What is a server and what does a server do? A server is a computer that serves information to other computers. These computers, called clients, can connect to a server through either a local area network or a wide area network, such as the internet. A server is a vital piece of your IT infrastructure.
Hardware wise a server is just a computer but without anyone working behind it at a monitor. In a typical business networked environment you might find a mail server which does all the mail traffic and storage, a print server that handles all printers or a database server which houses the corporate database.
There are many different types of servers, including Web servers, mail servers, and file servers. A web server serves Web pages to computers that connect to it. It can also resolve scripting languages such a PHP, ASP, and JSP. A mail server stores users’ e-mail accounts and sends and receives e-mail messages. For example, if you send an e-mail to a friend, the message gets sent by a mail server, using the SMTP protocol. A file server is a computer that stores files that can be accessed by other computers. File servers are often used within local networks and typically require a password or some sort of authorisation to connect to it.
These are a few examples for some common servers, but there are many more types that exist. Just about any computer can be used as a server if the necessary server software is installed on it and the hardware is powerful enough to process the workload. While servers typically don’t need a lot of processing power, lots of RAM and fast hard drives are helpful for dealing with heavy traffic to and from the server.