A program that uses HTTP for serving files that create web pages for users in response to their requests that are sent by the HTTP clients of their computer is called a web server.
If any server delivers an XML document to another device, it can be a web server. In simple words, a web server is an Internet server that responds to HTTP requests for delivering content and services.
Let’s take an example, if you are working on your computer, browsing your web and message pop-ups from your friend that “I had just read a great article at the following URL.
So, you will insert this URL into your browser and press enter. That’s it!
The web server on which your website is based in the world doesn’t matter at all as the page you have browsed immediately appears on your computer screen.
A web server is never disconnected from the internet. Each of the web servers has a unique address that comprises of a series of four numbers between 0 and 255. These numbers are separated with a period (.).
With the web server, the hosting providers can manage multiple domains (users) on a single server.
A web hosting provider rents the space on a server or cluster of servers for people to create their online presence with a website.
Types of Web Servers
There are mainly four types of web servers – Apache, IIS, Nginx and LiteSpeed.
Apache Web Server
Apache web server is one of the most popular web servers developed by the Apache Software Foundation. Open source software, Apache supports almost all operating systems such as Linux, Windows, Unix FreeBSD, Mac OS X and more. Approximately, 60% of the machines run on Apache Web Server.
You can easily customize an apache web server due to its modular structure. Since it’s an open source, your own modules can be added to the server when you want to make modifications to suit your requirements.
It is highly stable as compared to other web servers and the administrative issues on it can be resolved easily. It is possible to install Apache on multiple platforms successfully.
The Apache’s latest versions offer you the flexibility to handle more requests when compared to its earlier versions.
IIS Web Server
A Microsoft product, IIS is a server that offers all the features such as Apache. Since it’s not an open source, adding personal modules as well as modifying becomes a bit difficult.
It supports all the platforms that run Windows operating system. Additionally, you also get good customer support, if there is any issue.
Nginx Web Server
Nginx is the next open source web server after Apache. It comprises of IMAP/POP3 proxy server. The significant features offered by Nginx are high performance, stability, simple configuration and low resource usage.
No threads are used to handle the requests by Nginx, instead a highly scalable event-driven architecture that uses small and predictable amount of memory under load is utilized. It has become popular recently and hosts about 7.5% of all the domains globally. Many web hosting companies have started using this server.
LightSpeed Web Server
A high-performance Apache drop-in replacement, LiteSpeed (LSWS) is the 4th popular web server on the internet and is a commercial web server.
When you upgrade your web server to LiteSpeed, you will experience improved performance that too with low operating cost.
This server is compatible with the most common Apache features such as .htaccess, mod_rewrite and mod_security.
It has the ability to load Apache configuration files directly and work as a drop in replacement Apache with almost all the hosting control panels. It can replace the Apache within 15 minutes without any downtime.
LSWS replaces all the Apache functions which other front-end proxy solutions can’t do to simplify the use and make the transition from Apache smooth and easy.
An open source Java servlet container, Apache Tomcat functions as a web server. A Java program that expands the capabilities of a server is called as a Java servlet. Servlets can respond to any types of requests but they most commonly implement applications hosted on web servers. These web servlets are Java equivalent to other dynamic web content technologies such as PHP and ASP.NET. Sun Microsystems donated Tomcat’s code base to the Apache Software Foundation in 1999 which became a top-level Apache project in 2005. Currently, it powers just under 1% of all websites.
Released under the Apache License version 2, Apache Tomcat is typically used to run Java applications. But, it can be extended with Coyote, so that it can also perform the role of a normal web server that serves local files as HTTP documents.
Node.js is released under a mix of licenses.
Pronounced as “lightly”, Lighttpd was initially release in March 2003. It currently runs approximately 0.1% of all websites and is distributed under a BSD license.
Lighttpd stands unique due to its small CPU load, low memory footprint, and speed optimizations. An event-driven architecture is used by it and is optimized for a large number of parallel connections, and supports FastCGI, Auth, Output-compression, SCGI, URL-rewriting and many more features. It is a popularly used web server for the web frameworks such as Catalyst and Ruby on Rails.