Be A Knowledgeable Webmaster: Gain An Understanding Of How Hosting Servers Work!

You visit numerous sites looking for good web hosting services that provide what you need.  You then sign up for hosting but do you have an idea how these servers that host your website work?  I’m sure you’d agree with me that the more knowledge we gain, the better equipped we are to face the challenges.

Web servers are managed in a controlled and secure environment to ensure smooth functioning of all websites hosted on them.  They are used to store and exchange information with other machines. When you sign up for a shared hosting plan, yours is one of the hundreds or even thousands of websites hosted on a single web server.  To differentiate between the websites on the same server, a unique IP is assigned to each.  This is the IP address used by the DNS server to resolve the domain name.

Web servers store and exchange information with other machines. The machine (web browser) that requests the information is the “client,” and the machine (web server) that stores and sends this information is the “server.”

This exchange of information takes place with the use of software that is responsible for negotiating the data exchange. The client uses browsers like Internet Explorer and Netscape; whereas on the server side, it gets a little more complicated.

Although, there is a variety of software available to do this job, they all perform the same task: that of using Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) for negotiating data transfers between the clients and server. HTTP is the protocol for communications on the web.

Now, coming to the type of server software that you wish to use, it all depends on the operating system of the web server.  For example, Microsoft Internet Information Server is usually used for Windows NT and the Apache Web Server is used by people who like Unix.


Let’s take a look at how this exchange works:

  • The URL of your website is separated into several parts, such as the address, path and protocol.
  • The Domain Name Server converts the domain name entered by the user into its IP address, which reveals the exact address of the website on the internet. Domain names are just used to make things easier for people to remember the site, as it would be impossible to remember the IPs of each site.
  • The browser sends a request to the web server to get the address it has been given.  If a user types “,” the browser sends a GET Images command to and waits for it to respond.
  • Now it is the turn of the server to respond to the GET request made by the browser.  The server then gets into action and starts verifying the address, and if it exists, it finds the required files, runs the relevant script, exchanges cookies if needed and sends the results back to the browser.   If the server is unable to find that particular file, it responds with an error message to the client browser.

This is repeated until the client browser leaves the website. Other than the above mentioned functions, the web server also has the responsibility of differentiating the different errors and sending the appropriate error message as soon as it occurs.

It also has the task of understanding the different web page elements, logging statistics, generating dynamic content, managing e-commerce functions, handling the security etc.

Now that you understand how the Web servers that your hosts use work, you can understand what it takes to deliver a single page of content to the screen.  Equipped with this in-depth understanding, you have a better idea of what you’re looking for when searching for a web host.

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