Updated: 06/30/2019 by Computer Hope

In a technical sense, a server is an instance of a computer program or device that accepts and responds to requests made by another program, known as a client. A good metaphor would be a customer (client) ordering a package, then the mailman (server) delivering it to them or someone else.

What are they used for?

Servers are used to manage network resources. For example, a user may set up a server to control access to a network, send/receive e-mail, manage print jobs, or host a website. They are also proficient at performing intense calculations. Some servers are committed to a specific task, often referred to as dedicated. However, many servers today are shared servers which can take on the responsibility of e-mail, DNS, FTP, and even multiple websites in the case of a web server.

Why are servers always on?

Because they are commonly used to deliver services that are constantly required, most servers are never turned off. Consequently, when servers fail, they can cause the network users and company many problems. To alleviate these issues, servers are commonly set up to be fault tolerant.

Examples of servers

The following list contains links to various server types.

How do other computers connect to a server?

With a local network, the server connects to a router or switch that all other computers on the network use. Once connected to the network, other computers can access that server and its features. For example, with a web server, a user could connect to the server to view a website, search, and communicate with other users on the network.

An Internet server works the same way as a local network server, but on a much larger scale. The server is assigned an IP address by InterNIC, or by web host.

Usually, users connect to a server using its domain name, which is registered with a domain name registrar. When users connect to the domain name (such as ""), the name is automatically translated to the server's IP address by a DNS resolver.

The domain name makes it easier for users to connect to the server, because the name is easier to remember than an IP address. Also, domain names enable the server operator to change the IP address of the server without disrupting the way that users access the server. The domain name can always remain the same, even if the IP address changes.

Where are servers stored?

In a business or corporate environment, a server and other network equipment are often stored in a closet or glass house. These areas help isolate sensitive computers and equipment from people who should not have access to them.

Servers that are remote or not hosted on-site are located in a data center. With these types of servers, the hardware is managed by another company and configured remotely by you or your company.

Can my computer be a server?

Yes. Any computer, even a home desktop or laptop computer, can act as a server with the right software. For example, you could install an FTP server program on your computer to share files between other users on your network.

Although it is possible to have your home computer act as a server, keep the following ideas in mind.

  • Your computer and the related server software must always be running to be accessible.
  • When your computer is acting as a server and being used by others, its resources (e.g., processing and bandwidth) will be taken away from what you have available to do other things.
  • Connecting a computer to a network and the Internet can open up your computer to new types of attacks.
  • If the service you're providing becomes popular, a typical computer may not have the necessary resources to handle all of the requests.

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