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Web Servers

Learning Intentions

  • Explain the hardware requirements of a website

  • Explain the software requirements of a website

Success Criteria

  • I can explain the purpose of a web server
  • I can compare different platforms for hosting my website

Hardware and software for using websites

  • All webpages require software and hardware that allows them to run. The hardware and software may vary based on the use cases of the website.
  • Some webpages may not be hosted on the world wide web (W3) and instead just hosted locally on a local machine or on a local server.
  • Most webpages however are however hosted on the public world wide web for others to view.

Software required to view a webpage

  • To view a webpage we need a special piece of software called a web browser.
  • A web browser or simply browser is converts the code (HTML) from the webpage into something that can be viewed by the user.
  • Web browsers can request a webpage from a piece of hardware called a web server.

Stages of retrieving a page

  • The web browser figures out what page is being requested and looks up the IP address for the web server (e.g. is and uses this information to send a request.
  • Web browsers are needed to send a request to a web server consisting of information about what page they want, the IP address of the computer requesting and the format to send it in.
  • The server then reads the request and responds by sending back a response containing code that was requested
  • The browser then translates the code into a viewable webpage.

Web servers

  • When a website is available on the internet it requires a web server to host the webpages on it.
  • A web server is connected to the internet either directly or through a network. The web server is given a unique IP address that allows any computer to connect to it from the outside.

Web servers

  • Webservers are often very powerful computers that have huge amounts of both processing power and storage capabilities.
  • This allows them to serve multiple users and serve multiple files per user, all at the same time.
  • For example, my web server can handle 100,000 concurrent requests at any time (this means 100,000 files can be downloaded before it has any impact on performance)

Web servers

  • To make finding a webserver on the Internet easier and to ensure we do not have to type in it’s IP address to access a webpage on it we use a webpage’s Uniform Resource Locator (URL), for example
    Let’s look at what this means

Web servers

  • The filename part of the URL identifies which file or folder to retrieve, in this case it is looking for a file called 1.jpg in the images folder of the web server.
  • Each folder (directory) on the web server exists in the structure specified in the URL.

Web servers

  • There are many web servers out there and some are more popular than others:
    • NginX
    • Apache
    • Microsoft’s IIS (Internet Information Services)


  • There are two protocols used for retrieving webpages we need to know about:
    • HTTP
      An insecure connection to a web server. This is fine for retrieving information but not good for sending data.
    • HTTPS
      A secure version of the HTTP protocol used for sending sensitive data securely. There is a performance penalty for retrieving information this way unfortunately compared with the standard HTTP standard.


  • A domain name is a unique identifier that from the browsers point of view determines which web server to connect to.
  • Using a service known as the Domain Name Service the browser can look up the domain name and find out the IP address of the web server and connect to it.

Creating a web server

  • It’s actually quite simple to create a web server, as its only purposes are to handle requests appropriately and pass over the correct data back.
  • Velocity Web Server is an example of a small web server project that I started.

Creating a web server

  • Connecting to a server also requires additional information about which port number is to be accessed. A port is like a tunnel to a specific piece of software on a computer. A webserver application typically runs in ports 80 (HTTP) and 443 (HTTPS with TLS/SSL).
  • When we are connecting to our own systems, we often use localhost as the domain and 8888 as the port:
  • http://localhost:8888/page1.html

Running a web server

Look up typical web server software and compare its features.

Make a presentation using Google Slides or PowerPoint or a poster comparing these different web server applications.

Research activity

Presentation Overview
Web Servers
© 2020 - 2024 J Balfour
17:30 | 24-05-2024
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