What is a server? A server is a hardware or software tool that accepts and responds to requests initiated over a network. The device making the requests and receiving the responses from the server is known as a client. On the internet, a server is also commonly used to refer to a computer system that gets requests for web files and sends them to the client. It serves the user, the client, and the computer program.

The physical computer running a computer program in a data centre is usually called a server. It might be a dedicated server, but it could also be used for other tasks. In the server/client model, the server program waits for and fulfils requests from the client programs. The latter might be running on the same computer or a different one. 

What are servers used for?

The role of servers is to manage network resources. For instance, you can set one up to control your access to a network, manage print jobs and send and receive emails. They are also efficient in performing complex and intense calculations. 

Some servers are committed to particular tasks and, as such, are referred to as dedicated servers. Most, however, are shared and responsible for emails, FTP, DNS, and multiple servers in a web server

Why are servers always running?

Since most servers work to deliver services in constant demand, they are always running and never turned off. Hence, a server’s failure could cause several problems for organizations and network issues. To avert this, they are configured to be fault-tolerant.

How do they work?

Servers work in different ways to connect network users to various data functions. They contain massive volumes of data for corporations, making this data accessible to users via the internet or internal networks. Servers respond to requests to retrieve specific files from interconnected or stored data sources.

Additionally, they work hand-in-hand with an OS to follow and respond to requests more efficiently. An IT expert can enhance a server’s functionality by installing software which creates extra roles, including responding to web requests from a browser. Lastly, a server can also act as a buffer to verify users’ identities before granting access to a particular network. 

Components of a server

The following components make up a physical server.

  1. Central Processing Unit (CPU): This part controls a server’s overall functions. It is the focal point for all processing functions. Central processing units are measured using processing speed.
  2. Motherboard: The motherboard links all the elements of a server. Its size will dictate the storage space and the number of hard drives connected to the physical server.
  3. Hard drives: This part houses software and user data for a PC. The hard disk utilizes a controller card to optimize processing functions. A server storing massive data may require several hard drives.
  4. Memory: A server’s memory determines the available storage size. The memory should be in tandem with the motherboard.
  5. Power supply: Servers offering data to numerous clients require a larger power supply than a standard personal computer. Most require at least 300 watts.
  6. Network connection: Every server must connect to a network to function. A reliable and robust network connection ensures that a server receives and responds to requests efficiently. Most motherboards come installed with a network adapter. However, if this isn’t the case, the server must be installed with an external network connection.

Physical servers vs virtual servers

At first, all servers were physical and usually deployed using a single function. As the computing power for each server increased, experts discovered that server hardware could be virtualized to perform the same functions with just a fraction of the hardware resources. Currently, there are both physical and virtual servers.

Physical server

A physical server is a piece of hardware with a CPU, motherboard, network connection, memory, etc. This machine is also called a “bare metal server”, and it has no gap between the physical hardware and OS. A physical server can run Windows, Linux, or another operating system. However, it will only run on a single OS at any given moment.

Virtual server

A virtual server is a detachment of a physical server which emulates the latter’s functions. It is possible to deploy several virtual servers onto a single physical server which is a key advantage. A physical server with multiple virtual servers will function as an independent server. Each runs on its own operating system and utilizes specific allocations of memory, storage, network components, and computing resources.

Types of servers

There are many different types of servers in this digital era.

1.   Web server

This type of server runs on websites and is also called a computer program. The primary role of a web server is storing, processing, and delivering. Each time you browse through browsers like Mozilla, Internet Explorer, and Chrome, it receives the URL requests and then responds with data relevant to the user’s needs. 

Web servers mainly display the data as text, video, images, etc. Lastly, it uses Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP), which serves files for created web pages. Dedicated applications and computers are also called web servers.

2.   Database server

This system offers services concerned with retrieving and accessing data from the database to other PCs. Database server access can run from the user’s computer (front end) or the database server (back end), which is accessible from the remote shell. After gaining access to this information, it provides the data requested by the user.

Database servers are like warehouses where a site’s information and data are maintained and stored. Many organizations use them to keep their data. Employees can access this data using query labels related to the databases.

Other servers are:

  • Email server
  • FTP server
  • Application server
  • Proxy server
  • Streaming server 
  • File server
  • Internet Relay Chat (IRC) server
  • Groupware server
  • Fax server


There are numerous types of servers, and they all manage data and information in different ways. A server is an effective way to securely store and manage your data if you run a big organisation. Servers such as email servers are also popular among personal users.

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