How The Web Works For Aspiring Developers (Part II: Servers and Hosting)

How The Web Works For Aspiring Developers (Part II: Servers and Hosting)

Originally published on*

Imagine it's your best friend's birthday 🎁.

You've decided to surprise him and cook its favorite food, turtle with banana curry sauce 🐢🥘.

Unfortunately, you don't know how to cook that meal. So you need:

  • Ingredients - e.g: turtle, banana, ...
  • Instructions on what to put in the meal, how to mix the ingredients, how long the cooking, etc...

Similarly, to display a web page, your browser needs:

  • Data (ex: images, videos, JSON, etc.) - For example, when using, you need a list of posts.
  • Instructions on what to show, how, where. Those are stored in files (e.g: HTML, CSS, JS files)

These must be stored somewhere. That's where servers intervene.

cooking vs accessing a Web resource

What is a server?

A server is a computer that provides resources to other computers called clients. It stores data (e.g., files, images, etc.) and delivers it to clients on demand. Think of it as a 24-hour restaurant that serves food to clients.

There are various types of servers :

  • Web servers ⇒ store and serve files needed to show a web page
  • Mail servers ⇒ store and deliver emails
  • Database servers => store and provide data
  • Etc.

So, if you want your website available online, you must store data + instructions on one or more servers.

Alt Text

How to get one?

Any computer, even your own, can act as a server as long as it can store and deliver information.

Big websites like or have many servers. Think of them as restaurant chains (e.g., McDonald's, KFC).

But, like most people/companies, you don't wanna own a server because :

  • They are expensive to maintain.
  • They must be up 24H/7j to serve all clients around the world.
  • They have to deliver the data fast.
  • They need to preserve the websites from security attacks.
  • Etc.

Instead, you pay 💰💰💰 a Web hosting company (e.g., Bluehost, Hostgator). These companies own servers and rent some space on them. When you store your website data on these servers, we say your website is "hosted."

Examples of servers

What are the main types of Web hosting?

Depending on your needs and budget, if you want to "host" your website, you generally have 4 options :

  1. Shared hosting: you rent a part of a server and share its resources with other websites. This is equal to renting a room in a shared apartment: you share resources with other tenants. High traffic on them (i.e., too many visitors) will affect you.

Shared hosting vs renting a room in an apartment

  1. VPS (Virtual Private Server) hosting: you rent a larger part of a server and share fewer resources. See it like renting an apartment in a building: you have your own bathrooms/doors, but you still share some resources (water, heat, etc.).

VPS hosting vs renting an apartment in a building

  1. Dedicated hosting: you rent the whole server/computer. Think of it as renting an entire building.

Dedicated hosting vs renting a building

  1. Cloud hosting: you rent different servers. Think of it as renting many buildings. When one is inaccessible, you can still use others.

Cloud hosting vs renting multiple buildings


Your browser needs some data to display a web page. Powerful, 24H/7j online computers called servers store that data. Because these are expensive, only big websites (e.g.,, have their own servers. Most use Web hosting companies (e.g., BlueHost, DreamHost) that have servers and rent some "place" on it.