Types of Servers | What is a Server – Advantages and Disadvantages

Types of Servers

In this article, we will learn about different types of servers with their advantages and disadvantages.

What is a Server?

Servers are referred to as a type of computer hardware device or software program connected on a network to provide multiple services or information’s to a user.

In computing, Servers are meant to provide service to a single or multiple clients over a network. This connection is also called a client-server relationship.

Sometimes they would appear to look like normal computers, but more often, they have powerful processors with more RAM and storage capacity than a normal client computer.

More details on servers –

The servers in data centers are designed to run 24/7, which makes them expensive and also requires special atmosphere/conditions to perform efficiently, as they have to constantly deliver services to the users.

They generally store huge data and information in the form of web pages. Users can access it over the internet.

In simple words, when a user clicks on some web page link on the SERPs, its computer will talk with the corresponding web services computer server to display the web pages on your monitor.

A server and client computer can be on the same computer or connected through a network.

The data serving systems could be either over a Local Area Network (LAN) or Wide Area Network (WAN).

On a local network, the server and other computers are connected through a switch or router on a given network.

Once the network is established, the computers can gain access to the given file on the server.

An internet server or Wide area network (WAN) has wide coverage and scale when compared to the Local network server, so an IP address is assigned to it.

However, a user gets connected to the server with the help of a domain name (google.com) since it is easy to remember instead of an IP address.

When a user inputs the domain name on a web browser, this gets translated by a DNS resolver into the respective server IP address.

The advancement in server technology has revolutionized the functioning of many business organizations.

The history of IT infrastructure kick-started with the IBM mainframe computer in the 1960s and has advanced to the currently and widely used cloud-based servers or serverless technology.

The intermediate eras witnessed the development of personal computers, client-server computers, and web-based enterprise computing to help the organizations perform their tasks.

The initial PC’s used for computing at a personal user level was followed by powerful PC’s having multiple capabilities in the client-server era and later the invention of enterprise servers aimed at integrated networks and single infrastructure in the age of WWW.

The last 17 years have seen significant development in technology, a shift from hardware to software.

With the ever-increasing bandwidth for the internet around the 2000s, the new era of serverless cloud and mobile computing was born. This has impacted the transformation of almost all industries. 

What are the different types of Servers?

The servers are primarily categorized as under:-

Physical servers

A physical server is nothing but a computer just that it is used at a business level, which has more powerful processors, RAM, storage space. It is generally located onsite within your premises or in a data center operated by a trusted partner. 

Pros: 

  • It can be customized to suit your specific business requirements.
  • Your IT team has 24/7 access to the servers.
  • Since the team has 100% access, troubleshooting of any connection network issues can be regularized.

Cons: 

  • It not only involves high capital cost but does require regular maintenance and up-gradation over time, which means its a recurring cost. You will have to account for this at the upfront while going for the physical server installations.
  • Physical servers come with larger space requirements, and depending on the business widespread, you might require to allocate a dedicated space within your office premises.
  • During the hardware failure, it may take time for a replacement due to the lead time of the hardware availability, ultimately resulting in prolonged downtime.
  • These servers often increase energy costs as they consume more power.

Virtual servers

A virtual server comprises a set of virtual machines that are not dedicated to one server but have shared resources with multiple virtual servers.

In simple words, the server is located at some offsite location and used by multiple website owners, and each one can administer it as if they had full control over it. 

Pros: 

  • It requires lesser investment costs since you need not buy the hardware.
  • The maintenance and configuration costs are also relatively lesser as compared to the physical servers.
  • While physical servers require space, virtual servers will eliminate the requirement of extra space.
  • The upgrades can be quick with less downtime.
  • Data backup is easy with secured networks.

Cons: 

  • The recurring costs are higher. In cloud computing, the billing is usually monthly and varies as per your usage.
  • The internet connectivity is most important for your access to cloud servers. Poor internet will result in you going out of control.
  • Possible issues regarding the compatibility might arise.
  • You do not have sole control over the virtual servers.

We shall now look at the most common types of servers based on its functionality and purpose.

Web server

It is one of the most common and widely used servers in today’s market. The prime objective of a Web server is to store, process, and deliver the requested Web pages to the user.

The client in this server will be the web browser such as Mozilla Firefox, Internet Explorer, Chrome, etc.  The protocol used for communication is HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol).

Web servers are also used for uploading or creating a backup file online on cloud storage. The most common type of web servers used is Apache Web Server, IIS Web Server, Nginx Web Server, and the LiteSpeed Web Server.

Application server

An application server has hardware and software that provides an environment or framework to run the programs at the enterprise level.

