Production Web Servers

This is the type of web server that most web designers are familiar with. A production server is a web server that hosts web pages and content that is ready for production. In other words, the content on a production web server is live to the internet or is ready to be delivered to the internet.
There are many advantages to using a web server within your development environment. Of course, in a production hosting environment, a web server is essential. And, depending on your website, a web server could indeed be essential in your development environment.

When I say "development environment", I'm referring to a copy of your website, usually on your local machine, that you use to perform updates before you commit them to the live (production) environment.

In practice, you could have many copies of your website for different purposes (such as testing, training, protypes etc), but let's just call it "development environment" for now.
In a small company, the production server is where all the web pages live. Designers and developers test the pages either on their local machines or in hidden or password protected areas on the live server. When a page is ready to go live it is simply moved into place on the production server, either by FTP from the local hard drive or by moving the files from the hidden directory to the live directory.

The workflow would be:
  • Designer builds site on local machine
  • Designer tests site on local machine
  • Designer uploads site to hidden directory on production server for more testing
  • Approved designs are moved into the live (non-hidden) areas of the website
For a small site, this is a perfectly acceptable workflow. And in fact, you can often see what a small site is doing by looking at files named things like index2.html and inside directories named things like /new. As long as you remember that non-password protected areas like that can be found by search engines, posting updates to the production server is a good way to test new designs in a live environment without needing extra servers.

Development Servers

Development servers are very useful for sites that have a large development component, such as complex ecommerce sites and web applications. Development servers are used by the web development team to work on programming the back end of the website. They almost always have version or source code control systems for multiple team members to use and they provide a server environment for testing new scripts and programs.

The purporse of this server is typically to try new things in programs. While testing does happen on a development server, it is for the purpose of making a piece of code work, not testing it against specific criteria. This allows developers to worry about the nuts and bolts of the website without worrying about how it's going to look.

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