The simultaneous growth of the Internet along with business computer networks of every size has led to IT jargon becoming better known among the general population. However, although the terms are known, they are usually poorly understood. One of the most common terms that people come across is “server”. What is a server? What does it do? What happens if a server goes down?
A server is one half of the client-server network model; the other half is the client, which is usually your computer, smartphone or other device. While a server at a restaurant brings you food, a server on a network delivers data to your computer. This can be in the form of websites, email, files or anything else you might do on a network or on the Internet. When you go to Google.com, one of Google's servers sees a request from your computer and then sends a webpage back that your computer can display to you. If computers were people, the exchange might go something like this:
In a nutshell, all a server does is deliver content when your computer requests it. The actual machines resemble large, very powerful versions of your home PC because they may be taking requests from hundreds or thousands of clients at once. This allows for the content, a webpage in our example above, to sit in one central location so that people all around the world can make requests for a copy of Google's webpage. Imagine if there were no servers, then CNN would need to mail you a CD with a copy of their web page every time you wanted to read the news.
Servers do far more than simply hand out web pages; systems administrators spend countless hours setting up and maintaining servers so that you can read the latest Dilbert comic strip online or check your email. If a server goes down, that could mean a webpage is unavailable for anyone requesting it, or the payroll information for your weekly paycheck can't be sent to the Finance department. In the near future, rather than having computers at every desk, we may just have a monitor that connects directly to a large server where everybody in the company will be doing their work.
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I have over 6 years of experience varying position such as server administartor, hardware engineer, network engineer. I also do freelance work. Currently working on a UK based online game company.