They are designed to run many web-based applications irrespective of what they are defined for or what they perform.

It also helps to host a hypervisor that can run several virtual machines and process the data sent from a different server.

This will eliminate the need of having resources to install and maintain the software on every single machine as they offer to run resource-intensive applications, which are shared by many users.

Some of the common application servers that are widely used are Java, .NET framework, PHP.

Database server

The organizations heavily rely on the enormous amount of data they have in their database. Every single transaction or activity and details of it is stored in the form of data.

This requires huge disk space and is required to be accessible to multiple clients at any given point of time.

These two needs have tended to the increased use of maintaining the database on servers for easy data storage and retrieval.

These database servers have several database applications running and also respond to the requests from the clients. The common database server applications are Microsoft SQL Server or Oracle.

File server

A file server is a server that provides access to files for multiple users. It is acting as centralized file storage that gives access to multiple systems over the same network.

Central file storage will provide simple backup and also a parallel running backup software instead of going for secured and integrated on all the devices in an organization.

SMB/CIFS or NFS Protocol is used to access files on serves connected over LAN.

Print server

As the name suggests, the Print server is a server to connect with the printer devices and the computer over a network.

Whenever a user gives a print command from his / her computer, the same is received by the print server, and it further passes the information to the printer to print the job output.

The print servers often queue up the jobs till the printer is warming up and to ensure up-to-date drivers are installed on client computers.

For example, a computer on a home network can act as a file or print server.

Mail server

A mail server is the most common type of application server that can send and receive emails over a network.

In simple words, it acts as a virtual post office, which stores the email first and sorts it out before sending it to the user.

The SMTP protocol handles the outgoing message requests while the IMAP and POP3 protocol handles the processing of incoming messages.

Sometimes, a web and mail server are combined as one server, but large email service providers such as Google, Outlook, Protonmail have their dedicated mail servers.

What is Domain name server or DNS?

A Domain name system server is a server that helps to communicate between humans and computers, into the language understood by each of them.

For example, when a user types a domain name, the DNS will translate those into numeric IP addresses to enable your web browsers to display the requested webpage on your computer screen.

The DNS server sends a query to different servers (DNS Resolver, A root server, A TLD server, and an authoritative name server), and each of them translates a portion of the domain name you have entered or requested. 

Proxy server 

A proxy server acts as an intermediate server between a user and servers or the internet or websites. In short, it separates the communication between local and outside networks.

When a user enters his request, it first sends to the proxy servers, which act as a hub to communicate with other servers over the internet and return with the necessary and required information.

This is used owing to the security protocols of a company.

Standalone server

The Standalone server does not rely on other servers and often acts as workgroup servers. It is not part of any domain network or group but acts as standalone servers. They are configured to provide access to all the users in an organization.

Dedicated server

A dedicated server is a server that is entirely leased to a single client. It offers more flexibility to the client for choosing the type of hardware and software to be installed.

The hosting company also provides add on services as under:-

  • Managing and operating of the servers and keeping them up-to-date
  • Data backup and recovery from any disaster.
  • Ensuring the stringent measures to safeguard clients’ data.

Blade server

Blade servers are often the most viable option when you do not have the space to fit a traditional rack server. It is a type of server that has a slimmer design to optimize space and energy.

With the advancement in technology and the miniaturization of the computer parts over the years, the servers of the thin module have evolved to be known as blade servers.

The set of many servers either share a common or fewer hard disks storage system. The maintenance and replacement of these servers are very easy and fast.

For example, HPE Synergy. 8.2. 787, HPE BladeSystem. 7.5. 367, Cisco UCS B-Series. 8.3. 434, Lenovo Flex System. 8.0. 1,078, Dell PowerEdge M are some of the examples of blade servers.

Cloud server

The server terminology has evolved with the revolutionization in computer technology. In today’s market, the servers are nothing but software’s running on multiple devices and often referred to as virtual servers.

Cloud servers or Serverless computing allows you to operate and run applications without worrying about the server’s software and hardware.

Must Read:- What is Cloud Computing?

It is a model in which the server is located somewhere offsite (often referred to as the cloud).

The cloud provider operates and manages the servers remotely and provides backend services based on user requirements.

The cloud provider will charge the client on monthly usage and not on the number of servers.

Some of the top cloud providers of 2020 are AWS, Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure, hybrid.

It is important to note that computers and servers are independent of each other. The former is designed to serve desktop-oriented tasks for a single user whereas, the latter is designed to manage a large number of users at an organization level.

Things to Know:-

Computer Fundamentals

Uses of Computer at Home, Education

A-Z Shortcut keys of computer keyboard

Types of Printers

Types of Network

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