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Web Design Reference Guide

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Last updated Oct 17, 2003.

Obviously, it's not cost effective for everyone with a Web site to own a server on which to run the site. In this instance, the owner is "leasing" or "renting" server space from a company that has servers. Shared, virtual, and dedicated servers are different hosting options, which are covered in Publishing on the Web.

A server is a computer that connects to other computers through some type of protocol. A Web site makes its home on a server that is typically a file server. Such a server stores the files making up the Web site and handles requests from remote clients to serve files from the disk housing the files.

The other important server in this process is the network server, which is the traffic cop. The network server is a computer that handles the network traffic. When entering a URL to retrieve a specific Web site, the network server routes the request to the server holding the files consisting of the Web site and routes the results back to the originator's browser. This simple exchange uses HTTP, a protocol.

To work on a spreadsheet, most of us have the spreadsheet software on our own computers. In this case, we can think of a computer as the server and the spreadsheet as the application. The work we do in the spreadsheet is stored in a file that lives on the server, the computer's hard drive or other file storing component (i.e. CD, tape). One server can manage the functions of multiple server types.