Network servers became common in the early 1990s, as businesses increasingly began using PCs to provide services formerly hosted on larger mainframes or minicomputers.
A network server, today, is a powerful computer that provides various shared resources to workstations and other servers on a network. The shared resources can include disk space, hardware access and email services. Any computer can be a “network server,” but what separates a server from a workstation is not the hardware, but rather the function performed by the computer.
In general, a workstation is any computer used by an individual person to perform his or her job duties, while a network server is any computer that provides users with access to shared software or hardware resources.
Servers are usually built with more powerful components than individual workstations. For example, a server will usually have more RAM installed than a workstation or will use a more robust operating system designed to run 24/7. While this may increase the price of the server relative to a single workstation, the overall cost can be significantly lower to an organization.
Below are 13 of the most common server types used today:
1. Application Servers
Sometimes referred to as a type of middleware, application servers occupy a large chunk of computing territory between database servers and the end user, and they often connect the two.
2. Client Servers
In the client/server programming model, a server is a program that awaits and fulfills requests from client programs in the same or other computers. A given application in a computer may function as a client with requests for services from other programs and also as a server of requests from other programs.
3. Collaboration Servers
In many ways, collaboration software, once called ‘groupware,’ demonstrates the original power of the Web. Collaboration software designed to enable users to collaborate, regardless of location, via the Internet or a corporate intranet and to work together in a virtual atmosphere.
4. FTP Servers
One of the oldest of the Internet services, File Transfer Protocol, makes it possible to move one or more files securely between computers while providing file security and organization as well as transfer control.
5. List Servers
List servers offer a way to better manage mailing lists, whether they be interactive discussions open to the public or one-way lists that deliver announcements, newsletters or advertising.
6. Mail Servers
Almost as ubiquitous and crucial as Web servers, mail servers move and store mail over corporate networks (via LANs and WANs) and across the Internet.
7. Open Source Servers
From your underlying open source server operating system to the server software that help you get your job done, open source software is a critical part of many IT infrastructures.
8. Proxy Servers
Proxy servers sit between a client program (typically a Web browser) and an external server (typically another server on the Web) to filter requests, improve performance, and share connections.
9. Real-Time Communication Servers
Real-time communication servers, formerly known as chat servers or IRC Servers, and still sometimes referred to as instant messaging (IM) servers, enable large numbers users to exchange information near instantaneously.
10. Server Platforms
A term often used synonymously with operating system, a platform is the underlying hardware or software for a system and is thus the engine that drives the server.
11. Telnet Servers
A Telnet server enables users to log on to a host computer and perform tasks as if they’re working on the remote computer itself.
12. Virtual Servers
In 2009, the number of virtual servers deployed exceeded the number of physical servers. Today, server virtualization has become near ubiquitous in the data center. From hypervisors to hybrid clouds, ServerWatch looks at the latest virtualization technology trends.
13. Web Servers
At its core, a Web server serves static content to a Web browser by loading a file from a disk and serving it across the network to a user’s Web browser. This entire exchange is mediated by the browser and server talking to each other using HTTP.
Built to deliver the enterprise-grade security and reliability that businesses require, Microsoft Exchange provides email, calendar and contacts on your PC, phone and web browser.
Lync Server is an enterprise real-time communications server software, providing the infrastructure for enterprise instant messaging, presence, VoIP, ad hoc and structured conferences (audio, video and web conferencing) and PSTN connectivity through a third-party gateway or SIP trunk.
A server product that relies on SharePoint Foundation technology to provide a consistent, familiar framework for lists and libraries, site administration, and site customization. SharePoint Server includes all the features of SharePoint Foundation plus additional features and capabilities such as Enterprise Content Management, business intelligence, enterprise search, personal sites, and Newsfeed.
SQL Server is a relational database management system (RDBMS) from Microsoft that’s designed for the enterprise environment. As a database, it is a software product whose primary function is to store and retrieve data as requested by other software applications: those on the same computer or those running on another computer across a network (including the cloud).
As the server version of Windows 8, Windows Server 2012 redefines the server category, delivering hundreds of new features and enhancements spanning virtualization, networking, storage, user experience, cloud computing, automation, and more.
So what’s a server? In a sense, there’s really no such thing as just a server. There’s always some type of resource that’s being served, which is either explicit or implied. A server is just a computer that’s been selected and probably optimized to perform a specific task in service to others. And it’s that task that makes all the difference.
Was this information helpful to you? Is there something else around servers worth discussing? Your comments are always welcome!
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