The Web server (running the Web site) thinks that the HTTP data stream sent by the client (e.g. your Web browser) was correct, but access to the URL resource requires user authentication 1) which has not yet been provided or 2) which has been provided but failed authorization tests. This is commonly known as "HTTP Basic Authentication". The actual authentication request expected from the client is defined in the HTTP protocol as the WWW-Authenticate header field.
Generally this error message means you need to log on (enter a valid user ID and password) somewhere first. If you have just entered these and then immediately see a 401 error, it means that one or both of your user ID and password were invalid for whatever reason (entered incorrectly, user ID suspended etc.).