Server (computing)

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In computing, the term server is used to refer to one of the following:

  • a computer program running as a service, to serve the needs or requests of other programs (referred to in this context as "clients") which may or may not be running on the same computer.
  • a physical computer dedicated to running one or more such services, to serve the needs of programs running on other computers on the same network.
  • a software/hardware system (i.e. a software service running on a dedicated computer) such as a database server, file server, mail server, or print server.

In computer networking, a server is a program that operates as a socket listener[1]. The term server is also often generalized to describe a host that is deployed to execute one or more such programs[2].

A server computer is a computer, or series of computers, that link other computers or electronic devices together. They often provide essential services across a network, either to private users inside a large organization or to public users via the internet. For example, when you enter a query in a search engine, the query is sent from your computer over the internet to the servers that store all the relevant web pages. The results are sent back by the server to your computer.

Many servers have dedicated functionality such as web servers, print servers, and database servers. Enterprise servers are servers that are used in a business context.

Contents

Usage

Servers provide essential services across a network, either to private users inside a large organization or to public users via the Internet. For example, when you enter a query in a search engine, the query is sent from your computer over the internet to the servers that store all the relevant web pages. The results are sent back by the server to your computer.

The term server is used quite broadly in information technology. Despite the many server-branded products available (such as server versions of hardware, software or operating systems), in theory any computerised process that shares a resource to one or more client processes is a server. To illustrate this, take the common example of file sharing. While the existence of files on a machine does not classify it as a server, the mechanism which shares these files to clients by the operating system is the server.

Similarly, consider a web server application (such as the multiplatform "Apache HTTP Server"). This web server software can be run on any capable computer. For example, while a laptop or personal computer is not typically known as a server, they can in these situations fulfill the role of one, and hence be labelled as one. It is in this case that the machine's purpose as a web server classifies it in general as a server.

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