Introduction to the types and functions of web servers

Web servers power the Internet. We give you an introduction to the types and functions of web servers – including an outlook on modern deployment options.

We use the Internet every day to access information, browse social media, send emails, and more. But how does it all actually work? One of the fundamental technologies that power the Internet are so-called web servers.

What is a web server?

A web server is a special computer or software that specializes in delivering web pages and other resources over the Internet. When you access a website in your web browser, your browser sends a request to a web server, which delivers the requested information. Web servers are at the heart of the World Wide Web and make it possible to make information available worldwide.

How a web server works

The basic operation of a web server is relatively simple to understand. Here are the steps that occur when a website is accessed:

1️⃣ Client request
When you enter a website in your web browser or click on a link, your browser sends an HTTP request to the web server hosting the requested website.

2️⃣ Request processing
The web server receives the request and processes it. It determines which resources are requested and looks for the corresponding files on its server.

3️⃣ Resource provisioning
Once the web server finds the requested files, it sends them back to the client’s browser as an HTTP response. This response can contain HTML pages, images, videos, stylesheets, and other resources.

4️⃣ Display in browser
Your web browser receives the HTTP response and renders the web page accordingly. You see the web page on your screen.

5️⃣ Interaction and other requests
When you navigate the web page or click on links, more HTTP requests are sent to the web server and the process repeats.

Types of web servers

There are many different web server software solutions designed for different purposes and needs. Some of the most popular web servers are:

  • Apache: Apache HTTP Server is one of the oldest and most popular web servers. It is known for its reliability and flexibility.
  • Nginx: Nginx is a powerful, highly scalable web server and reverse proxy server. It is especially suitable for large websites and web applications.
  • Microsoft IIS: Internet Information Services (IIS) is Microsoft’s web server for Windows Server. It is widely used and well integrated into the Microsoft product family.
  • LiteSpeed: LiteSpeed is a web server designed for high speed and efficiency. It is often used in conjunction with content management systems like WordPress.

Cloud services and the modern web server

The primary function of a web server is still to host web pages, as described above. However, web space is only one of the functions of a web server. With the growing popularity of cloud services, companies can also use storage space and computing capacities of web servers without having to invest in their own IT infrastructure. Providers such as centron enable a wide range of services – from simple web hosting to extensive cloud solutions, including private cloud offerings.