading your server. Yet even if you use a server that matches your resource requirements, outages are still likely. These failures or errors can be caused by a power outage or other technical problems in the data center of the host being used. Even if such an outage does not repeat itself very rarely, it results in a total cut-off of the network and therefore the website stops functioning. A system such as the Content Delivery Network (CDN) makes it possible to remedy these technical problems through better load distribution and a replica system to prevent data loss.

Definitions: webserver vs. Web hosting

What roles do web servers play in web hosting? And what exactly is web hosting? A web server is by definition a fundamental component of web hosting. The distinction between the two concepts is not always easy, however, and especially for the most novice.

Web hosting is characterized by the storage and availability of web content. The data of a website is deposited on a defined webspace. This webspace is, so to speak, a hard drive on which web content is stored. This memory is linked to a Web server, so that online content is made available.

A web host or host is a web server computer, as well as the corresponding webspace, which is obtained through a web host. Many Internet service providers such as DMTwebhosting for example act as web hosts. If you have decided on standalone hosting when choosing the web hosting service provider, you will need to arrange it yourself. For this, you will need a web server program.

Common web server management software (free)

There are many programs available for operating a web server. Most are available for free download from the Internet. The Web server used must obviously be compatible with the operating system of the host. Most web servers are based on UNIX or Linux (Apache, Nginx, Tomcat, etc.) but often also on Windows. Microsoft IIS is an exception because it only works on Windows.

Here is a brief overview of the most popular web server administration programs:

  • Apache HTTP Server: The Apache HTTP server (or more simply Apache server) is continuously developed and improved thanks to its open-source base. This modular program works equally well with all operating systems, it is the most used web server. It is very suitable for dynamic Web content: you can indeed integrate PHP scripting language without problem.
  • Apache Tomcat: This is an open-source server program based on a Java environment. If you want to produce web content with Java, this software is very suitable as it offers a web container. In addition, it can be incorporated into other web servers (Apache HTTP server or Microsoft IIS) via an AJP connector.
  • Nginx: This free software offers more functions than a regular web server. Among other things, Nginx also offers a reverse proxy, which reduces the load on the server and therefore allows you to work faster. In recent years, Nginx has gained a lot of popularity.
  • Microsoft IIS: The Microsoft Internet Information Service (IIS) program is a set of software in which there is also a Web server. Previously, IIS was an integrated part of the Windows server system. Since then, the program can be installed later and independently, if necessary, on some Windows operating systems. The fact that IIS can only be used on Windows-based servers is hardly surprising but works against it.
  • LiteSpeed Web Server: Litespeed is web server software for Linux and Unix with which you can choose between an open-source version, a free standard version, and a variant for businesses. The Litespeed web server is characterized above all by its speed of data transmission. This is even higher in the professional version.

The administration of a web server program is usually performed by another computer through remote access. In most cases, the web host’s operating system does not have to be the same as the computer on which the webserver management program is running. One of the most well-known remote access programs is Plesk. With this software, you can manage a Web server under Linux, UNIX, but also Windows. Therefore, you can for example manage a host in Linux from your computer running Windows and vice versa.

Web server security

Once the webserver is created and configured, you need to ensure that all programs are up to date. Obsolete versions open the door to criminals and hackers, and in the worst case, allow them to take control of the server. With cloud hosting with outsourcing, the internet provider takes care of all security-related preventions. Otherwise, it is your responsibility.

Another basic principle as an administrator when it comes to web server security is to restrict server functions to those that are absolutely necessary. Close all ports, and let the necessary services run. Also, assigning strong passwords is one of the basic security prevention measures for supporting a server. In case of questions or in an emergency, reliable and qualified after-sales service is of great value, especially for less experienced administrators.

If your web host isn’t completely taking care of protecting your server, you need some know-how as well as an understanding of the basics of hosting to maintain your server. You can also acquire this know-how on the job, and ideally on a closed network, to avoid any risk of cyber-attack.

Do you feel well informed about setting up your own web server and want to rent a server? Whether you want to opt for a dedicated server, a cloud server, or a virtual server, DMTwebhosting has the optimal solution for you. Discover our product catalog on our online store.

About the author

DMTwebhosting.com’s Editorial Team prides itself on bringing you the latest web hosting news and the best web hosting articles!

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DMT Web Hosting is too concerned about the health and safety of both clients and employees. Our office is closed due to countrywide lock down. You can reach us on +92 300 044 4656, +92 321 112 6660 during the lock down period. We appreciate your understanding and patience.