WordPress Web Servers & Hosting

A program that uses the HTTP or Hypertext Transfer Protocol to deliver content to internet users in the form of web pages is called a web server. This content is delivered in response to a request that the users sent through their computers’ web browser.

Brief Overview Of The Working Of Web Servers

Out of the millions of people that use the internet every day, very few really know what happens one visiting a website. For a regular user, visiting a website is basically clicking on a link and getting the information they need. However, if a user wants to be a website owner, it is good to have a general idea of how the process of sending and receiving information on the internet works. The web server plays a very important role in this process.

When you enter the address of a website on a web browser and click enter, the web browser has to start the task of figuring out where that particular website is located. For this it has to look up the IP address on the Domain Name System (DNS). Once the browser knows the location of the requested site, a request will be sent to the server managing the site. The URL of the site and lot of other information is sent in this request. This request is received by the web server. The web server’s main job is to receive requests continuously from the internet and respond to them.

After the web server has received the request, its responsibility is to handle the request in the right manner. This could mean anything from retrieving files to activating another web application. Once the web server has the information it needs to handle the request, it will send it back to browser that requested it. It is then received by your computer which will display it back to you.
This process is an important example of the client-server model.

Critical Role Of a Web Server

The role of a web server in the entire process of visiting a website is very important. There are multiple steps involved in this process. But, the web server needs to complete the whole job instantaneously. As a result, the web server needs to perform at optimum speed.

Content Caching

There are many different ways that can affect the speed of performance of a web server. Content caching is one such way. If there is content that a web server needs to deliver from time-to-time, it is considered best to cache it. This basically means storing it in memory. Once it is stored in memory, the web server will not have to go through all the steps of file retrieval or activating web applications to manage the request. This is especially useful for getting a fast response for content that does not change very often.

.htaccess

Files called .htaccess are used for storage of instructions on handing web requests. Apache web servers generally use these files. There are many types of instructions that can be stored:

  • mod_rewrite instructions for rewriting request details before sending them to secondary applications
  • IP address blocking

Web Servers and Operating Systems

To access the data available on a website the user computer does not need the same operating system as the website. Compatibility between operating system and web server of the website is required for the administrator of the website.

Commonly Used Web Servers

Currently, there are many different web servers being used. Some web servers can be used only with specific operating systems and others can be used with all operating systems. IIS – Internet Information Services server is a web server that Microsoft has made specifically for Windows.

Many of the Linux servers can be used on Windows as well. Apache web server is one of the most popular web servers used today. It is most commonly used as a part of the LAMP – Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP bundle. Other commonly used web servers include nginx, Google web server (GWS) and Domino servers by IBM.

Alternatives To Using Web Servers

It is not always required to have a stand-alone web server software for running a website on the internet. If the website creator is using a web application like Ruby on Rails or Node.js, they come together with web server functionality as a part of
the package.

Web Ports

A computer’s network driver has a designated port through which the web servers run data packets. Most websites use port 80 by default. If you ask a web server to run at localhost: 8080 it means that 8080 is the port and localhost is the name of the computer’s ‘home’ address. Other uses of ports are using multiple web servers, fast data streams etc.

Installation Of a Web Server

The procedure for installation of a web server largely depends on its operating system and web server application. Linux and Java machines generally come pre-installed with the Apache web server. The web server software is also pre-installed in Windows machines for the IIS server. The command line can be used to install certain web servers. The Python or NodeJS languages are used for this. Web application Ruby on Rails comes with its own web server functionality. It is generally the Mongrel or Passenger web servers.

Web Servers In Web Hosting

Every web host will have a web server at any given time. The amount of control that a client is given to manage the configuration of the server differs from host to host and plan to plan. cPanel web hosts use the Apache server. In this case, a part of the server excluding the server software can be control by the client. Some hosts offer control to the clients through the .htaccess file.

