Difference Between Web Servers and Application Servers

Aaron Walker
Aaron Walker  |  January 20, 2017

The difference between web servers and application servers causes confusion for many people.

Although both types of server are essential for a website to function correctly, they are not the same thing. Rather, web servers and application servers work together to deliver all the content from a website to each user who visits the site.

Differences between web servers and application servers

To learn the differences between the two server types, it's important to understand each on its own.

What is a web server?

When users navigate to a website, their browsers contact the web server of that site and requests the static content. The web server accepts and fulfills this request. Static content refers to the basic components of a website, including the HTML pages, image files, video files and other types of files included in the website. 

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Ad servers are a common form of web server used specifically for publishing advertisements. Companies can generate revenue from their content and utilize campaign management tools to facilitate marketing projects. Application servers are much different and are typically used by developers and IT administrators rather than marketing teams.

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Doubleclick

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LiveRail

  • Reviews: 13
  • Stars: 3.6/5

OpenX

Reviews: 15

Stars: 3.0/5

What is an application server?

The role of an application server is different from that of a web server. Instead of simply delivering static content, it generates dynamic content and delivers it to the user's web browser. Application servers, like Apache Tomcat, power the interactive parts of a website and those parts that can appear differently depending on the context of the request.

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For example, when a customer visits an online store that displays real-time availability and pricing information for the products, the application server looks up the availability and price for each product and delivers this information in real time.

Other features of application server software

As well as helping an application server fulfill its basic role of hosting web applications, some application servers also help web developers build new applications. When software developers use application server software to build their applications, they can be sure that they will be supported by the server environment.

Some application servers provide services that improve the security of web applications, as well as diagnostic capabilities that help web developers identify and troubleshoot problems with their web apps.

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Oracle WebLogic

  • Reviews: 11
  • Stars: 4.3/5

Apache Tomcat

  • Reviews: 24
  • Stars: 4.4/5

Apache Server

  • Reviews: 24
  • Stars: 4.4/5

How to use an application server

Application servers retrieve information from databases. Therefore, in order for the application server to work correctly, the databases from which the server draws the information must be kept up to date. Every item of information stored in the database must be correctly organized, categorized and tagged so that the application server can locate the data it needs.

It's also important to ensure that the application server is kept up to date with the latest security developments, as security flaws in applications are responsible for many cybersecurity breaches. Businesses must ensure they take steps to ensure their web applications to protect themselves against hacking.

Web server or application server?

Every website requires a web server to deliver the HTML files that make up the basis of the site. However, the application server can never substitute for the role of the web server. Instead of being competing technologies, web servers and application servers work together to deliver a seamless browsing experience to web users.

How to choose an application server

It's important to choose an application server that can provide reliable and fast performance. A proven way to find a good application server is to read user reviews from other users of this type of software. User reviews contain information about the features offered by each application server, as well as firsthand accounts of its reliability and overall performance.

Whether you pay for it or get a free VPN not, you should use a VPN. It will help protect your information from both hackers and internet service providers. Nobody aside from you should be viewing your activity and tracking you on the web.

There are tons of options to choose from in our application server software category. Some are better for enterprise, but some are perfect for individuals. But they all provide a software framework for building and deploying web applications, as well as offer services to support an application within the hosting server environment. Do your due diligence and improve your applications.

Aaron Walker
Author

Aaron Walker

As an analyst at G2, Aaron’s research is focused on cloud, application, and network security technologies. As the cybersecurity market continues to explode, Aaron maintains the growing market on G2.com, adding 90+ categories of security technology (and emerging technologies that are added regularly). His exposure to both security vendors and data from security buyers provides a unique perspective that fuels G2’s research reports and content, including pieces focused on trends, market analysis, and acquisitions. In his free time, Aaron enjoys film photography, graphic design, and lizards.