What Is a Server? | Complete Guide to Understanding Servers (2023)

Server Form Factors

Servers come in all shapes, sizes, and designs. However, the structure or form factor of servers typically falls into three types.

Rack Servers

A rack server is a general-purpose, mountable, and rectangular machine that stacks neatly into metal rack frames, thus optimizing space usage.

Read more: Top Rack Servers of 2021

Blade Servers

A blade server houses multiple modular circuit boards called blades that don’t need CPUs, network controllers, and memory while also fitting in a rack frame.

Read more: Best Blade Servers for 2021

Tower Servers

A tower server is a lightweight, stand-alone chassis often used by small businesses for its strong configuration and customization features.

Read more: What Is a Tower Server?

For a full breakdown of how servers differ by structure, read our guide to Blade Servers vs Rack Servers vs Tower Servers.

Other Types of Servers

Domain Controller

Foundational to networks, domain controllers store the Active Directory and AD tools to manage users, permissions, devices, and group policies.

DNS Server

Adjacent to the domain controller, Domain Name Service (DNS) servers resolve the conversion of names into IP addresses for network systems.

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DHCP Server

A Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) server automatically assigns network devices with the router, gateway address, DNS address, and IP address data.

Patch Server

The more extensive your network, the more likely you are to need an update server (or patch server) devoted to deploying updates. Patches resolve bugs and vulnerabilities and deliver new features for apps.

Phone Server

Connecting with a Private Branch Exchange (PDX), a phone server (or VoIP server) enables phone switching devices for managing internet-phone networks.

Email Server

Less common because of cloud solutions, email servers host email data. Examples of email servers would include SMTP relay or Microsoft Exchange Server.

Monitoring Server

A monitoring server handles the job of scanning the network and monitoring equipment health, as well as specs like CPU, RAM, and hardware space.

CCTV Server

Closed-circuit television (CCTV) servers, or building security servers, store audio, video, and sensor data related to the physical security of organization premises.

Terminal Server

A terminal server, or remote desktop server, enables remote users to access network resources for business continuity.

Load Balancing Server

For websites, applications, and software with varying and intensive workloads, load balancing servers can reallocate demands between other servers.

VMware Fusion vs Parallels Desktop: Compare Desktop Virtualization Tools

VMware Fusion and Parallels Desktop are two of the top considerations for desktop virtualization on macOS devices, with multiple editions for small business to enterprise infrastructure needs. Virtualization has long been a valuable tool for individuals, businesses, and enterprise organizations looking to maximize existing hardware through virtual machines (VMs). In 2006, Parallels released the first commercially successful desktop virtualization tool…

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Blade Servers vs. Rack Servers

Blade servers and rack servers are the stock-in-trade of data centers, chosen for their versatility, security, and ability to configure and connect large amounts of computing power in small spaces. But while blade servers and rack servers accomplish the same goal of organizing your server base, they do it in very different ways. Which one of them you choose could…

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Web Server vs. Application Server

Web and application servers are often confused, partly because they work together, and partly because some vendors have consolidated web and application servers into dual-use machines. Similarly, the use of terms like “web application server” gives the impression they’re dual units when the reality is that they often are distinct, separate nodes. The critical difference between web servers and app…

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What is a Data Lakehouse?

A data lakehouse is the data management paradigm combining data warehouse and data lake capabilities into a unified platform for optimizing structured and unstructured data storage. While data warehouses have long been the answer to storing structured data, the explosion of data in recent decades led to data lakes storing vast amounts of unique and unstructured data types. Only recently…

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What Is a Client-Server Model? A Guide to Client-Server Architecture

The foundation of modern networking is the centralized process and IT framework known as the client-server model. For over 50 years, servers have been the machines and mechanisms to process end-user requests and deliver specific digital resources. These requests include anything from a Google search on a smartphone to a remote employee accessing confidential company information. In both instances, a…

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Server Performance Monitoring: Best Practices for Server Monitoring

Server performance monitoring is the process of overseeing system resources, such as CPU usage, memory consumption, storage capacity, I/O performance, network uptime, and more. It helps identify performance-related issues of a server, such as response time, resource utilization, and application downtime. Further, it supports capacity and efficiency planning by helping administrators understand system resource consumption on the server. What Is…

(Video) Introduction to Servers

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Server optimization provides a way to improve the performance and speed of a server. Server optimization techniques are practiced extensively by companies to meet expectations such as accessibility, availability, and functionality with their websites. The optimal functions of any website are directly related to server optimization. In this article, we discuss server optimization, its benefits, and trusted techniques for optimizing…

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Server Backups

If this year’s cyberattacks have taught us anything, it’s the importance of server backups and data redundancy. While part of the problem is vulnerabilities and zero-day threats catching enterprise networks off guard, the sheer amount of data currently collected, stored, and processed is becoming too much to manage. Server backups for critical network resources address both of these problems by:…

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Server Room Power Consumption: The Battle Between Demand and Efficiency

In a world dominated by internet-enabled technology, data centers are the brains keeping the digital ecosystem afloat. Responsible for processing, storing, and transmitting data, server rooms are of enormous value, and – by extension – so are the infrastructure and resources used to maintain them. The lifeblood that makes all digital systems possible is electricity, and data center managers couldn’t…

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Server Security Best Practices

Your servers are your business. That is a fact in the 21st century. And your servers can make or break your business. Well maintained servers can drive your business forward and bring in revenue. Poorly managed servers can mean lost business, data, or customer information, and that can be crippling if not outright fatal to a company. Because of the…

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Best Server Virtualization Software for 2021

Server virtualization software burst onto the scene in the early 2000s. The meteoric rise of VMware came as organizations were at the outset of deploying multiple virtual machines (VMs) on one physical server. Gone are the days of low rates of server utilization and one physical server hosting one application. Here are the top server virtualization software vendors that you…

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Why and When to Upgrade Servers

Like any other asset or device, servers depreciate over time and malfunction when you least expect it. The good news: we know why and when to upgrade servers. Most upgrades can be divided into two buckets, upgrading to the newest technology and replacing existing servers for business continuity. Server complications can be anything from performance decay to limited disk space…

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Guide to Hyperconverged Servers

Converged servers are part of a three-tier infrastructure setup that includes storage systems and networking hardware, but hyperconverged server infrastructure does away with this traditional three tier approach. Instead, hyperconverged servers are the base hardware units – referred to as nodes – along with directly attached storage in the form of hard drives and solid state drives built in to…

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Server Management

Most IT functions depend on the health and infrastructure of servers, making proper server management an essential task for data center administrators. Server management is a complex process, especially with the growth of cloud computing. System administrators must be able to continuously manage physical server hardware, virtual machines and a variety of application and database servers simultaneously. In this article,…

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(Video) Top 20 Server Types & Functions | Servers Explained


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