What are the basic functions of servers?

  rickf 21:51 28 Jun 2003

Hi All,
I am quite proficient at building pcs now and would like to move on a bit. Can someone tell me the basic uses of servers and how are the cases different? Thanks.

  Sir Radfordin 22:20 28 Jun 2003

Most people would see there are two main types of computer. Work stations and servers. In most homes you will find a workstation and in most businesses you will find several work stations and several servers.

A server is a central point of access for resources that are going to be shared. To this end they tend to be much higher specd. They will typically have a RAID disk drive setup that will be mirrored. There will also be redunancy built in including extra power supply.

As far as cases go, then there are free standing and rack mounted. Rack mounted ones are long flat(ish!) boxes that you put in a rack (big cupboard).

Have a look at someone like Dell (click here) and the servers they offer. To get a better idea of specs/design.

I doubt there is much demand (need?) for self build servers.

Appoliges if this isn't the information you were looking for!

  rickf 22:41 28 Jun 2003

Thanks for your input Radfordin. I am naturally curious since being interested in PCs.

  Sir Radfordin 22:58 28 Jun 2003

Any other questions?

  Forum Editor 23:03 28 Jun 2003

is simply a computer that handles requests from other computers - it 'serves' them what they want.

A normal PC can act as a perfectly adequate server, provided it isn't stressed too highly. To be an efficient server a machine must be capable of handling a large number or requests simultaneously, and for this it will need a fast processor (or more typically processors), a large, fast hard drive or drives and lots of RAM. It will also need to run an efficient, dependable and stable operating system.

  Danoh 00:30 29 Jun 2003

A single PC alone can do much as a standalone computer, as you already appreciate. The question then becomes, how can multiple computers be linked up together such that the sum is greater than that of just the parts.

The answer, as always in great team work, is specialisation.

The computer which does much of the interaction with humans needs to be good at that. These tend to be good graphics to help us relate to the tasks at hand, sound (and as we have 2 ears, stereo or even 7.1 surround sound for a closer 3-D rendition), etc.. Used as a stand alone computer, it also needs to be able to handle all other tasks and is designed and built to do so.

This also includes being able to work with and command other devices such as printers. If you then have to share data or information with other people, each computer also needs extra power and programs or logical intelligence to enable access and a controlled access to that data.

The more people and other devices that need to be connected, the more complex and duplicated this extra power and intelligence needs to be amongst all the linked up computers and devices.

It is possible to continue this indefinitely, as in what is known as peer-to-peer rather than client-server architecture. But it becomes horrendously more complex (and therefore expensive) to enable each individual PC to do so, and stay being able to do so.

So systems engineers soon came up with concentrating certain ?shareable? tasks onto specific computers, being the ?servers? in a client-server architecture to provide certain specialised services to whichever ?client? calls on them to do so. Thus giving rise to File-servers which concentrate on providing controlled access to data, Printer-servers, etc.

This enables the specifications of client computers to be downgraded, and when you consider that this could be in the order of hundreds of computers, amounts to quite considerable savings, both in terms of hardware as well as the complexity and costs of buying and maintaining sophisticated software programs.

So a simple printer-server could well be lower specified than your current PC, as the FE said, as it does not need much processing power but would need significantly more memory if its dealing with laser printers (as opposed to ink jet printers), lots of addressing capability (32 or even 64 bit capability dependent on how many users) to be able to handle peak demands from hundreds of individual users, but very little hard disk space in comparison.

However, as you would imagine, a file server would need masses of hard disk capacity. To ensure data integrity and rapid access to the data by hundreds of users, you would often have more sophisticated hard disk architectures and control programs, such as provided by the different categories of RAID storage solutions.

As you move towards a thousand or more users on the same network, you find efficiencies coming about from even more layers within client-server architectures (often referred to as ?n?-tier). These can typically only be handled by mainframe computers or high powered mid-range computers.

But I?ve gone on enough ?. Hope that has helped to provide a bit of further insight into ?What do servers do.. ?

  Danoh 00:33 29 Jun 2003

With such a long post, I used word to compose and the cut'n'paste seems to have mis-translated character values ~ apologies.

  powerless 04:28 29 Jun 2003
  rickf 08:47 29 Jun 2003

Don't know what to say! Such generous and knowledgeable contribtuions. I don't have any further questions at the moment as I need time to digest all this. I tend to think in human terms about the workings of computers. EG. a h/d is like some sort of store/ used to be drawer when they used to be 10g/15g and defragmenting is like stock taking and so on. I found this easier for people to understand when they asked me questions. Thank you all.

  rickf 09:11 29 Jun 2003

Just have another thought. In a domestic situation it would be easier to network using say my adsl modem router than a server. With wireless networking advancing fast would it mean that servers are becoming redundant? I suppose the advantage of servers over router networking is that the former can connect up more devices. Am I correct in this assumption?

  Sir Radfordin 09:40 29 Jun 2003

In a home situation then a router is often easiest for sharing an ADSL connection. If you share the connection via a server it always has to be on. The router will allow either machine to connect independently of the other.

Servers will never become redundant for large networks. Companies have large numbers of users who create even larger numbers of files. 200GB is small for a server these days! If you have one central point you can backup one device and restore to one point. Lots of people can access the same resources and they can all be managed from the same single point. You can set security permissions so only certain people can access certain files.

There are few homes that need a server as you can just set up a per-to-per network (all the computers act like servers and you don't have one central point.)

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