These days, the word "Server" gets used quite a bit, but what does the word server really mean?
You may have heard about web servers, print servers, mail servers, application servers, dedicated servers, hosted servers, and even cloud servers. No need to get confused. Let me explain what is a server and show you some examples.
A "server" is really nothing more than a computer that provides services or resources to others. The computer that you're using right now could be considered a server, if perhaps, you're sharing your local files with others, or maybe using it to stream pictures or videos to your TV.
Bottom line is that any computer can be considered a server. However, most people associate the word server with a computer that performs a specialized function and those functions can vary widely.
Let's look at some specialized types of servers:
Dedicated Servers – A dedicated server is a single server within a network of computers that is solely assigned to one user or company. This provides the end-user with ultimate control over their hardware and software setups. If these dedicated servers are managed through a web hosting company, they are usually called "managed dedicated servers".
Hosted Servers – Also known as Shared Servers, these types of servers usually have many different virtual partitions on them allowing many users to run off the same server at the same time. Hosted servers cost less than dedicated servers because they are shared. While they have less memory, disk space and speed than a fully dedicated server would, they can adequately serve as a good entry to mid-level server for those just starting out.
Cloud Servers – This is a new term, and according to some, the future of computers. Companies like Google, Apple, and Microsoft are investing big-time in Cloud computing. Think of the Cloud as an area where you can store your data (photos, musics, documents, whatever) that is usually hosted by a major company, like the ones mentioned above. Ever hear of Google Documents? That's a Cloud service. Proponents of Cloud servers say that you'll have access to all your information from anywhere in the world.
Mail Servers – These servers act as an electronic post office for your e-mail. Microsoft Exchange and Novell GroupWise are both examples of mail servers.
Application Servers – As the name implies, an application server is a server that is designed for, or dedicated to, running specific applications. At it's most basic, an application server might be used to run just one application.
Print Servers – These specialized servers handle the printing needs of the department. The computer allows other computers to communicate with one or more shared printers on the network. Most print servers usually provide some form of queue management for stopping, starting and deleting jobs.
So, what is a server? Well, essentially, any computer can be called a server. It really comes down to how optimized and specialized the computer is to handle the assigned task.