An Introduction to Servers


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Since the beginning of the internet, networking architecture has mainly remained the same until today. The client-server functions are used everywhere online – from the source of this text to the game you downloaded on your computer or the cat videos you enjoy on Instagram!

Of course, this wouldn’t have been possible if there weren’t for servers! These machines hold the entire internet infrastructure today and are based on the same principles of the now ancient ARPANET from the ’70s, the infamous predecessor of the internet. So it’s pretty clear that servers have been around for quite some time; however, their uses have evolved over the years to accommodate every need of the end users.

In this blog post, we will take a look at what servers are, their most notable uses and how they’re used in today’s technology. We will also learn about the different types of servers that are available. Lastly, we will discuss how web hosting companies use servers to store their clients’ websites and learn about their operations.

What Is a Server?

Let’s start by clearing out one very significant mystery. Servers are powerful computers with special hardware that store and process data for businesses, organizations and end users. They can be physical servers, which are hardware devices housed in a secure environment like a data center, or virtual servers, which are software-based servers that can run on a physical machine. For a virtual server to work, specialized software is employed called virtualization software or virtual machine software.

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https://www.geeksforgeeks.org/introduction-of-server/

Servers are responsible for managing the resources of an organization’s computer systems, like networks, routing data traffic, and providing access to websites, applications and services. They’re also capable of working non-stop. However, they need frequent maintenance to do that. Reliability is their most significant advantage over consumer parts because they’re systems often used in delicate and mission-critical environments.

Nowadays, servers are scalable and more power efficient than in the past, meaning they can be interconnected in local networks (clusters) to increase their processing power significantly while consuming less power when doing the same tasks.

The History of Servers and How They’ve Evolved Over the Years

The history of servers correlates with computing. It dates back to the 1940s when the first computers like ENIAC were developed. These large and heavy computers took up entire rooms or even buildings. They used vacuum tube technology and magnetic core memory, which was a considerable step forward in computing power then.

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A picture of the ENIAC computer – source: Wikipedia.

The early computers or data centers were designed to handle specific tasks, serving mostly military purposes. As technology advanced, they were used for more data processing and scientific research serving more than just one purpose.

In the late 1960s, these systems became smaller as technology progressed and computing power increased. The servers of this era used transistors and RAM chips instead of vacuum tubes, resulting in much smaller servers. By the 1990s, the first web server appeared from Tim Berners-Lee, who used a NeXT computer, and the name ‘server’ was softly established. By that time, servers and computers had become even smaller and more powerful. This was around the same time that servers started to be used by businesses for hosting websites, email servers, and other applications.

Today’s servers are incredibly powerful machines that can process huge amounts of data in fractions of a second. They are used for all sorts of applications, from web hosting and eCommerce to scientific research and cloud computing. Servers have also become much more energy efficient recently, with innovative cooling systems and high-efficiency power supplies to reduce their environmental impact.

The servers we use today are a far cry from what they used to be 50 years ago. Specialized hardware like the CPU and GPU and the multi-core technologies combined with the smaller manufacturing processes all result in high-efficiency numbers that play a significant role in servers’ energy consumption today.

How Servers Work 

Servers are generally meant to reply to users’ inputs, which is the main characteristic you need to keep regarding how they operate. Now that we’ve covered the recent history of servers, let’s look at how they work in an actual use-case scenario.

The easiest way of explaining what a simple server does is by using an HTTP request that happens every time you want to load a web page online. This is called the client-server model. Two major things happen when we request a web page on our browsers.

  1. When a user requests a web page from a website, their browser sends the request to the web servers hosting the web page or the DNS server, which is a type of server that knows the source of the website.
  2. The request reaches the website’s server, processes the request, retrieves the requested data, and sends it back to the user’s browser. This process happens in milliseconds, so that means users have the results they need almost instantaneously.

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In addition to web servers, servers are also used to run online apps and services. When a user requests an application or service, servers process the request and provide access to the application or service. This allows users to use whole programs through their browsers. An example is Google Maps. This particular software could have easily been a downloadable program, but since it’s easier to implement online, Google chose the most logical option.

These systems also rely on a server operating system to work. Both physical and virtual servers run the software the same way. There are two main types of server operating systems: Windows server and Linux. Once an operating system is configured, these systems can provide many services and process thousands of end-user requests simultaneously and can be used to run many different tasks.

Types of Servers and Their Differences 

Depending on the size and scope of the project, there are various servers to cope with every emerging need. Each type of server is explicitly designed to meet the needs of certain applications, so it’s essential to understand the differences between them.

