What is a Server? - Definition & Explanation

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  • 0:03 Server Definition
  • 0:37 Types of Servers
  • 2:24 Server Capabilities
  • 4:10 Server Hardware
  • 4:55 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Lyna Griffin

Lyna has tutored undergraduate Information Management Systems and Database Development. She has a Bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering and a Masters degree in Information Technology.

In this lesson, we'll define what a server is, the configurations that make systems function as servers, and the differences from computers built as servers. We'll also examine some of the different types of servers and their capabilities.

Server Definition

A server is a computer equipped with specific programs and/or hardware that enables it to offer services to other computers (clients) on its network. There are different types and capabilities of servers. Think about transportation. We can think of transportation as anything that can move something or someone from one location to the other. A bicycle can move one person, a car can move four people, a bus can move 50 people, and a plane can move 500 people. They are all modes of transport, but each has a different capacity. The same applies to servers.

Types of Servers

A computer may need many services to work. As such, there are different types of servers available.

File Server

A file server is a server that contains files which are made accessible to other clients on the network. A file server has the sole responsibility for storing and managing a set of files, which are made accessible to other computers. These files are shared among clients in the network by allowing access without having to physically transfer the accessed files to their local systems.

Print Server

A print server is a server which has a dedicated printer connected to it which is accessible by other clients through it on the same network. Other clients on the network can print work to this printer through this print server.

Web Server

A web server is a server equipped with HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) that serves web pages in response to requests submitted by clients. For example, if you type www.ismellgood.com/homepage on your browser as a client, you are in effect requesting a web page stored on a server with a domain named ismellgood.com, called a homepage. In response to your request, the respective web server locates the homepage page in its system and displays it to you. If you erroneously type www.ismellgood.com/homewage, the server will return an error message saying - web page not found! Well, that's familiar!

Application Server

An application server stores and manages all applications between an organization's users and its databases or backend business applications. If you've visited a bank to withdraw money, then you've accessed the bank's application server through the services of the attending teller. The teller's machine through the banking application accesses the bank's application server to retrieve your bank account details and facilitate your transaction.

Server Capabilities

Now in the real world, there are really two main types of servers. A system that is configured is set up to behave as a server. There are various sophisticated, specially designed operating system server software and server hardware.

To understand this better let us revisit the definition of a server. To recap, a server is a computer equipped with specific programs and/or hardware to enable it to offer services to other computers on its network. A home computer with a desktop operating system, 100 Gb storage capacity, 10 Gb memory, with four computers connected to it, containing a number of files can be configured to share those files with the other computers on the network and act as a file server.

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