Business owners and power users know the struggles of dealing with systems that cannot provide maximum performance under a hefty workload. Standard computer systems and software often fail to meet the requirements of precise and heavy use-cases. This presents problems in industries or businesses where seamless work is required to meet important deadlines. Servers are specially designed for these purposes to enable businesses and other industries in meeting their specific requirements with efficiency.
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In technical terms, a server refers to any hardware or software that is allotted for providing a particular service. Servers work by receiving requests from other users or devices called clients and providing responses like fulfilling those requests or declining them. Loosely, any system, virtual machine, or software that is acting as a management point or reserved for a single task can be called a server. In the next section, we will take a closer look at what qualifies as a server and discuss the different types of servers.
In-Depth About Servers
The word server can be used in a variety of contexts in the computer world. Server types and form-factors greatly depend on the requirements of the user. All server references, typically point towards one of the three server types. These are the server software, hardware, and virtual machines. Giant corporate or extensive networks usually rely on dedicated server machines to achieve their satisfactory work. Meanwhile, virtual machines create a separate layer in an existing system that can also perform other tasks or work like a regular computer. Server software is perhaps the most basic requirement for any device or virtual machine to qualify as a server. Think of it as an application that renders use to the server hardware or the second layer on pre-existing hardware.
Physical servers are just like desktop computers designed to run server software and optimised for mission-critical usage. Like a regular desktop system, servers have their own dedicated computer hardware including RAM modules, CPU processors, power supplies, storage modes, and everything else required to get a system up and running. However, an important point to notice here is that where regular computers will try to give maximum performance in a minimal form factor, servers leverage the use of more hardware components to provide systems that have fail-safe options like back-up power supplies, extra RAM modules, back-up storage options and much more. Server hardware is also specially designed according to mission-critical usage, this means extra components to provide back-up, increased storage and memory options, and optimised form-factors to work in business corporations or offices. Special attention is paid when designing servers to make sure it is fully reliable in an aggressive working environment and provides an always-on system.
Server hardware is usually stored away from the regular business. The case sensitive systems are put in dedicated rooms or glasshouses to make sure it is isolated from the general workforce. Servers can also be kept away from the company’s office to create better workplaces. ISPs use Ethernet, Fiber, or DSL cables to allow their clients to connect to their servers and access the internet. Servers have to be connected to network devices like routers, switches, modems, etc which in turn can be connected to several devices and users.
Server software typically consists of two fundamental software, these are the operating system and the server applications. A server operating system forms the bottom-most layer where everything takes place. Since server hardware has some major differences from regular desktops, servers require their operating system to utilise the hardware. Apart from that server operating system also forms the connection between the devices on the network and the server. A fully functional IP address and a domain name are created at the operating system level. Thus, the operating system forms the basic layer where the server applications can run seamlessly. Some popular server operating systems include Windows Server, Mac OS X Server, and many others built on Linux.
The secondary server software is the server application. This is the user-level program that lets the user directly interact with the system and perform dedicated tasks. For example, a web server will have an application that will send and receive requests based on what the user is trying to access the web.
Virtual servers work by creating a software-based environment by replicating an actual computing environment. It makes use of a software called a hypervisor which extends the physical capabilities of the server hardware to be used at the virtual level. It enables the server operating system to work as a virtualisation host that can manage servers at the virtual level. Each virtual server will have its own complete set of resources like CPU, memory, storage, networking assets, and much more. Virtualization can allow several virtual servers to co-exist with their working environment.
Examples of popular hypervisors include VMware Workstation and Microsoft Virtual PC.
Virtual servers fundamentally make use of the server hardware meaning it can be complicated to even notice the difference between server hardware and server hardware running a virtual server. However, there are some key performance differences. Server virtualisation can help create more manageable servers within a network using its ability to coexist. It can also allow server hardware to be used as a regular computer while also running the server at a virtual level. It is not preferred in large organizations that need maximum performance as physical servers are more optimized to perform their mission-critical tasks and offer high performance. Virtual servers are better for creating servers on lighter networks which in a smaller work environment or one that requires more management.
A server is perhaps the most misunderstood term in the networking world. We hope that this article has helped you clear any doubts regarding servers and has aided you in purchasing the right product for your needs.