Web Hosting customers don’t always realize what goes on behind the scenes of their web hosting service. The layman often thinks that the web hosting service is just another software installed on a monster computer, which are sold to the end user. But there’s a lot more that goes on behind setting up a hosting service. While some hosts use separate machines to run services like email, FTP, HTTP etc., others install all these services on a single machine. This article takes you into the web hosting world and shows you which software servers are running to give you the best experience with different services.
The web server is one of the most important parts of your hosting service. The web server is what actually delivers your web page to the user’s browser. It also handles different requests for information that your browser makes and also takes care of incorrect or erroneous requests. When you see 404 error pages or warning messages, these are all served up by the web server. IIS, Apache, Nginx and Tomcat are amongst many different web servers that are used in the industry. Web servers use the HTTP protocol to communicate with the user’s browser. The administrator also has the capability of restricting folders, files and websites through the web server configuration.
The mail server is essential when providing email service. The mail server allows the sending and receiving of email on specific ports. The mail server helps filter the received mail to different users’ folders and thereby allows multiple domains to be hosted on a single physical machine. Mail servers are also capable of redirecting mail and applying conditional filters to weed out unwanted mail and fight spam. Most mail servers allow the use of third party plugins or software to aid them perform their functions. For example mail servers can intelligently use third party RBLs or black lists to identify if a mail sender is actually a source of spam which should be rejected before he can reach the mail server. Mail servers usually use IMAP, SMTP and POP3 protocols to serve their purpose.
Almost every hosting service offers FTP services to transfer files. But most users don’t realize that this requires an FTP server at the hosts end. An FTP server allows connections using the FTP protocol, for the transfer of files. This aids users in downloading or uploading files in a simple, quick and efficient way. FTP servers control the bandwidth usage, user connections, authentication system and even file management for the user. FTP servers are inexpensive to maintain and are now considered as included in any web hosting package.
An SQL server is a database management server which allows users to create and store data in relational tables, using the Structured Query Language or SQL. On windows machines, Microsoft MS SQL is installed, whereas Unix based hosting systems usually come with open source alternatives like MySQL, Postgresql, MariaDB among others. Web hosts sell databases based on the package that the user takes. Each database requires CPU and memory resources to function properly. Databases form up the backbone of most websites which have a Content Management System or which store a large amount of data.
Some web hosts offer their own DNS service, for which they need to run a DNS Server on their systems. The DNS server just maps the domain name to the servers IP address so that when a visitor is using a service on a website, he is served up the right information from the right source. Premium hosts offer File Sharing services and have a Web DAV Server either separate or integrated into their Web Server (as above). This allows users to quickly sync files to and from their website onto their mobile devices. Almost all web hosts also provide an SSH service so that users can connect securely to different ports for different services on the account.
While website hosting may seem like an easy business, managing all these services can be quite a task, which needs to be done on a daily basis.