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What is a Web Server?

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Web servers are often thought of as big, black machines, with lots of wires, buttons, and lights. Maybe you think of a long, flat device that fits into a rack somewhere, whirring and beeping as the lights on the front of it twinkle.

While this is a good interpretation, those images are really just commercial-level computers. What makes a computer a web server is the software installed on it.

Any computer, even a desktop or laptop, can host a web server. Still, without a public IP address, the page won’t be visible on the internet, and website visitors won’t be able to see any web sites hosted on it. However, most of the software needed to host a web site is freely available. You can install it on any compatible machine.

Web servers are software

Web server software offers several features that make it capable of providing an interactive experience for its users. Here are some of the key benefits of web servers:

  • Serve all of your web site’s files. Web sites are made up of files. Some files, called HTML files, hold the contents of your site. Other files, such as CSS files, control how your site looks. Browsers like Chrome or Firefox get these files from a web server and then put the page on your site together.
  • Run code for your site. Most web sites use code on the back end to increase the interactivity and offer a better user experience. Consequently, If your site runs on any PHP application such as WordPress, Joomla, or Drupal, Python applications powered by frameworks like Django or Flask, or even Ruby on Rails, your web server will execute or interact with the software running the code.

Examples of web server software

Apache Web Server: One of the most common web servers on the internet is the web server created by the Apache software foundation. Many well known control panels, such as cPanel, and Centos Web Panel, are written to support Apache. Additionally, many applications written in PHP expect an Apache webserver.

Nginx Web Server: Nginx offers an easy configuration language, and several advanced capabilities, like reverse proxy setups. If you use Flask, Django, or ruby on rails to build your apps, try Nginx. It can interact with WSGI daemons out of the box.

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