What Is a Web Server?


Quick Answer

A Web server is software that allows users or clients to access the files that form Web pages. Every computer that contains a website must have a Web server to deliver it. The term may also refer to the entire system, including the computer unit and software.

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Full Answer

Web servers primarily use Hypertext Transfer Protocol, or HTTP, to process website requests. Web servers are most commonly used to host websites, but may also provide support for gaming, data storage, running applications that are server-based, and handling email. Servers may also be found in printers, routers and webcams, and serve only local networks. Web servers are often included in Internet- and intranet-related packages for business to serve email, build and publish Web pages, and fulfill download requests through a File Transfer Protocol, or FTP. Those considering purchase of a Web server should consider operating-system compatibility, compatibility with other servers already in use, whether the server can be customized through programming, security protocols available, and any site-building tools included in the package.

In October 2007, the most common Web servers were Apache and Microsoft's Internet Information Service. Novell also has a Web server to support its NetWare operating system, and IBM has a family of Lotus Domino servers primarily to support OS/390 and AS/400 customers.

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