Web server – Concept, uses and characteristics

We explain what a web server is and what its characteristics are. In addition, what it is for and the most used web servers.

Web Service
A web server mediates between the user and the server where the information is.

What is a web server?

In computing, a web server or HTTP Server is a piece of communications software that intermediate between the server where the requested data is hosted and the client’s computer, allowing bidirectional or unidirectional, synchronous or asynchronous connections, with any client application, even with browsers that translate a translatable (renderable) code to a specific web page. In other words, they are programs that mediate between the Internet user and the server where the information requested is located.

Web servers are programs for daily use on the Internet, which use various data protocols to communicate, the most common and somewhat standard being HTTP (HyperText Transfer Protocol). However, it is also possible to use the term to refer to the computer on which the files that make up a website are stored, together with the software necessary to fulfill the web data connection.

Characteristics of a web server

Web server
On a static server the files are sent as they are stored.

A web server operates on a computer awaiting requests from the web browser of a client, providing the requested data to compose a web page or, failing that, an error message. Web servers can be of two classes: static and dynamic.

  • Static servers. They consist of a computer where the information is stored and an HTTP server that responds to the request protocols. Its name comes from the fact that the files are sent as they are stored.
  • The dynamic servers. Instead they are static servers that contain additional software (usually applications and databases) that allow them to update the requested information before sending it to the client.

What is a web server for?

Web server
The user enters a web address in the browser that sends a request to the server.

As has been said, the function of web servers is to mediate between user requests and files that contain the requested information, on the computer where they are stored. Therefore, you need one to publish a website, and also to have access to the data that makes up any web page. This process occurs as follows:

  • The user enters a web address (URL) in his browser and it sends a request to the web server.
  • The web server (software) searches for the relevant files either on the server itself (hardware) or on a hosting service where they are always available and online.
  • The files are then processed as requested and sent according to the transfer protocol, that is, according to a set of rules that regulate communication between computers.
  • The browser receives the files and assembles the content of the web page that is displayed to the user.

Most used web servers

Some of the most used web servers are the following:

  • Nginx (2004). A web server and Proxy developed by the eponymous company.
  • Apache (1995). It is an open source HTTP web server, used for Unix, Windows and Macintosh computers, developed and maintained by a community of users that make up the Apache Software Foundation.
  • Internet Information Services or IIS (1993). Web server and set of services designed for Microsoft Windows that was originally included in its NT version.
  • Cherokee (2001). It is a multiplatform web server written in C language, available under the GNU General Public License, free software.
  • Tomcat (1999). An Apache distribution also known as Jakarta Tomcat, operates under the principle of servlets (Java).