The Information Pipeline: A Beginner's Guide to Servers
The Internet is one of the most important tools that we have at our disposal today. However, many people do not actually understand what it is or how it works. The Internet is, simply put, a vast array of servers. A server is a computer that is connected to and governs the operations of the computers that are connected to it. Think of a server as the foreman on a construction crew: he is the one who is directing the action, but the actual completion of those tasks is carried out by his subordinates.
Servers have practical applications that can be utilized by both regular consumers and businesses. Because there are multiple needs that servers can fulfill, there are several types of servers in today's ever expanding computer market.
A Windows server is a server that is run using the operating system Microsoft Windows. You can also run a server with Mac OS X (the operating system for Apple computers) should you so choose. The server will perform the same tasks you assign to it regardless of the platform installed on it, so the choice of which operating system to run is strictly one of personal preference.
But the primary classification method for a server is to determine what it is being used for. A private server can be used for anything - maintaining an internet connection or the storage of music and family photos. This is by and large the least common kind of server.
A web server is a server that deals exclusively with web pages and traffic. A web server could store the web page you are reading this article on, or it could have routed you here in the first place. Web servers are essentially the crossing guards of the Internet, sending you to whatever page you need to arrive via the quickest route possible. It would not be hyperbole at all to say that without web servers, modern society as we know it would collapse fairly quickly - banks, grocery stores and countless other businesses rely on web servers to conduct business and store information.
A dedicated server is a server that is specifically dedicated to one thing and one thing only. ITunes, a popular music purchasing service, has dozens of dedicated servers that it uses to store music files for people to buy. Most of the time, however, the term is used exclusively to describe computer gamers who play large online games (Counter Strike, World of Warcraft) and use the server to run the maps (real time environments where the game takes place) people play on. If someone says they own a dedicated server, it is logical to assume they are an experienced computer user.
Servers are the computer equivalent of connective tissue, something which today is an absolute necessity in our Internet based society. If you have ever lost Internet connection for even a few hours, you know how frustrating it can be. Without servers, that situation would be a permanent fixture in our lives.