What's the point & purpose of a server

Compaq / R3000
September 15, 2010 at 18:42:10
Specs: WindowsXP Home, 2.699 GHz / 759 MB
So I've searched the net and found the difference of a server and a pc as for as hardware and operating systems go, but what is really the point of a server and at what point should I get one? Right now both at work and home I have computers networked together through basic windows networking w/o servers (obviously different networks though) , and this works absolutely fine!!! Each computer has shared files that can be accessed by any other computer in that network and all connected to the internet through a router. So what is the function of a server and how do they work? I read one reason is that you would put all of your shared files on the server, but to me thats like putting all your eggs in 1 basket right? If the server crashes, then all files are lost/unreachable, whereas in basic non server networks like mine, files are spread out through many computers and if one crashes, all other files are still accessable. (i'm sure someone will yell at me for that statement, but its just my logical thinking). Also are servers still basically just a computer, or are they just machines without monitors and keyboards that act as a "portal" or connection of some type between other computers? I'm totally lost when it comes to understanding servers.

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September 15, 2010 at 18:57:21
Great question buratti and being logical is just fine.

Let's look at your present situation. You have multiple hard drives containing duplicate data. Lot of wasted space that costs you money. You have no security except physical which means as long as someone trusted doesn't hack your network you are OK. There are tools that with physical or remote access can crack all your accounts and password in minutes. You may backup your data but usually in a p2p environment nobody backs up anything. It's the rarely used files that when missing become important. Your hardware has no redundancy being home pcs: no drive failover. You are limited to 10 max connections with xp pro for example.

On the other hand a server has all of the below.
Configuration control of the pcs [clients]
Drive failover

Now think about the scalable.

How could a bank run the same software package at locations across the world?
How could any gov't in the world operate without email?

You can't so any of these things with p2p networking. Expand your world a bit?

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September 15, 2010 at 20:00:42
Thanks for the quick reply... You cleared some questions but confused me on some things too. For the most part (even in both my work and home networks) there isn't much "duplicate data". Each computer has its own documents and if someone needs those documents, they are just shared (by documents I am refering to spreadsheets, Word documents, songs, pictures, etc.) Also in my work network there is a Quickbooks company file located on computer 1 that is accessable from all other computers (only 3 others).

"Your hardware has no redundancy being home pcs: no drive failover" Sorry but you lost me for a second on that statement???

I understand your description of the security and allowance of larger networks with a server and how large companies I guess store company/customer data on servers where clients can access the data through locations. But backups I am confused also. I understand most people DONT backup, but we actually do with this online company, but how do server backups differ? Isn't the point of backing up to place the data in a different location? Or am I understanding what you're meaning by backup wrong? The way I understood that is... Shared documents are stored on the server for the clients to access, and the server also backs up that data, but to where? The same hard drive the documents are originally stored on?

So in short, correct me if my following understanding of how a server works are wrong...
The server stores all data the needs to be accessed by other computers (essentially a shared netword drive right?)
Those computers connect "securely" to the server
The server determines who has access to what files?
The server backs up data (but still confused as to where)
Scalable...(assuming you mean multiple servers, but why would you need that?)
Anything I am missing?

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September 16, 2010 at 01:34:54
A 'server' just provides a 'service'. The word 'server' only means that it's a computer that serves or hosts something.

What you're talking about is a FILE server. And there's many ways to build it. It's useful in the workplace, because all your content CAN be backed up from one spot.

i.e. - we tell people, if it's important, put it on your network drive. If not, keep it locally. Then we take backups of the server.

So, yes it allows multiple people to access the files, but it also provides a centralized location for the backup to occur FROM.

For your situation - one user - you could just backup your own files from your own computer & it'd be serving the same purpose...

The server stores all data the needs to be accessed by other computers
Depends on how it's configured. ZFS can spread a single 'file share' over multiple machines (for added space) and make it appear like it's one....so, multiple servers would be storing data...

Those computers connect "securely" to the server
Again, depends on how you configure it. If you're using Windows sharing, then by default, no, it's not a 'secure' connection at all.

The server determines who has access to what files?
No, YOU determine who has access to what files. The 'server' enforces your policy.

The server backs up data (but still confused as to where)
It backs up to...wait for it...another server offsite! It's useful because it can happen automatically (i.e.: every night), and in case of fire, a server off-site, sitting cold standby, ready to be flipped if the s--- hits the fan is very useful.

Scalable...(assuming you mean multiple servers, but why would you need that?)
Uhm, so you can support more people using your service?

Again trying to make a point here - the SERVER is just like a WAITER - they only BRING you the food. What the food is depends on what you ordered.

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September 16, 2010 at 08:40:52
buratti you need to wrap your head around the limits of what you can do with 10 computers.

Can Pixar do animation rendering on 10 pcs? No
Can a Bank afford to loose any financal data? No
What do you think happens behind the scenes when you use your credit card to make a purchase?
Or how a airline is able to see your plane seating in each stopover.
Or my place of work that has offices throughout two states yet I can reach anyone by 4 digit telephone extension or we all see the same things in a server based program.

Taking your quickbooks example; would this work for Sears? Why do you think a bank doesn't use Quickbooks for their transactions?

Computing is a complicated science with many different disciplines. Computing first started in the business world long before it moved to the pc market.

I would suggest some time needs to be spend web searching computing history and perhaps as you understand the evolution of computing you will understand why computing continues to grow and expand as we demand more from these systems.

Once you get a foundation explore things like clusters, disaster recovery sites, NAS, SAN, etc. You may find these interesting.

Here is another example of what you can not do with p2p

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