You may never have thought about how a server works, but the truth is that these computers are essential to just about everything you do when you go online. Without servers, there’s be no World Wide Web and in fact no Internet at all! A server is a computer, but a specialized one that is optimized to spend its time managing requests that reach it from external sources. These may be from the Internet, in the case of web servers. A specific port, known as Port 80, is used to determine whether there has been an HTTP request and whether it needs acting on. Click here to find out more about web servers.
To give a specific example, every time you go to a website with your web browser, it makes an HTTP request to the server associated with that website. Large sites will have a number of servers, but smaller ones are likely to rely on just one, which is usually leased rather than being owned outright. Either way, the server will interpret the browser’s request, then send back the area of the site – for example the home page – that you’ve chosen to go to. This process is transparent to you as the user, assuming that there’s no problem with the server itself. You can read more about how to deal with server problems.
Human programmers use a language called SQL to communicate with servers. This is a specialized form of database, allowing you to do things like retrieve the details of a specific group of pages. This is often used for interactive websites such as forums, so that posts can be shown in the correct order, for example with the most recent entries showing up at the top of the page. A common problem with servers on sites like these comes when there is no way in the program to deal with a specific request. This usually causes an error, which may make the entire website unusable. A well programmed site will be able to handle every request it gets. See how SQL works here.