What Is Server (In Computing)?


Server is a bunch of hardware and software which is used to serve and provides different services to the clients in computing. Servers are an important part of computing where in today every internet user consumes different services from different companies’ servers. Servers are providing part of the Client-Server model and consumed by the different and multiple clients at the same time. Servers generally contain specialized hardware and software but in some cases, server hardware can be a regular computer, PC, laptop even a mobile device that runs server application or service.

Server History

The term Server is created by Kendall in 1953 for its Queueing Theory. The firsts technical and more realistic usage dates back to 1969 where the server is explained in RFC 5. This document was related and explaining the ARPANET which is the predecessor of the internet.

Server Attributes and Features

Servers are different from PCs, mobile devices, and other IT related devices with the following attributes and features.

Scaleability : Server hardware, operating system, and software are designed with scalability in mind. They try to be more scalable in order to be more reliable, high performance, etc.

Reliable: The most important attribute of the server is reliability. Servers are designed to work 7×24 without service interruption. Their hardware, operating system, and software must be reliable to work months even years without a problem.

Cost: Servers are called enterprise IT components which makes them cost a lot higher than regular PC or laptops. The cost of the servers is also related to redundant hardware, advanced software, etc.

Server Types and Usages

Servers are generally designed and created to serve some service to the clients over the network. With the advecement of the computing a lot of different types of services are provided to the client. In this part we will list different server types and usages for different cases.

Application Server is one of the most popular server example where single or mulltiple applications are provided to the clients over the network. Application servers contains all or most of the application code and the client only connects this application or navigates it via internet with a web browser. As an example Facebook, Google Search, Twitter Web are popular web applications which are served by Application Servers.

Catalog Server is an old type of server where some structured and cataloged information is provided by the server. Catalog server generally provides information like computer list, usernames, phone numbers, users, server list etc. Catalog server is an old type of server which is currently not used so much were it was very popular in the first days of the servers.

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Web Server is similar to the Application Server but a bit different where it may run web applications and also provides other web resources like image, documents, CSS, JavaScript files and generally contains some web server application like Apache, Nginx, IIS etc.

Database Server is mainly designed to serve database services which is provided by database software, Database server stores information in a structured manner and provide access, update, delete, add operating to the clients. Database servers generally used by Application Servers in order to store and consume data.

File Server is used to store and serve files over network. File server provides access to the multiple clients for files. This is a popular server type where different files, documents, images, programs can be accessed from a single point without duplication over different computers.

Game Server is newly emerged server type where clients or gamers can play online games in a single platform. Game servers run the game logic where muliple clients connects to the same game and graphics are rendered by the clients.

Mail Server is the core part of the todays IT and business. E-mails are important part of the IT and communication where emails transferred and stored in mail servers. Clients will send or get the emails via mail servers where they can not send email each other directly.

Media Server is another popular server type which is emerged recently with the advencement of the internet and mobile devices. Media server is used to store and stream different media types like movies, music, image, file. Media services can be provided by companies as well as home media servers too. Netflix, Hulu are examples about media servers from companies.

Print Server is used to provide print services to the clients over network. Printers are connected to the print server where every print request or job will be sent to printer server and the print server will redirect this to the printer. Print servers generally used in companies but home users can also setup print servers too.

Proxy Server is used as an intermediary to connect other servers. Proxy server works between client and server communication. Generally companies or individuals uses web proxy servers to connect remote web service. Proxy servers provides authentication, security, protection, anonymity.

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Virtual or Virtualization Server is a server type where is provides virtualization services. Virtualization server mainly used for enterprise level and provides different resources like computing, memory, storage, graphic processing etc to the clients. VMware, HyperV, Citrix provides virtuliazation server software.

Cloud Servers are similar to the Virtualization Servers where they are generally has more services and provided via 3rd party cloud operators like Amazon Web Server, Google Cloud Platform, Microsoft Azure etc. Cloud servers provides tons of services like computing, server-less computing, graphic processing, CDN etc.

DNS, FTP, DHCP Server are used to provide network services like DNS, FTP and DHCP. A single server can provide all of these services or different servers can provide different services. This type of servers can work with little resource because of the services low work load.

Server Components and Architecture

As stated previously servers consist of multiple components called Server Software and Server Hardware. There is also a less important component called Server Operating System . Even not all of them are required to call the system as server generally the server software is the most important part of the server.

Server Software

Server Software is the most important part of the server where services are provided via this server software. Generally the server software work as a services on the system which starts on the boot automatically. Server software runs 7×24 without or very little interruption in order to provide reliable service to the clients.

Server Operating System

Server Operating System can be also called a component of a server but with less importance. The Server Operating system is responsible for managing the server hardware and providing a platform to run for the server software. Today most of the operating systems can be used server operating system but for more reliability, less operation and performance specifically created server operating systems should be preferred. Microsoft Server 2012, Microsoft Server 2016, Microsoft Server 2019, Ubuntu Server, CentOS, SUSE are popular server operating systems designed for servers.

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Server Hardware

Server Hardware is used to create the physical part of the server where it consists of hardware designed for servers. Even normal computers or mobile devices can be used as server hardware they will provide less stability, durability, and performance according to the server hardware. Server hardware is far more reliable according to the standard hardware. But server hardware is more pricy according to the normal hardware as they provide enterprise-level features and stability.

Server Hardware
  • Server hardware generally provides no or less graphical GUI and features unless it is a gaming or rendering server.
  • Server CPU should be reliable where Intel Xeon is generally used.
  • Server Storage consists of multiple HDD for reliability and performance.
  • Servers contain RAID Cards for more storage performance and stability in order to use multiple hard disk devices.
  • Servers use more advanced power supplies even multiple power supply for a single server for power reliability.
  • Servers generally located specially designed rooms and locations like server root, data center which is cooled very well.

Server vs Personal Computer (PC)

Even personal computers, mobile devices, or laptops can be used as a server there are some differences between the official server and personal computers from hardware, operating system, and software viewpoint.

  • Server hardware, operating system, and software is more reliable than PC hardware, operating system, and software.
  • Server hardware, operating system, and software cost more than PC hardware, operating system, and software.
  • Server hardware is heavier then PC hardware in general.
  • Server hardware is generally duplicate and more than one where PC hardware is a single instance.
  • PC hardware, operating system, and software can be used as server hardware, operating system, and software but it will not reliable as server hardware, operating system, and software.
  • Servers can be clustered especially as software but multiple PCs can not be clustered.
  • Servers run 7×24 where PCs are used 6-10 hours a day.
  • Servers are located in special environments like server rooms, datacenter where PCs are used inside the living and working environment.
  • Servers create a lot more heat then PCs.
  • Servers create a lot more noise than PCs.
  • Servers generally do not contain or use monitors where PCs always used with monitors.

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