What Does a Web Server Do? Intro to Web Servers

Here at A-Team Systems, we get all kinds of questions from people. One common one is, “What does a web server do?” So today, we put together this resource to answer that question!

Afterwards, if you still find yourself needing answers, or you’d like server support, give us a call at 1-877-883-1394 or send us a message. We’ll get you back on track quickly and affordably.

So, What Does a Web Server Do?

A web server is both hardware and software that responds to client requests across the internet. Their primary role is to facilitate the transfer and rendering of webpages to users.

The hardware includes a web server computer that stores software and component files, including HTML documents, image assets, Javascript files, and more. This computer facilitates data interchange between itself and other devices connected to the internet.

This server also includes software that manages how internet users access files. It uses protocols, such as HTTP, to respond to client requests made across the internet. HTTP servers are accessed through the stored website domain names which in turn renders content to the web user.

Examples of Usage

Web servers are often bundled with other programs that are internet (or intranet) related.

Some examples include:

  • Creating webpages
  • Sending and receiving emails
  • Employing scripts
  • Downloading requests for FTP files

Serving Dynamic and Static Content

Servers are capable of serving both dynamic and static content. Static content is the most basic type of content and is straightforward for servers to handle. When static content is retrieved, it is rendered as-is to the user.

Dynamic content, on the other hand, is more complex. The server processes or creates the content from a database. Therefore, you’re able to create webpages that are smarter and more effective. However, this added functionality adds to the tech stack.

Some web servers are more equipped than others when it comes to creating dynamic content. Apache handles it with ease, but NginX is incapable of serving dynamic content without the assistance of a processor. Therefore, it’s important to consider your needs before choosing a web server.

Web Server vs. Application Server

Web servers are technically a subgroup of application servers. However, web servers deliver static content, while application servers are used for generating dynamic content. Application servers can create static web content, but they’re primarily used for interaction between web users and server-side application code. Application server clients can be the end-user UI, a mobile app, or a web browser.

Most popular web and application servers on the market today are hybrids that feature elements of both to deliver content to end-users.

Types of Web Servers

Now that you know what a web server does, lets cover some of the most common types of web servers.

Some of the more popular ones on the market currently are:

  1. Apache HTTP
  2. NginX
  3. Microsoft Internet Information Services
  4. Lighttpd
  5. LiteSpeed

Apache HTTP

Apache was one of the first web servers on the market and it has remained one of the most popular. As of October 2021, roughly 24% of the web server market went to Apache. It’s a versatile server with a large community surrounding it, which has contributed to its success over the years. However, it has fallen out of favor in recent years due to its performance deficits.

If you find yourself needing Apache support, consider A-Team.

NginX

NginX is kind of the new hot web server on the market. Sure, they’ve been around since 2004, but it has only recently taken the majority market share spot from Apache. In October of 2021, around 35% of users utilize NginX. It’s generally less versatile than Apache, but the reason why it has become so popular is that it’s quite fast and capable of handling heavy server traffic. Due to its limitations, configuration can be complex. We offer NginX support for anyone struggling with this platform.

Microsoft Internet Information Services (IIS)

Microsoft’s Internet Information Services (IIS) is an extensible web server software created for Windows NT. It supports HTTP, HTTP/2, HTTPS, FTP, FTPS, SMTP and NNTP. IIS only accounts for about 6% of web servers, but it has steadily improved over the years in security and performance.

Lighttpd

Lighttpd is a more niche addition to this list. Only about 0.1% of websites use it. But it’s worth including because it’s an interesting open-source BSD project. As their name implies, they’re committed to creating a powerful but lightweight web server. It’s optimized for high-performance environments and uses less memory and CPU than other web servers.

Litespeed

Litespeed is the 4th most popular web server. It touts itself as being faster than NginX at an affordable price. It’s a direct replacement for Apache and installs easily with cPanel. Typically, this is a great choice for eCommerce websites that want more speed than some of the more popular options provide.

Wrapping Up: What Does a Web Server Do?

Web servers are used by a huge portion of the world’s population every day. You’re taking advantage of one right now! They keep us connected with the world around us, responding to client requests around the clock.

If you need web server support, A-Team Systems can help. We have over 100 years of collective experience and the skills to solve your problems quickly. Give us a call or send us a message today!

Call 1-877-883-1394 to Work With Web Server Experts

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