What Is a Client-Server Network? - Definition, Advantages & Disadvantages

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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Raymond Blockmon

Raymond has earned a bachelor's degree in computer information systems and a master's degree in organizational leadership.

A client-server network is a central computer, also known as a server, which hosts data and other forms of resources. Clients such as laptops and desktop computers contact the server and request to use data or share its other resources with it.

What Is a Client-Server Network?

A client-server network is designed for end-users, called clients, to access resources such as files, songs, video collections, or some other service from a central computer called a server. A server's sole purpose is to do what its name implies - serve its clients! You may have been using this configuration and not even have known it. Have you ever played Xbox Live or used the PlayStation Network? Your Xbox One is the client, and when it logs into the network, it contacts the Xbox Live servers to retrieve gaming resources like updates, video, and game demos.

How Does It Work?

Imagine a customer sitting at a restaurant. He is waiting for the server to come by and take his order. The same rules apply in a client-server network; the client, which can be a laptop, desktop, a smartphone, or pretty much any computerized device, can make a request from the server.

The client uses the network as a way to connect with and speak to the server. Just as the customer speaks to his server, the client uses the network to send and receive communications about its order, or request. The server will take the request and make sure that the request is valid. If everything checks out okay, then the server will fetch the request and serve the client.

The server can make a request from the client as well. It may want to check up on the status of the client, or ask if it has received any security patches, or if it still needs resources from the server. If not, the server will close the connection in order to free up network traffic.

Can you imagine a server standing next to a customer who just stares at the menu without ordering anything? After 15 minutes, it would be a good idea for the server to leave and check on other customers. In both cases, the server moves on to other clients as needed.

What Are the Advantages of a Client-Server Network?

The biggest advantage to using this setup is central management of the server. Only one server is used to host the resources that all the clients request and use. This is especially good for server administrators, because they only have to be in one place and can solve all the problems in one place, as well. Having to manually update several hundred servers would take much more time. One centrally managed server is the key to ease of management, and it is cost effective, too.

Another advantage of using one physical server is that the configuration is simple to set up and takes less time to troubleshoot. For instance, if there were a site with multiple servers providing redundant services, and it was having issues, it could take an extreme amount of work to effectively troubleshoot why services are being hindered. In a single server role, all troubleshooting takes place at one physical server, so it takes much less time.

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