What is a Web Server?

R. Kayne

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:; 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.

Web servers store Internet content and deliver it to computer users upon request.
Web servers store Internet content and deliver it to computer users upon request.

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.

Every web server has a unique IP address.
Every web server has a unique IP address.

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.

In theory, web servers stay connected to the Internet 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
In theory, web servers stay connected to the Internet 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

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Discussion Comments


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?


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


Farabutoo: thank you very much for this information.


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


Superb explanation.


Great job. Thanks a ton for the information.


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


really great article. Now my concept is clear

about web servers.


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.


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!


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


Thanks a lot for giving the helpful information.


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


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


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


this was very fun and useful.


Good article. Thanks, Santhosh.


this article helped me a lot.


it's really very useful. thanks.


Now I start to understand web servers.


thanks, wisegeek.


what is network protocol suite?


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


Naomi W. :)


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


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


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


what components does web server have?


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


really this article is useful for beginners.


really useful article. Thnx, Arun.

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