Your Guide to Different Server Types


Image via Flickr creative commons from mikeshelby

Generally used by big businesses, servers can often look very similar to basic PCs. Their job, though, is one specialised function to support all the other PCs on its network.

On a local scale, servers are most often referred to by what specific function they are expected to carry out. For example, a network’s print server will be connected to different printers around an office. When a document is sent to a printer, it is this designated computer that carries out the action. Similarly, an FTP (file transfer protocol) server is responsible for moving large files to one computer or business to another.

Elsewhere, every website you visit will be based on a server somewhere – a server that is permanently connected to the internet. Each is given a serial number made up of four digits between 0 and 255, separated by bullet points. An IP address can look something like

It may sound obvious, but the type of server depends on the type of job. As a quick guide, here are some of the most basic ones, which may help you out when you’re wondering whether you want a real time communication server or a NAS server – BT Business Direct is a good place to source these.

Proxy Server

Like a computing middleman, a proxy server sits between clients. In a sense they are a gateway between a PC and the internet, containing all the necessary firewalls and virus protection. There are many different types, some can be used to keep machines anonymous, some can prevent the downloading of content multiple times and others can be used to improve the performance of network computers.

Network attached storage server

As you may have guessed by the name, a NAS server acts as storage space for its network and is at its most basic a storage device. They have been growing in popularity for around three years and can be used for more than holding files and data. They can function as fault-tolerant email servers – backup in case a component elsewhere fails.

As businesses grow, they step up to micro tower server and tower servers – essentially a bigger version of NAS servers. Beyond that, companies will advance to rack and blade servers. These are used when it is essential to run two or more servers at the same time on a well-populated network.

FTP servers

These are one of the oldest servers and are used to transfer files and data from one host to another – such as the internet. Most often for smaller emails an email will be capable of transferring. But for bigger files, then two companies or computers will both connect to an FTP server. As they are often based elsewhere and provided as an internet service, they can provide protection from viruses and potentially harmful files.

Collaboration servers

Sometimes known as groupware servers, they enable users to collaborate regardless of where they are in the world. They are described by some as the devices that demonstrate the true power of the World Wide Web in that they allow, simply, worldwide collaboration.


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