What is a Web Server?

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A Web Server is a general term used to describe a computer that is used to “host” a website. Simply put, every website needs space on a computer (server) that is always connected to the web. For most websites, it is sufficient to rent this space on a server from web hosting companies. Very large websites with millions of visitors may need their own web servers.

Web Server Configuration

The configuration of a web server can vary greatly depending on what the intended use is. If the web server will be used to host a website that will have millions of views a day, then the hardware for that server will need to be top of the line. It will also need to have extremely high network speed and bandwidth to serve the millions of visitors. In some cases, multiple web servers may be needed for handling that many visitors.

If a website only gets a few hundred visitors a day, then the configuration of the web server does not have to be that high end. In most cases, the web server can host multiple websites with moderate traffic to each. In extreme cases, the web server could even be an old computer stored in your closet!

Configuring a Web Server

Web servers can come configured in a magnitude of ways. There are generally two different basic configurations; Windows based servers and Unix based servers.

Windows based servers run a version of Windows Server as their operating system, with a variety of supporting applications such as PHP, Java, MySQL, MSSQL, etc.

A Unix based web server runs on a Unix based operating system. These can vary greatly based on need. Some of the more popular choices are CentOS, Ubuntu, Redhat or a Mac server. These types of servers also have supporting software applications that could include PHP, Java, MySQL, etc.

How Does a Web Server Work?

Every web server has a unique address, called the Internet Protocol (IP) address. The IP address of a web server identifies it on the Internet. When a web hosting company rents space on a web server to a website, the web server assigns a unique IP address to the website.

When a person tries to visit a website, the location of the website is identified by the website’s IP address. The internet service provider of the visitor tries to locate the web server and the website of the requested website. This process can include routing the request through a number of servers till the website’s location is reached.
When the request reaches the web server where the website is located, the page requested is sent back in HTML format to the requesting computer.

How to Select a Web Server?

Depending on your website and its needs, you need to decide on the type of web server you need and what its configuration needs to be. Some of the points you need to take into consideration before selecting a web server include:

  • Up Time: It does not help if your website is down frequently. It is important that you select a web server from a reliable web hosting company that ensures over 99% up time for its web servers.
  • Speed: The processing power and network bandwidth of a web server impact its speed. If your website is on a fast web server, visitors to your site will not have to wait long for the website to load.
  • Operating Systems: Windows and Unix are the most common operating systems for web servers. Each has its own unique advantages. The nature of your website and the technologies used to build it can determine the operating system and supporting applications that your web server should have.
  • Flexibility: Some web hosting companies restrict what you can and cannot install on the server. Having a flexible web hosting company will ensure that you do not have to compromise on the technologies you use to build your website.
  • Responsiveness: While most web hosting companies ensure that their servers are sunning 24/7, there are times when a server needs to go down for maintenance or technical issues. How the web host handles such situations can be crucial. Likewise, when you have questions or need help, the responsiveness of your web hosting company can either make it a smooth and pleasurable experience or a nightmare.

Ballistic Domains offers a host of web hosting packages that are designed to suit most web hosting requirements. We also help you identify the best configuration for your needs and work with you in ensuring that your web servers meet your requirements. Before taking a web hosting decision and selecting a web server, talk to us and let us help you find the best solution for your web hosting requirements.

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