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What is a Web Server
Rapyd Team avatar
Written by Rapyd Team
Updated over a week ago

To access websites and apps, users rely on a crucial piece of software known as a web server. While web servers might have distinct advantages and disadvantages, they all perform the same crucial function.

What is a Web Server?

A web server is a software application that serves files over the internet. When a user types a website URL into their web browser, the browser sends a request to the web server for the website's files. Which may include CSS, JavaScript, images, videos, and downloadable files.

The web server then responds to the request by sending the correct files to the browser, which displays the website on the user's screen. Some web servers include Apache, Nginx, and LiteSpeed.

How Does a Web Server Work?

Multiple components work together to display a requested website on your screen. The web server is a crucial part of this process, as it retrieves the requested files and sends them back to your browser.

This process can vary depending on the requested resource. If it's a static file, such as an HTML or image file, the server simply retrieves it from a storage location. But if it's a dynamic resource, such as a PHP or Python script, the server must retrieve data from a database or other sources and generate a dynamic response.

1. Responding to a static website request

  • User enters a website URL into their web browser

  • Web browser sends an HTTP request to the web server

  • Web server retrieves requested data from a storage location.

  • Web server processes data and generates a response in HTML, CSS, or another programming language.

  • Finally, it sends the requested files as an HTTP response

  • The web browser displays the correct website information.

2. Responding to a dynamic website request

In the above example, the client request is for a static file (such as HTML or image file). Here, the server simply retrieves the files from a storage location. However, if the request is for a dynamic resource (such as PHP or python script) the process changes. Rather than generating a static response in HTML, the web server generates a dynamic response. Web servers customize a dynamic response based on user input or other contextual information. For example, a dynamic response might include data from a database or a personalized message based on the user's location or browsing history.

Key Features of Web Servers

Many factors impact a web server's ability to perform and deliver fast, efficient, and secure web content to users. Web server capabilities and performance can vary depending on the software.

  1. Performance and scalability: Good web server software should be able to handle a large number of requests and connections while providing fast response times and high throughput.

  2. Reliability and stability: Web server software should be stable and reliable, with a track record of successful use in production environments and minimal downtime or errors.

  3. Security and robustness: Web server software should have a robust security system that protects against common web attacks and provides support for various authentication mechanisms, as well as ensuring data integrity and confidentiality.

  4. Database integration: Dynamic websites typically rely on databases to store and retrieve information, so web servers need to be able to integrate with popular database systems like MySQL, PostgreSQL, and MongoDB.

  5. Load balancing: To handle large volumes of traffic and requests, web servers need to be able to distribute traffic across multiple servers or processes. Load balancing can help ensure that requests are processed quickly and efficiently.

  6. Flexibility and configurability: Good web server software should be highly configurable and flexible, with a range of modules and plug-ins that enable developers to extend its functionality as needed.

  7. Ease of use and administration: Web server software should be easy to use and administer, with a simple and intuitive interface and clear documentation that helps users to get up and running quickly.

  8. Compatibility with popular web technologies and frameworks: Web server software should be compatible with popular web technologies and frameworks, such as PHP, Python, and Node.js, to enable developers to build and deploy a wide range of web applications.

  9. Availability of support and resources: Good web server software should have a large and active community of developers and users who provide support

To find out more about web servers, read: Apache Vs Nginx Vs LiteSpeed, where we discuss the key features and differences in-depth.


A web server is a crucial component of the internet. It serves files over the internet and delivers website content to users. Web servers use the HTTP protocol to process user requests and respond with the requested files. Feature-rich websites may need an application server to handle dynamic website requests. This provides more functionality and scalability. The more interactive your website is, the more processing work the web server has to do.

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