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What is a Web Server?

By R. Kayne
Updated May 16, 2024
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A web server is a computer that stores websites on the Internet and delivers web pages to viewers upon request. This service is referred to as web hosting. Every web server has a unique address, called an Internet Protocol address, that tells other computers connected to the Internet where to find the server on the vast network. The Internet Protocol (IP) address looks something like this: 69.93.141.146; this address links to a more human-friendly address, such as http://www.wisegeek.com. Web hosts rent out space on their web servers for people or businesses to set up their own websites, and the web server allocates a unique website address to each website it hosts.

How a Web Server Works

When someone connects to the Internet, his personal computer also receives a unique IP address assigned by his Internet service provider (ISP). This address identifies the computer's location on the network. When he clicks on a link to visit a website, like www.wisegeek.com, his browser sends out a request to wiseGEEK's IP address. This request includes return information and functions like a postal letter sent across town, but in this case the information is transferred across a network. The communication passes through several computers on the way to wiseGEEK, each routing it closer to its ultimate destination.

When the request reaches its destination, the web server that hosts wiseGEEK's website sends the page in HTML code to the requesting computer's IP address. This return communication travels back through the network. The computer receives the code and the user's browser interprets the code and displays the page for the user in graphic form.

Selecting a Web Server

There are several points to consider when selecting a web server. Web servers with consistent records of an uptime of 99.5% or better are considered reliable. The more powerful the server, the faster it can serve up website pages. Slower, smaller servers may result in frustrating lag time for viewers. High traffic can also slow servers that are not powerful enough to handle high volumes of data exchange. This lag time should be a concern for anyone who is shopping for a web host.

In theory, web servers stay connected to the Internet 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. In truth, they experience occasional downtime due to maintenance and technical problems. Most web hosts have a page dedicated to sharing technical information about their web server, including speed, capacity, network configuration, and other details.

EasyTechJunkie is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Link to Sources
Discussion Comments
By chrypto — On Sep 21, 2012

If I were tracing an e-mail, and it said server location: Washington, would that place be where the computer is? Or can a server be just anywhere?

By anon190554 — On Jun 26, 2011

Hey thanks for this article on web servers. It puts it in simple, understandable terms, unlike some websites. --Emma

By anon162047 — On Mar 22, 2011

Farabutoo: thank you very much for this information.

By anon162001 — On Mar 22, 2011

absolutely mind blowing amount of information. i owe my life to you. thanks.

By anon154542 — On Feb 21, 2011

Superb explanation.

By anon126957 — On Nov 14, 2010

Great job. Thanks a ton for the information.

By anon103346 — On Aug 12, 2010

nice. you've explained the topic very well. Thanks.

By anon101746 — On Aug 04, 2010

really great article. Now my concept is clear

about web servers.

By anon89275 — On Jun 09, 2010

Great article, very easy to understand. i would appreciate if you can add some information on how the browser reads the HTML code received from the web server.

By anon85754 — On May 21, 2010

love this site. it offers a great, practical break down of information so that if one had no previous knowledge of a subject they leave with understanding after using the site. Thanks!

By anon85430 — On May 20, 2010

this is a very good and useful site. thanks a lot. --nehal

By ppooja — On May 17, 2010

Thanks a lot for giving the helpful information.

By anon81149 — On Apr 30, 2010

thanks very much. It was very helpful and written in easy to understand way!

By anon79292 — On Apr 22, 2010

Thanks a lot this article is really nice and easy to understand.

By anon78462 — On Apr 18, 2010

very nice and helpful, also informative. thanks anyway to the person who has written this.

By anon76889 — On Apr 12, 2010

this was very fun and useful.

By anon71725 — On Mar 19, 2010

Good article. Thanks, Santhosh.

By anon69620 — On Mar 09, 2010

this article helped me a lot.

By anon69075 — On Mar 06, 2010

it's really very useful. thanks.

By anon53400 — On Nov 20, 2009

Now I start to understand web servers.

By anon48508 — On Oct 13, 2009

thanks, wisegeek.

By anon47901 — On Oct 08, 2009

what is network protocol suite?

By anon26120 — On Feb 08, 2009

To Virginia T. in Texas-

My sentiments exactly. *Kudos* to WiseGeek for such an easy to understand site.

I, too, have returned to school in completion of my degree and have looked to this site for information.

Because it is written in layman's terms, you don't have to be a computer whiz to comprehend the text.

Thank you again- also from Texas

Sincerely

Naomi W. :)

By anon25668 — On Feb 02, 2009

I got clear idea about basic in "Web Server". It was very useful for me. thanks!-Tharindu-Sri Lanka

By anon23904 — On Jan 04, 2009

this was this most helpful site i found on the topic...thanks for breaking it down into simple human language.

By anon16641 — On Aug 11, 2008

I am 65 years old and very illiterate of computers. The best I could do was turn it on and off. I started college for my Associates in Business Administration in April of this year, 2008. My grades have been great and I am holding a grade average of A in both classes at this time. I want to thank you for your website as I believe the resources I found here will give me a great grade. Thank You so very much. Virginia T. Texas

By anon15503 — On Jul 13, 2008

what components does web server have?

By anon13856 — On Jun 05, 2008

This article has made things more clear about the web server and its function. THANK U

By anon11373 — On Apr 15, 2008

really this article is useful for beginners.

By anon11267 — On Apr 12, 2008

really useful article. Thnx, Arun.

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