A server is a powerful computer programmed to provide specific services on a network. Servers can be dedicated, meaning they only perform a particular task, or shared. There are different sizes and types of servers, each facilitating a particular task. In a client/server network, a server can provide services to multiple clients, such as centralized access to data and information. Different types of servers exist, each performing a particular task.
We are in a digital age where almost everything is done online with the expertise of IT tech support and services. One key infrastructure of this online environment is a network server. A server is a critical part of computer networks, and as seen from the types above, they provide different services.
Below are ten types of servers and their different elements:
1. Mail Servers
Sometimes referred to as an email server, this server receives, handles and delivers emails across the internet or within an intranet. The mail server can deliver email to client computers or other servers in a network. The protocols that a mail server uses to do its job are mainly two; SMTP and POP3. Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) servers work by handling all the emails sent via email clients. Post Office Protocol version 3 (POP3) servers store received emails.
When the user opens an email, the messages are retrieved from the server, downloaded onto the client’s computer and deleted from the server to create space for incoming messages. IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol) servers are an alternative to POP3 and are often used by businesses.
A webserver is one of the most common types of servers. It works by transferring data to a web browser over the internet or intranet. This communication is done via HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol). Also known as an Internet server, the web server consists of a physical machine, a server operating system, and software necessary for HTTP communication.
3. Application Servers
An application server is in the middle of 3-tier server architecture. It’s situated between the network and the database. These types of servers handle and operate applications for end-users while facilitating the hosting of applications, which are used by local or remotely-connected users. Application servers consist of an operating system and hardware, which work together to provide services to the application running on the server.
4. FTP Servers
The File Transfer Protocol (FTP) server is one of the oldest types. These types of servers allow users to transfer files over the internet securely. Typically, one computer acts as the server where information is stored, and another as the client that sends or receives files. These servers are usually used to store data that are not sensitive and which don’t require a high level of security. FTP sites require a username and password to log in, but they don’t have high-security measures.
5. Database Servers
A database server, as the name suggests, contains the databases and a database management system (DBMS). It’s dedicated to database storage and retrieval. Client machines on the network request information from the database server, which then searches for the requested information and delivers it to the client.
These types of servers usually handle online mailing lists, such as subscriptions. It sends new messages or newsletters to subscribers. Listservers also manage new subscriptions and unsubscriptions.
7. Proxy Servers
A proxy server acts as a mediator between the client computer and the internet, allowing the client to make indirect connections to other network services. On a network with a proxy server, the client computers first connect to the proxy server, requesting resources such as web pages from the internet. The proxy server, having received the request, first searches for the requested resource from its local cache and, if available, returns it to the client’s computer.
If the resource is not available, the server will connect to the relevant servers with the requested information, save the data in its cache, and then return the requested resource to the client computer. Proxy servers also share the internet on a local area network, hide IP addresses, manage Internet access control, and access blocked websites, among other uses.
8. Collaboration Server/Groupware
This server allows users to work together through a network in a virtual environment, regardless of their distance or location. Productivity in an organization increases while using this server since it reduces unnecessary and repetitive communication between team associates.
9. File Servers
File servers are commonly found in an office network. A file server stores files in a centralized location that’s accessible to multiple users. The users have to log in to access the server. Depending on the size of the organization, a file server can be a dedicated computer or a shared one.
10. Print Servers
A print server communicates with printers and computers on a network in a bid to manage print jobs. It accepts print jobs from client computers on the network and sends them to the appropriate printer. The print server also queues print jobs as they come in.