What is a Server?
A server is a computer with a specialized Operating System or software package. A dedicated server will be controlled through its server OS. It is also possible to install server software on a computer with a standard operating system.
There are many types of servers. There are media servers, file servers, mail servers, and web servers. Our primary focus will be with a web server but many of the statements will apply to other types of servers.
A server is generally interfaced with a network. This can be a local area network or a wide area network like the Internet. You can view website files on your local computer in your browser, but if you want others to view your web pages there will need to be access to the pages. If you want the pages that you build to be visible to Internet surfers they will need to be housed on a web server.
A web server is a specialized server that has Internet access. You could host a web server on your computer or on a specialized server computer. There are many security concerns to the hosting business, so it is best to let a hosting company take care of the business end of things.
Since there is little value to building a web site if no one can find it, you will need a domain name that people can type into their address bar. The domain name will need to point to the web server on which your files are hosted. A name server (another type of server) keeps the record of which domain name hooks to which server space.
If the web server allows dynamic content the program that makes that possible will assemble the requested page on the fly. It will assemble the various components of the page as instructed and present the assembled page to the browser. If there are auxiliary files the browser will also request these and the server will supply those files.
Without the web server the Internet could not work. There are a huge number of files housed on server computers connected to the Internet. The web server is part of the magic that makes the web work.