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What Is A Server?

What Is A Server

Date First Published: 8th April 2022

Topic: Computer Networking

Subtopic: Network Hardware

Computer Terms & Definitions

Difficulty: Easy

Difficulty Level: 3/10

Learn more about what a server is in this article.

A server is a computer that handles requests and delivers data over a network. For example, a web server stores webpages and images and when it receives a request, it delivers it to the client. Any computer, such as a desktop computer or a laptop can act as a server with the necessary software. For example, when sharing files through peer-to-peer networking, the computer acts as a server. However, when a computer acts as a server, it might not have the necessary resources to handle all of the requests, such as bandwidth, especially if the service becomes popular.

The most common use of the word ‘server’ is a massive computer that is stored in a closet or glass house to protect sensitive computers and equipment. Remote servers that are managed by another company are located in a data centre.

Note: Info Icon

The device that makes the request and receives the response from the server is referred to as the client. The client is not the device that handles the requests and delivers the data. That is the role of the server.

Types Of Servers

  • Web server – A server that stores webpages and images and delivers them to the client when it receives a request. In addition to webpages and images, web servers are used for a lot of other purposes, including storing files through a cloud storage service. Web servers run software, such as Apache or Microsoft IIS. When visiting this webpage, your browser connected to a web server in order for this page to be delivered to your web browser.
  • Mail server – A server that handles and delivers emails over a network. SMTP is used to send messages through the email server and email applications establish a connection to POP3 or IMAP to download the messages to a computer. When IMAP is used, messages remain stored on the email server, but when POP3 is used, email messages are downloaded to the computer and deleted from the server.
  • FTP server – A server that moves files through FTP. These servers are accessed remotely through FTP clients, such as FileZilla, which connect to the server and display the stored files.
  • Proxy server – A server that acts as a gateway between the user and the rest of the internet. They forward traffic sent from the computer to the proxy server and help users to connect to websites indirectly. In addition, an anonymous connection may be offered by proxy servers.
  • Database server – A server that provides other computers with database services related to accessing and retrieving information from a database. An example of a frontend database server is phpMyAdmin, since it runs locally on the user’s computer. Users can manipulate the data by running queries. SQL is the most common query language.

Do Servers Have To Stay On?

Most servers, especially web servers and email servers have to stay on 24/7. This is because websites, emails, and files are transferred from people all around the world at different times of the day, and if a server was turned off, it could cause delays and inconvenience for people as it will cause them to lack the technological resources they need. However, servers are sometimes scheduled to go down for maintenance, usually at the time of day when they are rarely used, such as in the early hours of the morning.

History

First Web Server

Wikimedia

In computing, the word ‘server’ comes from RFC 5 in 1969. It was one of the earliest documents describing ARPANET, an experimental network.

In 1990, Tim Berners Lee, a British computer scientist created the first web server. He developed the code for his web server on a NeXT computer. The web server was located at CERN and in order to prevent it from being accidentally switched off, it had a sticker saying ‘This machine is a server. DO NOT POWER IT DOWN!!!’. The web address of the website hosted by the web server was http://info.cern.ch/hypertext/WWW/TheProject.html. It contains information about the World Wide Web project.


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