In today’s world, where everything is digitized, we depend on servers for multiple needs. Google, the world’s biggest search engine, provides us with the data we want from different types of servers.
Let’s start with discussing what a server is.
What is a Server? [Definition]
A server is a computer or system that provides data, services, resources, or programs to other computers known as clients. When computers transfer resources with client machines, they are known as servers.
The first line of servers were minicomputers or mainframe computers. But, as technology evolved, they were transformed into desktop computers.
Later, servers developed into powerful computers connected over a network to less-powerful client computers. This network architecture is known as the client-server model, in which both the server and client computer have computing power. However, there are particular tasks delegated to servers only.
As much as technology evolved, so is the definition of servers. A server is nothing more than software running on computers and laptops. Such types of servers are known as virtual servers. Third parties mostly run them across the Internet in an arrangement known as cloud computing.
How do Servers Work?
There are various ways in which servers work to connect users to different data functions. They contain large amounts of data for organizations. This data is made accessible to users through internal networks or via the Internet. When a user requests, the servers respond to it to retrieve the requested files from stored or interconnected data sources. To understand and respond to a request efficiently, servers work in tandem with an operating system.
IT professionals can increase the functionality of a server by installing software that creates additional roles, such as responding to website requests from an Internet browser. Servers can also act as safeguards to verify the identity of users before allowing access to a network.
To get a website to display properly on the screen, there are two things required:
When any user enters a URL, the web browser divides it into three parts that we are going to discuss in detail below:
1. Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP)
HTTP is the language browser, and web servers use to communicate. A browser sends an HTTP request to a web server and then transfers the hypertext to the user’s browser.
When the search gets a request, it checks whether the requested URL matches the current file in operation or not. If it matches, the server will return the requested file; if not, it will return an error page.
2. Domain Name System
DNS (Domain Name System) translates easy-to-remember domain names to numerical IP addresses. When you enter a domain name into a web browser, the Internet service provider views DNS translates it into a computer-friendly IP address, and then a set of stored files. The stored files appear as a website on your screen.
3. File Name
What is Server Architecture?
Server architecture is the design of how a server functions. The layout of a server in its operational capacity is referred to as server architecture.
A server’s architecture can be defined by:
- How it communicates with other devices
- The types of operating systems it uses
- Hardware and software components
- Storage and computing capabilities
- The security functions within its systems
Different Types of Servers
There are different server types based on the various functions they perform. These are detailed as follows:
1. File Server
A file server provides access to files for multiple clients or users. It acts as centralized file storage that provides access to many systems over the same network. Central file storage provides simple backup along with a parallel running backup software instead of integrating all devices in a company.
SMB or NFS protocol is used to access files on servers connected over the LAN network. A file server hardware is designed to maximize read and write speed to enhance performance.
2. Application Server
The application server consists of software and hardware that runs the programs at an enterprise level. Application servers often run resource-intensive apps shared by so many users worldwide.
Key features of the application server consist of data/application security, effective user management, data redundancy, load balancing, high availability, and user management.
Application servers are built to run several web-based apps despite their functions or features. Common application servers run on Java, PHP, and .Net Framework.
3. Database Server
The application framework is the place where applications run. Every transaction detail is stored as ‘data,’ and it needs ample disk space to be accessible to clients as and when they want.
These servers are like a warehouse where the website’s data is stored and maintained. Users get access to the data using query labels about the database.
4. Print Server
This type of server connects printers with a computer system over a network. The print servers line up the tasks until the printer warms up and ensure the latest drivers are installed on client computers.
These days, high-end printers come with their in-built print servers, eliminating the need for separate computer-based print servers. The internal print server operates by responding to print requests from a client. For instance, a computer on a home network can operate as a print server or file.
5. DNS Server
A Domain Name System server is a server that helps to communicate between computers and humans in a language that is comprehensible to both.
For instance, when a user enters a domain name, the DNS will translate the same into numeric IP addresses to allow your web browsers to show the requested web page on your desktop.
The DNS server sends a query to various servers, which, in turn, translates a certain portion of the domain name you have requested.
6. Virtual Server
A virtual server consists of a set of virtual machines that are not dedicated to one server. However, they have shared resources with more than one virtual server. Simply put, the server is located at some offsite location and used by many website owners. Each one can manage it as if they had complete control over it.
Key features of the virtual server include: requires lesser investment, removes the need for extra space, quick upgrades with less downtime, and easy data backup with secured networks.
A virtual server uses virtual hardware. The hypervisor passes the computation and storage needs into hardware shared among virtual servers.
7. Mail Server
This type of server can easily send and receive emails over a wide network. It works as a digital post office that stores emails and sorts them before sending them to the user.
The SMTP protocol caters to outgoing message requests, while the POP3 and IMAP protocols cater to the processing of incoming messages.
Under many circumstances, web and mail servers are put together as a single server. However, some of the biggest service providers, such as Google and Outlook, have their mail servers.
8. Proxy Server
A proxy server functions as an intermediary server between users and servers or websites. Simply put, a proxy server segregates the communication between local and outside networks.
When any Internet user submits a request, it is sent to the proxy server first, which acts as a hub to interact with other servers and return the important yet required information. For instance, for a web page, the proxy server assesses how to simplify and control its complexity.
A proxy server acts as an intermediary between a client program and an external server for network connection sharing, filtering, and data caching.
9. Web Server
The primary goal of a web server is to store, process, and transfer the requested web pages to the user. The client will be a web browser such as Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Chrome, etc. The protocol used for communication is HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol).
Web servers are used for creating a backup file on cloud storage. Common web servers include IIS web servers, Apache web servers, LiteSpeed web servers, and Nginx web servers.
10. Monitoring and Management of Server
Some servers just exist to monitor and manage other systems. These are called monitoring and management servers. Many monitoring servers receive client requests and client responses. However, some do not respond to data themselves.
This way, monitoring servers can keep track of all the traffic on the network and replies of clients and servers too. A monitoring and management server will always respond to requests from monitoring clients like those network administrators run just to observe the network’s health.
Hopefully, the above information has helped you understand what happens behind the curtain regarding servers.
The next time you search a query on the Web and land on any random website, you will probably know how much work goes behind making everything accessible for users on the World Wide Web.
This is all about all types of computer servers and their functions.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is a client/server network?
A client-server network is a medium through which clients access resources and services from a central computer via either a local area network (LAN) or a wide-area network (WAN), such as the Internet.
2. What is the difference between LAN and WAN?
LAN, i.e., ‘Local Area Network’ covers a small and limited area, such as a home, school, or office. WAN, i.e., ‘Wide Area Network’ covers a large geographical area, such as cities or nations.
3. What is a peer-to-peer server?
In peer-to-peer (P2P) networking, a group of computers is linked with equal permissions and responsibilities for processing data. Unlike traditional client-server networking, no devices in a P2P network are designated solely to serve or receive data.
4. What is the difference between a server and a host?
A host is a device that connects to a computer, a laptop, a computer, a tablet, or a smartphone. A server is a piece of hardware or software that can provide a service to other devices or programs connected to the network.
5. What is a firewall in a computer network?
A Firewall is a network security device that monitors and filters incoming and outgoing network traffic based on established security policies. In other words, a firewall is essentially the barrier between a private internal network and the public Internet.
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