Serving HTML Files on the Web

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Introduction to Serving HTML

By Ryan Kopf, University of Iowa Computer Science
Last Updated May 11, 2024

Serving HTML files is a fundamental aspect of web development. Whether you're a beginner or an experienced developer, understanding how to serve your HTML files over the web is crucial. There are several methods to do this, but one of the simplest and most efficient ways is using a dedicated platform like

HTML Beginner's Guide >>>

Traditional Methods

  • FTP: Uploading files to a server via FTP is a common method that involves managing your server's file system directly.
  • Web Hosting Control Panels: Platforms like cPanel allow for the management of website files through a graphical interface.
  • Physical Media: Historically, developers would sometimes transfer website files to a server using physical media like CDs or USB drives, especially when dealing with large volumes of data or slow internet connections.
  • Rsync: A utility for efficiently transferring and synchronizing files across computer systems, using the command line. It's particularly favored for its speed and the minimal amount of data used in the transfer process.

Modern Methods

  • Version Control Systems (Git): Developers use systems like Git for version control, coupled with platforms like GitHub, GitLab, or Bitbucket to manage and collaborate on code changes. Automated hooks can trigger deployments upon code commit.
  • Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment (CI/CD): CI/CD pipelines automate the testing and deployment of code. Tools like Jenkins, CircleCI, and GitHub Actions are widely used to ensure that updates to the main branch are automatically tested and deployed to production environments.
  • Content Delivery Networks (CDNs): CDNs distribute the hosting of website files across multiple, globally distributed servers to increase web speed and reduce latency. Popular CDN providers include Cloudflare, AWS CloudFront, and Akamai.
  • Deployment Scripts: Scripts automate the process of deployment. These can be custom-built shell scripts or predefined scripts provided by deployment tools. They often integrate with cloud platforms and services to streamline the deployment process.
  • Infrastructure as Code (IaC): Using tools like Terraform or AWS CloudFormation, developers can manage infrastructure through code, which improves deployment speed, consistency, and scalability.

Simplified Modern Approach revolutionizes the traditional process by offering a user-friendly "Edit" button directly on your webpage. You can start writing or editing your HTML in real-time without dealing with FTP or file management systems.

  • Direct HTML Editing: Instantly edit and preview your HTML files online with

Emphasizing simplicity and speed, provides an unmatched experience in HTML file serving, making it accessible to users of all skill levels.

Things You Might Need to Know


Caching is a technique that stores a copy of a given resource and serves it back when requested. This means that the original request to the server is not made every time the resource is needed, which significantly reduces latency and bandwidth and improves the overall speed of web content delivery. Web caching can happen at various levels, including the browser level, proxy caches, and gateway caches on the web server.

When a user visits a webpage, elements of that page like HTML files, stylesheets, JavaScript, and images are stored in the cache. If the user revisits the same page, the browser can load the page from the cached files, drastically reducing the load time. However, effective caching strategies are crucial because outdated or improper caching can lead to issues where users might see outdated content. Using headers like 'Cache-Control', web developers can specify which resources should be cached and for how long. Additionally, tools like ETags help manage changes to the cached resources, ensuring that the user sees the most recent version of the webpage.

Cache Timeout

Cache timeout controls how long your files are stored in the cache before they are requested again from the server. This is controlled through HTTP headers that dictate caching policies. The two primary headers used are 'Cache-Control' and 'Expires'.

Cache-Control: This header is the most common method for defining caching rules. It allows you to specify directives like 'max-age', which defines the maximum age in seconds that a resource is considered fresh, among other settings such as 'no-cache', 'no-store', or 'must-revalidate'.

Expires: This header is used to set an exact date/time after which the response is considered stale. It is less flexible than 'Cache-Control' but is useful for static resources that change infrequently.

