8 Basic Server Types Used in Computer Networking
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In modern programming, the prevailing architecture relies on client-server communication. A client computer requests data from a server. The server receives the request and responds to it with the data or an error of some sort.
The word “server” can refer to both computer hardware and software that provides functionality for other programs.
Servers play a vital role in the consumption of goods and services and many types are used in computer networking. Learn what they are, their use cases, and how they differ.
1. Origin Servers
An origin server listens to and responds to incoming internet requests. It’s typically used in conjunction with edge and caching servers. Origin servers consist of one or more programs delivering web content to clients.
It’s commonly used to serve clients like a website with data. Origin servers can be slow. This is because speed depends on the distance between the client and the server. The server has to process clients’ requests and responses, which delays loading.
You can reduce the latency of origin servers using a Content Delivery Network (CDN). A CDN consists of distributed servers that cache content close to the client. This reduces the distance between an origin server and a client, reducing latency.
2. Proxy Servers
A Proxy server is an application that acts as an intermediary between a client and a server. They process a request on behalf of the client and mask its identity. They deliver the response from the source server.
Proxy servers act as content control software. They filter encrypted data, log, access services, and boost security in the network. Proxy servers use different types of protocols to get work done.
You can create your own Proxy server to help hide the identity of your devices on the web. This can lessen the chance of you suffering an attack. Organizations use proxy servers to restrict the type of web content available on their network. They work together with origin servers to reduce latency and improve security.
3. Web Servers
A web server is both software and hardware that processes requests over the web. Web servers use network protocols to process content. These protocols include HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol), SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol), and FTP (File Transfer Protocol).
Web servers work to display website content. They process, store, and deliver content through the web, to users. The web server hardware connects and exchanges data with connected devices.
The software controls how a user accesses the data. You can use web servers in web hosting or hosting data for web-based applications.
4. Database Servers
Database servers manage databases containing data or information. They can be any server that maintains files in a database application. They control access to the database for authorized users.
Programmers create databases on database servers using scripting languages like SQL. Applications have to connect to the database server to access the database.
Database servers keep backup data in a central location. They allow authorized users and applications on the network to access the data. Organizations use database servers to filter client requests and protect data.
One database can have several servers, and several databases can have one server. Examples of database servers include Microsoft SQL Server or Oracle.
5. Cloud Servers
A cloud server is a centralized server hosted remotely by a cloud service provider. Clients can access the server via an internet connection. Like physical servers, cloud servers can store, process and deliver data. Cloud servers provide services to clients remotely regardless of location.
Cloud servers are physical servers delivered through the internet. This happens through a process called virtualization. When a hypervisor abstracts physical servers, it creates a virtual resource. The virtual resource is then automated and delivered to clients through the internet.
Clients that use cloud servers don’t own or manage their own physical servers. Instead, a third-party organization provides server services. This is the infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) model.
It’s a form of cloud computing that provides virtual services over the internet. Clients pay to use cloud servers to store and manage resources and scale whenever they want. Clients can share a public cloud or have a private or hybrid cloud(on-premise and virtual). Examples of cloud server providers include Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure.
6. Mail Servers
Mail servers control the sending and receiving of mail over a network. Receives mail from clients and delivers mail to other mail servers and clients. Mail servers handle and deliver email over a network like the internet.
A mail server powers email services. It receives an email from a client and delivers it to another mail server. A client can be any computing software, for example, a desktop or mobile device. Mail servers use SMTP to process and deliver information. Gmail provides a free SMTP server that you can use to send emails from your app or website. Examples of clients that use mail servers include Gmail, Yahoo, etc.
7. DNS Servers
A DNS (Domain Name Service) server translates domain names to corresponding IP addresses. Your browser references a DNS server when you type a domain name into your browser. In a computer network, all devices have an identifying IP address. They use the IP address to identify themselves when connecting to the internet.
A DNS server lets you avoid memorizing IP addresses. Instead, typing in a domain name translates into the IP address and finds the resource you seek. There are dynamic DNS servers and static DNS servers. You can either do it manually or use a free dynamic DNS provider.
8. DHCP Server
A DHCP (Dynamic Host Communication Protocol) server configures the network settings of client computers. It dynamically allocates IP addresses to computers in a LAN network. Without a DHCP server, you would have to configure IP addresses for each device in your network manually.
What Are Servers Used For?
Servers exist to facilitate the provision of data to users. They can manage a network, share programs, host databases and web pages, and transfer e-mail.
There are many other types of servers used in computer networking. Others like FTP servers, application servers, DHCP, and file servers are equally important. Each server has specific functions and use cases.
It’s important to know how servers function if you work in tech. Understanding servers helps you to maximize their capabilities on physical and virtual platforms.