What is a Web Server and Why Are They So Important?
Almost everyone has heard of web servers but most people don’t actually know what they are! In a certain sense a spider is a web server but that is not the kind of web server we have in mind. This article explains in simple terms what an internet web server is and also explains why they are so important for the efficient functioning of modern websites. The most common type in use today is probably Apache. It is a software application but it runs on a physical hardware device (or server). So when someone speaks about a web server they usually mean both the hardware device and the software that is running on it. Let’s look at how these servers typically work:
- First you enter the address of a web page in your browser, say Amazon or eBay
- Your browser sends a page request to the web server at the address you provided (its like a street address)
- the Amazon or eBay server intercepts your page request
- if the server does indeed have the page you requested then it will return the page to your browser
- you see the page that you requested appear in your browser as if by magic
The above description is a simplified view of a web server but it does the job of explaining how they work. However let’s look at a more complex scenario. This is when the server sits in front of many other servers.