Typically, a web hosting Server is a very powerful machine with a fast processor, tons of RAM and a large capacity hard-disk. In addition to high-end hardware, a web site hosting Server also has certain software installed so that the machine acts like a web Server. The most important one, apart from the operating system, is called the web server (note the small-caps).
The web server software is the heart of the machine. It is this software that makes the computer a web hosting Server and its main function is to serve web pages. Let us understand this in detail.
When you type a URL address in a browser, the browser software sends a request to the web server software on the web host machine asking for that web page. The server reads this request, hunts for the web page and responds back with the page and its contents. The page is sent first, followed by any images, flash, music, video files that are contained in it. [Which is why you see web page images loading one by one on slower net connections.]
Thus, the main work of a web server software is to process requests from browsers (also called clients) and respond with the correct information, typically a web page. Web servers also correspond with other software to see that web pages and web site files are delivered or processed smoothly.
Two of the most popular web servers are Apache and Microsoft Server. For detailed information on web server statistics, refer the Web server survey at Netcraft.com or you can also take a look at various web servers in the market.
In addition, to a web server, a web host would have other software such as an email server (that processes emails), a database server (MySQL, Oracle, mSQL etc.), and an FTP server (that allows you to connect to the Server machine using the File Transfer Protocol).
Web hosting servers also have certain server-side programming languages installed which help build web applications such as shopping carts, guest books etc. Some of the popular server-side programming languages are perl, PHP, JSP, python etc. – check Languages on the Internet for more details.
Can you really host your web site on your home/office computer? Is it even feasible and is it a good idea? Get to know the details at Can I host my web site on my home/office computer?.
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