Those who know what a server is should not confuse it with a web server (HTTP server), because they are two different things, although it is true that one is part of the other since in actually the HTTP server is one of the components of a server. The server is the computer on which websites or applications are hosted, while the HTTP server is software that is part of the server. The HTTP server is the software responsible for delivering the content of a website to the user. This sending process, which at first glance seems very simple, is actually more complex than it seems since all the “magic” of an HTTP server occurs outside of the one browsing a website. . There are many web servers, and some of the best known are for example Apache, Nginx, LiteSpeed or IIS.
The specifications of web servers vary a lot from tool to tool. For example, if we compare Apache and Nginx, we will see that they have some notable differences, although their purpose is the same: to deliver data. The process begins in your navigation area. By entering the address of a website and validating it, the following sequence begins: the system performs a DNS search to find on which machine the page in question is located. After that, the browser requests the content of the website, then the HTTP server processes this request and sends said content to the user, resulting in the page being displayed on the screen.
Functions of a web server
As we mentioned before, there are different web servers, and therefore there are differences between them. Each HTTP server has its own characteristics and is intended for use in certain environments and configurations.
One of the most important factors in deciding which HTTP server to use is our server’s operating system, which is another of its features, they always run under an operating system.
In Windows Server systems, the most traditional choice is Microsoft’s IIS, while in others such as Linux-based systems, Apache, Nginx, and LiteSpeed are used extensively.
It is also possible to find web servers that are used only to send static content such as images, videos, etc. Because they are very good at this task, and in other cases, we also have those that are frequently used in shared hosting environments.
We must also emphasize the compatibility with dynamic sites and the limits that can be set at the level of resources such as transfer, for example, allowing us to be very flexible to resell hosting or host sites on a massive scale. And even for professional hosting.
A very important point to consider is the hardware because the performance of an HTTP server must be accompanied by the CPU, RAM and storage unit, the better they are, the better our site is sent.
What is a web server for?
As we have already mentioned, the main task of an HTTP server is to send the content of a website to the user. This is achieved through a process that in our eyes takes no more than a second, but at the server level, it is a more sophisticated sequence than it looks.
In order for the HTTP server to fulfil its role, it will first need to receive a request from a browser, and then search the server’s files for the requested information.
Once the site files are located, the HTTP server interprets the lines of code and sends the results back to the browser, which will display them to us.
When this process is complete, we can say that the HTTP server has completed its task of serving the website in question so that we can use it.
Differences between the web server and dedicated server
The web server is software that runs on a server, but should not be confused with the server itself.
A server is a system geared towards hosting web applications, web pages and databases.
This is the system in which the HTTP server software runs, and of course, it is hardware-based, after all a server is really no more and no less than a computer, only that its use has a very different orientation compared to computers commonly used at home.
Dedicated servers in particular are devices used for websites such as WordPress hosting and applications, as well as for server databases and other types of content.
Most used web servers
Among the most used web servers in the world, we can find some like Apache, Nginx, LiteSpeed & IIS. The first three are predominant on Linux systems, while IIS is designed for Windows environments.
Today, Microsoft IIS holds the largest market share, with approximately 688 million sites according to data from the latest Netcraft analysis. It is followed by Nginx with 358 million sites and Apache with 313 million.
As we can see there are many types of web servers out there, but without a doubt, these three that we mentioned earlier are the most popular today whether for pro hosting or not. This number of sites can be explained by the ease of hosting of those including through shared hosting.
As we have seen, a lot of things can be written on web servers, this time we focused on several points like the notion of HTTP server and its usefulness, its main characteristics, we also saw which are the most used as well common programming languages. Common they are compatible with, and of course, we learned what local web servers are and also how to differentiate a dedicated server from an HTTP server.
By now you are surely more familiar with the concept of HTTP servers and what they are used for on the internet.