Configuring Cache Headers in Nginx and Apache

Nginx: To set cache headers in Nginx, you can add the following lines to your server configuration:

location ~* \.(jpg|jpeg|png|gif|ico|css|js)$ {
    expires 30d;
    add_header Cache-Control "public";

Apache: For Apache, cache control can be configured by using the mod_expires module. You can add the following lines to your .htaccess file:

<IfModule mod_expires.c>
    ExpiresActive On
    ExpiresByType image/jpg "access plus 1 month"
    ExpiresByType image/jpeg "access plus 1 month"
    ExpiresByType image/gif "access plus 1 month"
    ExpiresByType image/png "access plus 1 month"
    ExpiresByType text/css "access plus 1 week"
    ExpiresByType application/javascript "access plus 1 week"

Cross-Origin Resource Sharing (CORS)

Cross-Origin Resource Sharing (CORS) is a protocol that enables scripts running on a browser client to interact with resources from a different origin. This is an essential security measure designed to protect a user's environment against potentially malicious cross-origin requests. CORS settings are configured server-side and dictate how and what resources should be accessible to webpages from external domains.

For instance, if you have a webpage that requests resources like fonts, images, or APIs from domains other than its own, CORS policies need to be configured to allow these cross-origin requests. Without proper CORS configurations, browsers will block these requests by default, which could break functionalities and affect the user experience. To manage CORS, headers such as 'Access-Control-Allow-Origin' can be used, which define which domains are allowed to access the resources on your server.

Security Protocols

Implementing robust security protocols is crucial to protecting your website from attacks and ensuring the privacy and integrity of your data. Key protocols include HTTPS, which encrypts data sent between the browser and server, and SSL/TLS, which secures data in transit.

To implement HTTPS, you must obtain an SSL/TLS certificate and configure your web server to use this certificate. This not only secures your website but also improves your search engine rankings and builds trust with your visitors.

Load Balancing

Load balancing is a technique used to distribute network traffic across multiple servers. This ensures no single server bears too much load, which can improve website reliability and speed.

Load balancers can be implemented using hardware (physical load balancers) or software solutions such as Nginx or Apache. Configuring a load balancer involves defining rules that determine how traffic should be distributed based on factors like server load, geographical location, and server health.

Content Delivery Networks (CDNs)

CDNs are networks of servers that cache static content in multiple locations around the world. This helps deliver content faster to users based on their geographic location. Major CDN providers include Cloudflare, Akamai, and AWS CloudFront.

Implementing a CDN can dramatically improve your website's load times, reduce bandwidth costs, and increase content availability and redundancy. Setup usually involves changing your DNS settings to point to the CDN provider and configuring your content caching rules on the CDN.


Regular backups are essential for safeguarding your website’s data against loss due to hardware failures, cyber-attacks, or accidental deletions. Effective backup strategies involve not only periodically saving copies of your website files but also ensuring these backups are stored in a secure, remote location.

There are several methods for backing up website data, including automated cloud backup services, manual backups to external drives, and using plugins or scripts that regularly send backups to a predetermined storage solution. It's important to test your backups regularly to ensure they can be restored effectively.

Consider implementing a 3-2-1 backup strategy: keep at least three copies of your data, store two backup copies on different storage media, and keep one of them offsite. This approach helps to minimize the risk of data loss under any circumstances.

How Raven Helps

At Raven, we understand the complexities and technical challenges involved in managing a website. That’s why we offer comprehensive services designed to simplify your web hosting experience, ensuring your website is fast, secure, and always available.

Automatic SSL Certificates: We automatically generate and renew SSL certificates for your sites, ensuring your website maintains HTTPS encryption without any manual setup or maintenance.

Managed Caching: Our platforms are optimized for performance, with built-in caching solutions that ensure your content is delivered quickly to visitors without any configuration needed on your part.

Automated Backups: Raven automatically backs up your website data regularly, storing it securely offsite. This means you can restore your website to a previous state at any time, providing peace of mind and data security.

Content Distribution: We handle the distribution of your content through our global network, ensuring users around the world receive your data from the closest possible location, which drastically reduces load times and improves user experience.

Raven takes care of these technical aspects so you can focus on creating and maintaining the best possible online presence for your audience. With Raven, website management is hassle-free, allowing you to concentrate on what you do best.

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