Web servers provide the leading method for delivering information over an IP network. The Web is best known for providing information over the global Internet, yet it can just as effectively provide information to internal staff as it does to external customers. All but the smallest networks can benefit from a well-run web server, which can advertise products and offer support services to external customers, as well as coordinate and disseminate information to users within your organization. The Web is the single most effective tool for delivering on-demand information to end users.
Most Unix web servers are built with Apache software. Apache is freely available web server software with origins in the National Center for Supercomputer Applications (NCSA) web server, the first widely used web server. Because of these "ancient" roots, Apache has undergone years of testing and development. Because it is the most widely deployed web server software on the Internet, you will probably use Apache to build your Unix web server.
In this chapter, we focus on installing and configuring an Apache server. The large number of configuration options can make Apache configuration appear more complex than it really is. This chapter provides an example of a simple configuration to get Apache up and running quickly.
Our focus is configuration and administration of the service, not the design of the content provided by the service; web page design is beyond the scope of this book. If you're lucky, your organization has trained web designers; if you're not so lucky, you may be expected to take on this artistic task yourself. O'Reilly has books that can help you: try HTML and XHTML: The Definitive Guide, by Chuck Musciano and Bill Kennedy, or Web Design in a Nutshell, by Jennifer Niederst.