Web Server

A web server is a computer that can be accessed through the Internet.

When you visit Amazon.com or do a Google search, 3 things happen:

  1. Your browser sends out a request for a web page
  2. A web server receives your request and puts together the right parts
  3. The web server sends you back a web page

It’s a lot like ordering a pizza. You call in, they make it, and then deliver it right back to you.

Most any computer can be a web server – even your own computer. As long as you have software on it that knows how to listen for Step 2 (take the order), your computer could send out web pages all day long.

The software that responds to these requests is also called a web server. A little confusing, we know! Internet Information Services (IIS) is the name of the web server software that comes with Windows, while Apple computers come with web server software called Apache. Apache is also popular on Linux computers, which is the type of computer most web servers out on the Internet are.

You might remember from our PHP newsletter that we explained how most web apps are comprised of PHP with a MySQL database running on an Apache web server on a Linux computer.

A typical web server is different than your computer, though, because it likely doesn’t have a monitor or a keyboard. It’s probably a box the size of a laptop that’s squeezed into a closet with a bunch of other web servers. How do you work with it if it doesn’t have a monitor? Through the Internet, of course!

Big operations like Google have server farms – rows upon rows of shelves upon shelves of servers. Since computers act up when they get too hot, a big issue with server farms is having enough air conditioning to cool the whole place down.

Cocktail Party Fact

A new style of server farm (popularized by Google) uses big metal shipping containers to hold the servers instead of normal rooms. This modular design allows you to move each container around, swap containers in and out, and add more servers to each location easily. Each container can hold up to 1,200 servers!