What Is A Web Server?

A web server refers to software or hardware that operates separately or together.

In regard to hardware, a web server is defined as a computer that is able to store software and a website’s component files.

A web server will also connect users to the internet and support interchanges with other elements on the internet. 

In regard to software, a web server will typically include numerous parts that operate to control access to hosted files.

This can be defined as a HTTP server which is software that understands websites and the HTTP protocol. HTTP servers are accessed via the domains of the websites contained within it.

These servers deliver these hosted websites to a user’s device. 

In basic terms, when a browser needs to download a file that is hosted via a web server, this file will be requested via HTTP.

Whenever this request has reached the appropriate web server, the HTTP server will then accept it and source the required document before returning it to the browser.

What Is A Web Server?

If the server is unable to access the requested file, it will show a 404 error message instead.  

In order to publish a webpage, you will require a dynamic or static web server. A static web server will consist of computer hardware that contains a HTTP server (the software).

It is known as static as it sends any hosted files directly to your browser. 

To contrast, a dynamic web server consists of a static server in addition to other forms of software. These are most commonly a database and another application server.

It is known as dynamic as it will update all hosted files prior to sending them to your browser, using the HTTP server to do so. 

In order to produce the websites that you view in your browser, the application server within a dynamic server may fill the HTML template with content deriving from a database.

Websites like Wikipedia use these servers as they contain thousands of web pages. 

Thus, websites like this are usually only composed using a few HTML templates alongside a large database as opposed to using thousands upon thousands of HTML documents.

This makes it far easier for the site to be maintained and for the content to be delivered accordingly. 

Deeper Insight Into Web Servers

In order to obtain a webpage correctly, your browser will be required to send a request to the server, which will then search for the file via its storage space.

Once it has found the file, the server will read it and process it as required prior to sending it to your browser. 

How Does A Web Server Host Files?

Firstly, a web server needs to store a website’s files which usually consist of HTML documents alongside any additional assets like images, javascript files, and video footage.

Technically, these files could all be hosted within your own computer.

However, it is far more convenient for these files to be stored within a web server as these servers are usually far more available.

A web server is also nearly always connected to the internet, making it easy to access the relevant files.

These servers will also usually have the same IP address which makes them easier to track and are typically promptly maintained via a third party. 

For all of the reasons that I have outlined, finding a hosting provider with a good reputation is a major part of building a website.

You should examine numerous service companies and see what they have to offer before choosing one that suits your budget and requirements.

Once you have selected your web hosting service, you will also need to upload any relevant files via your web server. 

Communicating Via HTTP

Communicating Via HTTP

A web server will provide notable support for HTTP, otherwise known as Hypertext Transfer Protocol.

As its name indicates, this software will specify how hypertext is transferred between two computer devices.

The protocol stimulates a series of rules for communication occurring between two computers. HTTP is a stateless and textual type of protocol. 

What Is Textual And Stateless Protocol?

Textual protocol ensures that all commands are delivered in plain-text and are readable by humans.

In comparison, stateless protocol ensures that the client nor the server remembers any previous communication.

For instance, if you are relying on HTTP on its own, a server will not be able to remember any previous passwords. An application server is required in this instance. 

HTTP will provide concise rules on how the web server and client communicate with one another.

You should be aware that it is usually clients that will make requests using HTTP, and these requests are typically only delivered to servers.

Most servers will then respond to the request, and populate any date into a cache through a process that is known as server push.

Whenever a file is requested via HTTP, the client will need to provide the entire URL and ensure that it is accurate.

Each server must also answer every single HTTP request, even if this is with a 404 Error message. 

When using a web server, the HTTP server is also entirely responsible for the processing and answering of all incoming server requests.

Once a request has been received, the HTTP server will initially check whether the URL matches any existing file before delivering it.

If there is no match, then the application server will build the file itself. If there is no match or potential to build the file, then the server will return an error message like a 404 Not Found page.

This message occurs so frequently that some website designers will put a vast amount of effort into designing error pages also. 


To conclude, a web server refers to software or hardware that operates separately or together.

There are various elements involved in the functioning of these servers and I have outlined these in more detail above.


Ollie Wilson

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