Sunday, December 4, 2022

What is Webserver? Working of web server

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What is a web server? and working of web server

In this article, we explain what web servers are, the Working of a Webserver, and why they are important.

To publish a website, you need either a static or a dynamic web server.

A static web server, or stack, consists of a computer (hardware) with an HTTP server (software). We call it “static” because the server sends its hosted files as-is to your browser.

A dynamic web server consists of a static web server plus extra software, most commonly an application server and a database. We call it “dynamic” because the application server updates the hosted files before sending content to your browser via the HTTP server.

For example, to produce the final webpages you see in the browser, the application server might fill an HTML template with content from a database. Sites like MDN or Wikipedia have thousands of webpages. Typically, these kinds of sites are composed of only a few HTML templates and a giant database, rather than thousands of static HTML documents. This setup makes it easier to maintain and deliver the content.

Deeper dive

To review: to fetch a webpage, your browser sends a request to the web server, which searches for the requested file in its own storage space. Upon finding the file, the server reads it, processes it as-needed, and sends it to the browser. Let's look at those steps in more detail.

Hosting files

First, a web server has to store the website's files, namely all HTML documents and their related assets, including images, CSS stylesheets, JavaScript files, fonts, and video.

Technically, you could host all those files on your own computer, but it's far more convenient to store files all on a dedicated web server because:

  • A dedicated web server is typically more available. (up and running)
  • Excluding downtime and systems troubles, a dedicated web server is always connected to the Internet.
  • A dedicated web server can have the same IP address all the time. This is known as a dedicated IP address. (not all ISPs provide a fixed IP address for home lines)
  • A dedicated web server is typically maintained by a third-party.

For all these reasons, finding a good hosting provider is a key part of building your website. Examine the various services companies offer. Choose one that fits your needs and budget. (Services range from free to thousands of dollars per month.) You can find more details in this article.

Once you have web hosting service, you must upload your files to your web server.

Communicating through HTTP

Second, a web server provides support for HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol). As its name implies, HTTP specifies how to transfer hypertext (linked web documents) between two computers.

A Protocol is a set of rules for communication between two computers. HTTP is a textual, stateless protocol.

Textual

All commands are plain-text and human-readable.

Stateless

Neither the server nor the client remember previous communications. For example, relying on HTTP alone, a server can't remember a password you typed or remember your progress on an incomplete transaction. You need an application server for tasks like that. (We'll cover that sort of technology in other articles.)

HTTP provides clear rules for how a client and server communicate. We'll cover HTTP itself in a technical article later. For now, just be aware of these things:

  • Usually only clients make HTTP requests, and only to servers. Servers respond to a client‘s HTTP request. A server can also populate data into a client cache, in advance of it being requested, through a mechanism called a server push.
  • When requesting a file via HTTP, clients must provide the file's URL.
  • The web server must answer every HTTP request, at least with an error message.

On a web server, the HTTP server is responsible for processing and answering incoming requests.

  1. Upon receiving a request, an HTTP server first checks if the requested URL matches an existing file.
  2. If so, the web server sends the file content back to the browser. If not, an application server builds the necessary file.
  3. If neither process is possible, the web server returns an error message to the browser, most commonly 404 Not Found. The 404 error is so common that some web designers devote considerable time and effort to designing 404 error pages. Working of web server is simple we just try to understand carefully.

 

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