Load Limits In Web Servers

Web servers have load limits. This basically means the number of concurrent client connections and number of requests per second that it can handle. These limits depend on the following:

  • Settings of the server
  • Static or dynamic nature of the content
  • The type of the HTTP request
  • Caching of the content
  • Limitations of the operating system of the web server’s computer

WordPress Servers FAQ

What is a web server?
Web servers are computer systems that store data of websites and transmit this data via the internet by using HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol). We can access a web server through a domain name. This process is done effectively because every web server and computer on the internet has a unique IP address. This IP address helps a computer to connect with the web server and when the web server receives the request, again the IP address helps the web server to transmits information to the right computer.

What is an IP address?
IP or Internet Protocol is a set of numbers that are used as an address for devices e.g. computers. It consists of a set of numbers that are separated from each other by a dot (.). An example of an IP address is 54.792. 0.705. This group of 4 numbers is used to identify our devices on the internet which helps web servers to successfully transmit required information. There are two types of an IP address; Static and Dynamic. The static IP address is permanent whereas Dynamic IP address is temporary and it changes every time whenever a computer accesses the internet.

What is the function of a web-server?
The function of a web server is to store web pages of a website, process and deliver it to the user’s browser as per user’s request.

Can a web server work offline?
No, the web server must always be connected to the internet in order to perform its tasks.

Why do we need a web server?
Web servers are an important part of the internet that we are using today. Without web servers, our access to millions of web pages would not be possible and the internet would not exist. Web server is a path to access the information available on world wide web. Web server has made it possible for us to use internet anytime. Web servers are also used in different devices like printers, webcams etc.

How does a web server work?
When someone visits a web page of a website, their computer sends a request to the web server using HTTP and the web server then finds that exact page and responds by sending the requested web page to the user’s web browser. This communication is an example of a client/server model and it takes place by using HTTP. As we have already mentioned that every computer has a unique IP address. So, the web server and the user’s computer are identified by their unique IP addresses.

What is HTTP server?
A software of web server that understand what is HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) and URL (web addresses) is known as an HTTP server. In easy words, a web server is the hardware part and HTTP is the software part. This software controls every action of a web server.

What is a client/server model?
Client/server model is a relation in the virtual world in which one system is known as a client and the other system is called a server. A web server is a perfect example of the client/server model. Whenever we type something in our web browser, our system is the client that requests information from the web server (server) and the server sends us our required information or web page. This connection between the client and the server is established through the internet and is controlled by the web server by HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol).

What does URL mean?
URL or Uniform Resource Locator is an address of any file that is available on the internet. Whenever we go online on any website, the address that appears in the address bar of our browser is known as URL or Uniform Resource Locator.

What is a web server software?
A web server software is a type of software that is used in the web servers. The purpose of a web server software is to control how clients access the web server and how a web server transmits data to the end user’s web browser.

What is a domain name?
Domain names are unique web addresses that are used to identify web pages and IP addresses over the internet. There are two parts of a domain name and each part provides specific information about the web page. An example of a domain name is facebook.com.

What are the names of leading web servers?
Some of the leading web servers are Apache (APACHE), IIS (Microsoft), NGINX (NGINX Inc.), GWS (Google), Domino servers (IBM).

What type of computer can be used as a web server?
Any computer can be used as a web server if it has the required web server software and a high-speed internet connection. However most of the computers that are used as a web server are trimmed down computers used specifically for this purpose.

What are web hosting companies?
There are companies who give you the option to save the data of your website on their web servers. They help you to keep your website on the internet and make it accessible to your users. These companies are known as web hosting companies and the service that they provide is known as web hosting service.

Are there any load limits on the web servers?
Yes, each web server has certain defined limits. The web server can transmit a specific amount of data in one second and can handle a limited number of connections per IP address. These limited are pre-defined.

Can web servers be overloaded?
Yes, sometimes web servers can be overloaded. There are different reasons of overload but most important reasons are very high traffic on a website, very slow internet connection, denial of service attacks, internet bots or hardware and software failures.

What techniques can be used to avoid overload?
There are some common techniques that are used to avoid overload. These techniques involve using multiple internet servers, using different domain names, using web cache techniques, managing traffic, and by adding more hardware resources.

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