What Is A Server – Functionality, Types And Structure Simply Explained

Servers are reliable, central points of access for data, enable fast loading times and protect against data loss.

We explain how servers work, what different types there are and which devices are suitable for companies.

Definition: What is a server?

A server is a powerful, central network computer. It makes its resources available to other computers. Functional and infrastructural network services are realized via the server. Data that needs to be accessed by several people can be stored here.

However, the term server has a double meaning. One must distinguish between two different server definitions:

Server Hardware

A hardware server refers to a computer that makes its resources available over a network. The server is a computer that is integrated into a computer network. A hardware server runs one or more software-based servers in addition to the operating system. Often, a hardware-based server is also referred to as a “host”.

Server software

A software-based server is a program that provides a special service. This service is used by other programs – also called clients – locally or via a network.

Servers are often the most powerful computers in a network. Thus they have large hard disk capacities and a fast central processing unit (CPU).

In principle, servers can either operate in a closed (corporate) network or be accessible via the Internet.

Server structure – what are the components of a server?

The structure of a server consists of:

  • Graphics adapter
  • Network adapter
  • Main memory (RAM)
  • CPU with heat pipe
  • Power supplies
  • Fan
  • RAID hard disk array for operating system
  • RAID controller

The components show an exemplary structure of a server. Not all of them are absolutely necessary. For example, there are also servers without fans.

How does a server work?

Server services are provided via a computer network based on the client-server model. Tasks are distributed to different computers and made available to several end users independently of each other. Each service provided over a network is provided by a server. The server is working without interruption. Only in this way can clients such as web browsers or e-mail programs actively access the server at any time and use its services as needed.

How a server works

The server thus enters into contact with the client. Both can communicate with each other via a suitable protocol. Through this protocol they speak the same language. The client requests data from the server. The server supplies this. This can be different data – depending on the type of server.

What servers are there?

Server type and how it works

  • Web server
    A web server stores web pages, prepares them, and delivers them to clients such as web browsers or search engine crawlers.
  • File server
    This server is used for the central storage of files. So the different clients can access these files over a network. Especially companies like to use this kind of server. So several workgroups can access the same files.
  • Mail server
    A mail server consists of several software modules that interact in such a way that e-mails can be received and sent. This is also how they are kept ready for retrieval.
  • Database server
    The database server enables other programs to access one or more database systems.
  • Game server
    A game server is set up specifically for online-based multiplayer games. It manages the data of online games and enables synchronous interaction with the virtual world. Game servers are often rented in the form of virtual private servers, which are rented gaming servers hosted by the server provider. Here you can learn all about VPS hosting .
  • Proxy server
    This server serves as a communication interface in computer networks. It receives requests from the network and forwards them via its own IP address. A proxy server is used, for example, to filter communication, increase availability by load balancing or to temporarily store data. It also enables anonymization, since the IP address of the client remains hidden behind that of the proxy.
  • VPN server
    VPN servers are used for encrypted virtual private networks. A VPN is a self-contained, logical network. The participants are physically separated from each other, but can access the network with the help of a secure tunnel.
    To set up the secure tunnel, a VPN protocol is first required. With this VPN protocol the user establishes a connection to the login server. The secure tunnel is now set up with the help of this server. The user receives a new IP address and the Internet connection is encrypted. The communication can no longer be read outside the network and protection is provided on the web.
  • DNS servers
    DNS servers are used for name resolution in a network. They translate host names – such as www.example.com – into a corresponding IP address.

What are the advantages of having your own server?

Are you considering purchasing your own server? Having your own server has many advantages:

Flexible data access: All data required in your company is stored centrally. This eliminates the need to search for documents.

Data security: In the event of a hardware failure, data that is only stored locally on one computer is quickly lost. A server protects against this loss of data, because even in the event of a hardware failure, all data is retained.
Improved performance: Since you do not have to share your server with other customers, as is the case with shared hosting, you get full performance with your own server. As a result, you often have shorter loading times.

Less congestion and downtime: In the shared hosting space, congestion is a key problem. The server’s resources are shared and so the entire server can quickly become overloaded.

When does it make sense to have your own server?

If you want to share data in your company network, the acquisition of a server is recommended. Be it e-mail communication, the administration of customer databases or fast access to the online store. Smaller companies can benefit from the purchase of a server just as much as large corporations. Because data loss can happen anywhere. A server facilitates the work in the company and contributes a great deal to data security.

Buying a server – what should I look out for?

As the number of digital processes increases, so do the demands on the server. But what do you have to look out for when you want to buy a server? Or, if you consider  renting a server (VPS), you need to evaluate the same questions.

Which server fits your requirements? There are many different servers. They differ primarily in terms of size, performance, reliability and power consumption. Therefore, IT managers should ask themselves which and how many applications are to run via the server.

The number of users is also important in choosing the appropriate server. How many users will be using the server? And how many transactions will take place?

What is the power consumption of my selected server? In an overall comparison, power consumption over the lifecycle of a server accounts for about 70 percent of the total cost. Therefore, you should also think about energy efficiency. You may want to pay particular attention to energy efficiency in your servers. This ensures that the server remains profitable for your company in the long term.

How loud is the server? If a server is located in the office, you should of course also pay attention to the noise level. The server should operate quietly so as not to disturb the concentration of employees. Good servers usually operate particularly quietly – so as not to disturb ongoing operations. With VPS this question is superfluous.

The expansion possibilities: Your company wants to grow – so of course the server should be able to grow with it! Make sure that the server can be upgraded. With VPS the solution would be a scalable cloud server.

Service: A server is only as good as the service it offers. Extensive technical support is essential if you want to buy a server. Some providers have many years of experience in developing and producing IT solutions – those will be happy to pass this experience on to you. Their competent service team will be happy to advise you!

How much RAM? How much RAM a server needs depends on what you want to use it for. For example, servers tailored to companies usually promise smooth processes with about 8 GB.