A server is a networked computer that waits for resource requests from other computers and responds to them.
Servers share data, hardware, and software between multiple users connected to a computer network. On a small scale, a server might be used by a small business to provide a private area for shared file storage. On a large scale, a massive building full of servers called a data center might be used to power a massive web application, such as Facebook, that is accessed by users all around the world.
Also See: Host
Frequently Asked Questions
What are some common uses of servers?
Web servers are the type of server that come to mind for most people when they hear the word “server”. Web servers are used to power websites. Other common types of servers include:
- Database servers: A database servers store data in a specific database format for retrieval by other computers.
- File servers: File servers are used to provide a shared storage space accessible to multiple users of network.
- Mail servers: Email is received and stored on a mail server. When you check your email, you are accessing a mail server.
- Print servers: A print server allows multiple users to send jobs to a shared printer. The jobs are stored on the print server as the print server prints them one at a time. While print servers may be stand-alone devices, many printers intended for use in a networked environment come with a built-in print server.
- Game servers: Multiplayer games used over a network depend on a central computer to host the game my the players all access the game on that computer. The server used to host a multiplayer game is called a game server.
- Application servers: Application servers host applications that are accessible over a network connection.
Are servers repurposed off-the-shelf computers?
While any computer can be used as a server when configured properly, there are computers built specifically for use as servers. These server-grade machines tend to be built with higher-grade materials, abundant hard disk and random access memory, and stripped down to just the features and functions necessary for the purpose for which they are built.
I've heard of shared, virtual private, dedicated, and cloud servers. What's the difference?
Shared, virtual private, dedicated, and cloud servers are the primary types of servers used for hosting websites and web applications.
- Shared servers are the least expensive and provide website hosting for many websites on a single server.
- Virtual private servers mark a significant increase in cost over a shared server, but they limit the number of users that can make use of the server to just a few, and allocate a guaranteed amount of server resources to each user.
- Users who select a dedicated server will have complete access to a physical server and will not share space or server resources with any other users.
- Cloud servers are virtual servers built by networking multiple physical servers together. The resulting combination of resources is referred to as a cloud, and cloud resources are sold in guaranteed intervals, similar to virtual private and dedicated servers.