What is Server?

A server in a computer is a particular piece of hardware that offers functionality to other devices or programs called clients. It can also be a computer program or software.

Understanding Server

What is Server

Ideally, a server signifies that particular computerized process which is called by or used by another process mainly remotely with an intention to share a resource.

And, the calling process or processes are referred to as the client.

This means that any general-purpose computer can function as a server if it is connected to a network.

For example, when files are shared by others by some process, then it is called a file server.

In the same way, when web server software runs on any given and capable computer system, it is referred to as hosting a web server such as a personal or a laptop computer.

In computing, any single process is distributed across several devices that perform different processes.

The server provides different functionalities.

The functionalities offered by a server are called services which include:

Ideally, one server can serve several clients and one client can use several servers.

A client process can operate on a similar device or on a different device that may be connected to a server via a network.

Ideally, the most commonly implemented system is the client–server system which is typically characterized by the request–response model.

In this model, a client makes a request to the server which then executes some actions before sending the response back to the client, which is done usually with an acknowledgment or any other result.

If a computer is designated as ‘server-class hardware’ it signifies that it is capable of running servers on it.

This means that the computer is much more powerful and dependable in comparison to a regular personal computer.

However, there may be big computing clusters that may be alternatively composed of several replaceable and comparatively simple server components as well.

Server Platforms

There are primarily two major types of server platforms available in a network namely, Physical Servers and Virtual Servers.

Physical Server:

These servers typically serve data and usually operate on electricity and metal.

The physical servers of today are able to serve much more than a single user may need or want.

The physical servers usually are found to be used extensively in the data centers and other hosting companies that cater to a wide range of diverse clients.

However, very large organizations may not serve other clients but own the network of these types of servers.

In the earlier days, every server in a network had a dedicated physical server of its own.

Over time, however, the entire concept has changed and now this idea is substituted with virtualization technologies wherein every server acts as a virtual machine within a larger physical machine.

Virtual Server:

A virtual server signifies the division of the physical server. Most of the online servers are these types of servers and they have a fixed amount of physical server resources of their own to use such as:

These virtual servers can be rented by the users at a cost that is a miniscule fraction of the cost of a physical server.


The term ‘server’ actually comes from the ‘queue’ theory, which dates back to the middle of the 20th century.

However, in the computer world, the term dates back to 1969 and to RFC 5 which distinguished it from ‘user.’

The term then distinguished two types of hosts namely:

However, the term ‘serving’ was also used in early documents like RFC 4 which however distinguished a ‘serving host’ from a ‘using host.’

Nonetheless, most of the files define ‘server’ as a remote process of performing services for the requests made by a requester. It is usually run on a system other than that on which the server particularly runs and is normally dormant when not in use.

Need for a Server

Typically, there are lots of different reasons that you will need to set up or use a server and some of them are:

There may be a few specific types of servers that may be used for specific purposes. These servers are called dedicated servers. There can also be shared servers that can be used for different purposes such as:

Therefore, you may need a server for private or shared access and communicate or perform demanding calculation tasks remotely.

You may need using a server for a few other varied reasons such as:

Server Components

A server is usually made up of many different parts and subparts but the two specific components that make it work properly are:


If you look at the hardware of a server, it usually consists of a rack mount chassis. This chassis contains different other useful components such as:

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The hardware of most of the servers provides support to out-of-band management via a dedicated network port.

Usually, there are different uses of the out-of-band management systems such as:

This type of management typically helps in monitoring the server as well as low-level management without needing the operating system.

Operating Systems

The other major component of the server is the operating system which can be Windows Server or Linux.

It allows running the application and also enables the applications to access the necessary hardware resources. It also allows network connectivity.

Ideally, it is the application that helps the server to do its job.

For example, a mail application will be responsible for the email server to function. Likewise, a database application will make the database server run.

Functions of a Server

The primary function of a server is to serve data for the clients but the process in which this is achieved may be different based on the model.

For example, in the client–server model it actually works on the request and response nature of communication.

On the other hand, in a peer-to-peer model, it works on the basis of the on-demand reciprocation.

However, in publish–subscribe model the clients typically register with the pub-sub server.

For this they have to subscribe to specific types of messages via the request-response pattern.

After that, the pub-sub server will forward the corresponding messages to the clients with no further requests.

The clients will not have to pull the messages since the server will push it to them, unlike the request-response model.

The servers function to typically enhance the abilities of a company to network and collaborate by allowing them to share the resources available to all the parties inside the network that they can rely on.

Also, the servers play an important role by connecting to the internet which makes most of the jobs easy and fast, as it is required today.

Purpose of a Server

The purpose served by the servers largely depends on their types.

These specific types of computers help the other computers over a network known as the clients by providing them with their requisites such as:

Therefore, the main purpose of the servers is to help the computers in the network to perform well with shared resources.

In addition to that, the servers also store, send, and retrieve data and computer files that may be useful for their clients or the computers on the network.

The most important purpose served by the servers is however listening to a port for any incoming requests to the network from one side.

Types of Servers

There are different types of servers available in the market and you can choose any one of them depending on your need. These are:

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Now, with such a large variety of servers, it is surely quite difficult to choose one for your computing needs. You will need to consider a few important factors for that such as:

Well, if you stick to the basic principle of choosing a server according to your needs, you will do a good job. And, always get in touch with a reliable IT expert.

Which Computer Systems are Used as Servers?

It is mainly the desktop computers that can be used as servers provided that it has the right kind of hardware and software installed.

Based on the different types of hardware and server structures, there are other systems as well that can be used as a server. These are:

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Also, a few users use their own computer as servers but these are not the same thing and are also not completely different either.

How Does a Server Work?

On the most basic level, the computers communicate with the server hosting the URL of the website you typed in the internet browser to extract the data and the site to display it on your system.

For this, the servers function in a specific way.

First, the URL or the Uniform Resource Locator is broken down into three parts by the browser such as:

The IP address, which is provided by the internet service provider, is used by the browser to connect to the web server.

Though this IP address changes every time you log on, the server usually has the same one always.

Once there is a connection established between your computer and the web server, the browser sends a request for a specific file to the server.

This file is that particular page in that website that you have typed in the URL in the browser.

The server then sends all the HTML or Hypertext Markup Language text for that particularly requested web page to the browser which then converts it into the web page which you see popping up on your computer screen.

And, all these things happen just within a matter of a few fractions of a second!

Since you are reading this article, you have, unknowingly, already used the client-server model.

Here, you were the client and this webpage is the resource you have requested to the server to share and accordingly the web server served you with it.

The client-server model is the most commonly used architecture in the modern times to communicate and the server provides the necessary digital data for it to the clients.

The alternate Peer to Peer or P2P model uses the computers that are connected together to share the resources or data with each other.

However, unlike the Peer to peer model, the client-server model uses the primary server machine or the set of devices that are connected to a network like in a data center.

In the process, the normal computers or clients that are connected to the local network or a web send packets to the server to request data.

When the request is received by the server, it can do any of the three following things:

The servers and the clients rely on the ports to send the information to and from one another as well as control the data flow.

The ports need to be correct because in most cases firewalls are set up to examine the different types of requests before these are received.

For example, the servers that use the HTTP or Hypertext Transfer Protocol usually accept only those requests for data that are sent via port 80 or 443.

If you send any packet to a server that is correctly configured for a different port, it will surely drop the packet sent by you silently.

This is the basic working principle of the servers. However, it may vary significantly on the basis of how the server is being utilized.


Through this article you have come to know about the different types of servers, their functionalities and the working process.

With all this knowledge you can now easily build a server with your computer as and when required.