The most common types of servers include web servers, application servers, database servers, mail servers, proxy servers and print servers.

  • Web servers host websites and serve web pages to visitors, and they’re the most popular type of server. A web server stores all the files and content related to the website and handles thousands of visitor requests that happen from web browsers
  • Application servers are designed to support businesses’ applications and frameworks or software. They provide the necessary resources (frameworks, dependencies) for running software programs over networks or the internet. An application server is considered to be a middleware that hosts applications – they serve specific software and share data to end users.
  • A database server stores, manages and retrieves data from a database. They’re used to store business information, such as customer details, product information and order information, and are essential for any organization that needs access to large amounts of data.
  • Mail servers are servers dedicated to managing emails. A mail server manages incoming mail, delivers messages to users’ inboxes, and provides features like spam filtering, virus scanning, and other security measures.
  • Proxies are another important type of server. A proxy server acts as an intermediary between other servers, allowing users to access websites and services that may otherwise be blocked by their ISP or workplace. They’re also very useful for filtering content across and speeding up internet traffic
  • Lastly, print servers are servers dedicated to managing printers and other peripheral devices. They allow users to print documents from any computer on their network, and they’re sometimes embedded into networked printers (Wi-Fi) because they manage a small amount of data.

What Are Servers Mostly Used For? 

The server landscape is quite vast today. Servers provide a wide range of services and tasks, ranging from web hosting, cloud storage services, website development, application development and deployment, database management, content delivery networks (CDN), load balancing, and streaming media servers, as we discussed earlier in our blog.

In web hosting companies, which is our field of work, servers are used to store websites on single or virtual machines. These servers are managed by the web hosting company and provide their clients with web space and various services like email support, and backup, among many others.

Moreover, servers can be used to power Internet of Things (IoT) devices, enabling them to connect and interact with each other over networks. This is becoming increasingly popular as more and more devices, especially smart homes, become connected to the Internet.

Finally, servers are becoming increasingly important for businesses as they allow them to host their own applications, websites, content delivery networks (CDNs) and databases on servers within their own infrastructure. This allows organizations to maintain control over data security and keep up with changing technology trends.

Energy Consumption: How Power-Hungry Is a Server Computer?

Servers can be power-hungry, depending on the working conditions and, of course, the server’s hardware. High-performance servers can consume a lot of power, which leads to an increase in the cost of electricity bills for bigger corporations. To minimize energy consumption, servers should be placed in well-ventilated and temperature-controlled spaces.

Additionally, servers should be monitored to ensure they are not overworking and consuming too much energy. Lastly, servers should be regularly maintained and upgraded to the latest hardware in order to ensure they are running at maximum efficiency. Since there are advancements in server technology every year, companies often chase the most efficient hardware they can get their hands on to maximize their profit potential. For mission-critical uses, companies have various fail-safes to prevent downtime due to power failure, for instance, using many power supplies and multiple server clusters as another fail-safe measure.

How Web Hosting Companies Use Servers to Store Their Clients’ Websites 

Since we’re in the web hosting business, we’d also like to mention how servers are used in the web hosting industry. Web hosting companies use servers to store their clients’ websites and deliver them through the internet.

When a website is hosted on a server, it’s connected to the Internet via a specific IP address – a string of numbers that resolves the website location. When an end user writes a domain in the address bar, it’s then resolved by another intermediary server called the domain name server or simply DNS.

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https://linuxiac.com/what-is-web-server/

Web hosting companies use servers that are powerful enough to host hundreds of websites simultaneously. They come with a range of features like spam filtering, virus scanning, and other security measures.

Web servers also run your website’s code (such as HTML) when someone visits your website, and they do all the hard work of serving and compressing data. For example, servers are commonly used for eCommerce websites that handle thousands of products, online banking portals which need sharp security measures, social media websites, search engines, and the list goes on.

Final Words

As technology continues to advance, servers will remain a big part of our everyday lives, and they will remain the backbone of today’s internet. Their super-fast and specialized hardware allows businesses to host their own applications, websites, content delivery networks (CDNs) and databases on servers within their own infrastructure.

This allows organizations to maintain control over data security and keep up with changing technology trends. Additionally, servers play a vital role in the web hosting industry by storing websites for clients and delivering them through the internet. As technology advances, servers will continue to be an essential part of our everyday lives while, at the same time, being very mindful of their energy consumption, leading to a greener future.

This Hosting-Review blog post explains servers and their various uses. We will cover everything from how modern servers work and how many server types exist today.

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