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Everything you need to know about servers: types, uses, and operating systems

Servers are the foundation of many fields in information technology, from hosting websites to storing data in the cloud. In this comprehensive article, we will discuss various types of servers, their uses, the differences between popular operating systems, and how they are utilized.



What are servers and what are they used for?

Servers are powerful computers or computer systems designed to handle requests and provide resources to other computers, known as clients. They can serve various functions depending on their purpose, such as:

  • Hosting websites: Web servers store websites and make them available to clients via the HTTP protocol.

  • Email: Mail servers handle the sending and receiving of email messages, manage mailboxes, and filter spam.

  • Data storage: File servers store and provide access to files for users on a local network or the internet.

  • Databases: Database servers store data in a tabular form and allow operations on that data using SQL queries.


Types of servers

  • Web servers: Used for hosting websites and web applications. The most popular web servers are Apache HTTP Server, Nginx, and Microsoft Internet Information Services (IIS).

  • File servers: Store files and allow access to them for users on a network. They are often used in businesses for file sharing.

  • Mail servers: Handle the sending and receiving of email messages, mailbox management, and spam filtering.

  • Database servers: Store data in a tabular form and allow operations on that data using SQL queries. Examples include MySQL, Microsoft SQL Server, and Oracle Database.

  • Application servers: Used for running and managing business applications such as Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems or Content Management Systems (CMS).


Types of server operating systems

  • Linux: One of the most popular server environments, known for its reliability, flexibility, and security. Linux distributions such as Ubuntu Server, CentOS, and Debian are often chosen for server deployments.

  • Windows Server: Microsoft's operating system that offers many tools and features for server management, such as Active Directory, network services, and cloud services.

  • Unix: Unix served as the precursor to many operating systems, including Linux. Its various variants, such as FreeBSD, OpenBSD, and Solaris, are still used on servers in some environments.

  • macOS Server: While Apple's macOS operating system is popular primarily among home users and creative professionals, macOS Server also offers many server features such as file services and network services.


Ways to utilize servers

  • Virtualization: Using virtualization technology such as VMware vSphere or Microsoft Hyper-V allows for running multiple virtual machines on a single physical server, increasing resource utilization and efficiency.

  • Cloud computing: Utilizing cloud computing services such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud Platform (GCP) allows for outsourcing server infrastructure and paying only for the resources used.

  • Dedicated servers: For larger resource requirements or the need for full control over the server environment, companies may opt to purchase and maintain their own physical servers.

  • Hybrid servers: Combining on-premises server infrastructure with cloud computing services enables flexible scaling and simultaneous use of different IT service delivery models.


Server security

Server security is a crucial element in their effective operation. Hacking attacks, system failures, and data loss can seriously threaten the stability and security of an organization. Therefore, it is important for servers to be properly secured.

Methods of server protection include:

  • Firewall: Using a firewall allows for controlling network traffic to and from the server, blocking potentially dangerous connections.

  • System updates: Regular updates to the operating system and server software are crucial for ensuring the latest security patches.

  • Antivirus and antimalware: Installing antivirus and antimalware programs on servers allows for detecting and removing malicious software.

  • Event monitoring: Using monitoring tools allows for detecting and responding to suspicious or dangerous events.

  • Access management: Restricting access to servers only to authorized users and using strong passwords and two-factor authentication increases system security.


Servers for small and medium-sized businesses

With the decreasing costs of hardware and cloud services, servers are becoming increasingly accessible to small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). SMB servers typically offer simpler and more cost-effective solutions that allow for hosting websites, handling email, and storing data.


Virtual servers

Virtual servers allow for running multiple virtual machines on a single physical server. This technology enables efficient utilization of hardware resources and isolation of applications and data on different virtual machines. Popular virtualization platforms include VMware vSphere, Microsoft Hyper-V, and KVM.


NAS and SAN file servers

NAS (Network Attached Storage) and SAN (Storage Area Network) file servers are used for storing data and providing access to it for users on a network. NAS servers are typically based on standard computer servers and use network protocols such as NFS (Network File System) or SMB (Server Message Block) to share data. SAN servers, on the other hand, are based on specialized storage devices and use protocols such as Fibre Channel or iSCSI.


Servers play a crucial role in today's IT infrastructure, enabling data storage, application hosting, network management, and many other tasks. The dynamic development of technologies such as virtualization, containerization, and cloud computing shapes the future of servers, which will remain an essential element of organizations' digital transformation.

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