Most businesses have a server but do you know what it actually does? The sheer size of some servers can be intimidating and discourage people from understanding what they do.A server plays a vital role in business technology. To be able to store and access data smoothly across your network you need to have a server setup correctly.

What is a server?

What is a server and what does a server do? A server is a computer that serves information to other computers. These computers, called clients, can connect to a server through either a local area network or a wide area network, such as the internet. A server is a vital piece of your IT infrastructure.

What does a server do?

A server collects and sends information across a network. That can be a local network, like your business network, or a wider network across multiple locations.

Any computer running the right software can be a server. Although when we hear the word server we think of enormous, high-powered machines that push and pull data across the web.

How does a server work?

Every time you use the internet you are accessing a server. When you enter a URL into a browser your computer communicates with the server hosting that website and pulls the data onto your machine.

This is a simplistic view of how the process works

  • You enter a URL and your web browser requests a web page 
  • The web browser requests a full URL for the site it wants to display
  • This information is sent to the server
  • The web server finds and builds all the data needed to display the site (this is why some sites load quicker than others)
  • Your web browser receives the data and displays the website to you

What else do I need to know about a server?

Hardware-wise a server is just a computer but without anyone working behind it at a monitor. In a typical business networked environment, you might find a mail server that does all the mail traffic and storage, a print server that handles all printers or a database server that houses the corporate database.

There are many different types of servers, including Web servers, mail servers, and file servers. A web server serves Web pages to computers that connect to it. It can also resolve scripting languages such a PHP, ASP, and JSP. A mail server stores users’ e-mail accounts and sends and receives e-mail messages. For example, if you send an e-mail to a friend, the message gets sent by a mail server, using the SMTP protocol.

A file server is a computer that stores files that can be accessed by other computers. File servers are often used within local networks and typically require a password or some sort of authorisation to connect to it.

These are a few examples of some common servers, but there are many more types that exist. Just about any computer can be used as a server if the necessary server software is installed on it and the hardware is powerful enough to process the workload.

While servers typically don’t need a lot of processing power, lots of RAM and fast hard drives help deal with heavy traffic to and from the server.