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What is a Server?

Katie Doyle, Techbuyer Feb 10, 2021

The definition of a server in the IT industry is ‘a computer that provides services, resources and data to other computers’.

Servers are more like ‘supercomputers’ that are designed to work 24/7. By delivering information to other computers or devices known as ‘clients’ within the Wide Area Network (a.k.a the internet) or the Local Area Network, servers are able to run programs. Functions of Servers vary, but they are ultimately the content provider or go-between that allows most tasks to be carried out on a computer, such as communicating with individuals, visiting web pages or accessing network drives.

Although most of us rarely come into direct contact with Servers, almost everyone relies on them in some capacity. They play extremely important roles in our everyday lives whether that’s for work purposes, studying or entertainment. Most of the internet relies on Servers as they provide most of services or information that we request from our desktops, tablets and mobile devices.

How does a Server work?

Configured to receive tasks and requests from the ‘clients’ within its network connection, the Server responds with the appropriate data. Servers know the request is genuine due to the IP (Internet Protocol) address; a numerical address that corresponds to the computer that has been assigned in the network. The information is then delivered to users via IT hardware such as network cables. 

Within the Server, the components consist of various IT hardware parts that work together to deliver the functionalities. Every business will have different IT requirements. For instance, a large enterprise data centre will need far more power than a server in an office. Server components can be optimised or configured in order to meet these specific needs.

 

Components of a Server

There are a variety of components within a server. They are more powerful than components found in laptops and mobiles and can be optimised up to enterprise-level performance.

Here are some key components of a Server and their functionalities:

 

What is a CPU?

CPU stands for Central Processing Unit. It is sometimes known as the ‘brain of the server’ because it is responsible for executing program instructions. The CPU uses electrical signals to direct the system, and Servers can support from one to eight CPUs, depending on the type of model and scale of operation required.

As the most power-hungry component, it is important to keep CPUs as efficient as possible, to ensure they don’t become a drain on your resources and budget. For insight into choosing the best CPU for your business needs, check out our IT infrastructure manager's blog.

What is RAM Memory?

Server Memory is Random Access Memory (RAM) which processes data from Sever Storage to the CPU. RAM is volatile memory that loses its held information when the Server is switched off, so is essentially a device that forms as the Server’s short-term memory.

RAM is an essential component because without it, Server performance would be extremely slow, and the Server would not be able to carry out day-to-day tasks. Typically, when Server upgrades are carried out, RAM and CPUs are the priority which reflects how critical these components are for your system.

For more information about Server RAM, check out our Technical Training Coordinator’s blog. Slav runs the Techbuyer Academy which keeps all Techbuyer employees up to date about the latest data centre hardware, and regularly writes Techpedia blogs to help our audience.

What is Server Storage? (HDDs and SSDs)

If you think about RAM Memory as the short-term memory in a Server, the HDDs (Hard Disk Drives) and SSDs (Solid State Drives) are the long-term memory. HDDs and SSDs can store data even when the power is turned off, and also read and write data.

HDDs and SSDs live within a Server’s storage bays. A Server has multiple storage bays which enable you to expand the capacity of the system. This is particularly useful for growing organisations who are continuously adding more employees and/or IT infrastructure. As the business grows, you can easily add more Server Storage, depending on the model and compatibility of the Server.

SSDs are the later versions of HDDs. They use less power and do not have moving parts like HDDs do. SSDs provide faster performance but are the more expensive model. Find out about the key benefits of SSDs in another of our IT Infrastructure Manager’s blogs.

What is a PSU? (Power Supply Unit)

Despite its name, a data centre Power Supply Unit does not supply power. It converts the power from AC (alternating current) to DC (direct current) that is then distributed to the components within the Server. Servers will always require at least two PSUs with good fans as this provides efficient cooling.

We’ve written an in-depth explanation of Power Supply Units here.

What is a Motherboard?

The Motherboard, otherwise known as a System Board or Main Board, transmits data via data buses that go through the northbridge or southbridge that is then distributed to the likes of the CPU and RAM. The Motherboard is an essential foundation in the Server as it allows the rest of the components to communicate with each other.

View our range of quality refurbished Motherboards on our website.

Choosing the right Server for your IT requirements

Today, most Servers can provide an array of complex services, but in the past they were designed to conduct only certain tasks. Examples include proxy servers, web servers and mail servers.

When choosing the right Server for yourself or your business, the primary options are Rack Servers, Tower Servers and Blade Servers which differ in terms of build, shape, cost and design.

Rack, Tower and Blade Server components are mostly the same and can carry out an array of tasks. When searching for the right IT infrastructure though, budget and performance requirements play a key factor in the decision making. Below is a quick overview of each Server to help you choose the most appropriate type for your needs.

What are Tower Servers?

Tower Servers are the most affordable Server solution. Often mistaken for a typical desktop, Tower Servers can stand alone either within or outside a server cabinet. This differs from Blade and Rack Servers as they must be placed in a cabinet. Tower Servers are simpler in design which is a benefit as they are easier to cool, reducing the chances of overheating.

Tower Servers are suitable for individuals up to mid-size organisations due to their lower cost, but if required, they can be converted to a Rack Server to support expansion needs.

Learn more about Tower Servers here.

What are Rack Servers?

Designed to be installed on a Rack Mount for Servers called bays, Rack Servers require a vertical, low-profile enclosure and must be kept in a cabinet. This brings security benefits, as well as simplifying the cabling among the network components.

Other advantages of Rack Servers are increased scalability, which is ideal for expanding businesses. They also provide easy access for maintenance requirements due to their convenient, pull-out design.

To learn more about Rack Servers, check out our blog.

What are Blade Servers?

Blade Servers are the smallest in design out of the three main types of Servers. With a sleek design and requiring minimal space, Blade Servers are the most advanced type of Server on the market. Cabling requirements for Blades Servers are minimal and multiple Blades can all be connected through a single interface resulting in easy maintenance and monitoring. Ollie Charleton, UK Sales Executive explains all in his Blade Server blog.

When considering Blade vs Rack Servers, being the latest in Server design, Blade Servers are the most expensive on the market and the Rack Servers are the more cost-effective option of the two. Blade Servers are the best choice if your business has an extensive number of clients or if you have significant performance requirements.

Configuring Servers to your specific IT needs

When sourcing the right Server for your requirements, it’s not necessary to settle for the Server components that are included with it as standard. Servers can easily be configured and optimised to fit exact business needs and function requirements, and this approach will likely result in energy efficiency, cost savings and environmental benefits.

Read about the ‘3 ways CTO Servers that will save you time’ here. Or for advice on the best Server or components for your business, Techbuyer’s five-star team are always on hand to give you expert advice.

Where can I buy Servers and Server components?

With over £10 million worth of servers, storage and networking equipment, laptops and desktops in stock, whatever IT requirement you need, Techbuyer will be able to provide it. Featuring over 150 brands including Dell, HPE and IBM, Techbuyer supplies an extensive range of new and quality refurbished equipment. Not only do we supply IT hardware, but we also buy used IT equipment, upgrade and replace existing infrastructure. We help thousands of small businesses, large enterprises and public sector organisations with their IT requirements every year.

Take a look at our full range of servers online, or feel free to get in touch with our IT specialists. Our Configure-to-Order service for personalised Servers is completely free and every IT system and part that we sell comes with a three year warranty.

Looking to build your own HPE Server? Use Techbuyer’s market-leading CTO tool which generates accurate server builds in minutes. Our team will then configure your servers for you, free of charge.

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