You might be surprised to find that when you connect to and use the internet, your computer is constantly talking with servers somewhere in the world. Any content you view or download from the internet comes from a server somewhere that hosts it. Servers are similar to normal computers, except that their sole purpose is to "serve" data via an internet connection to other computers that request the information. This all seems pretty simple, but there are various factors about servers that you should probably know.
Going through a Hosting Provider
When anyone decides to get started with working with servers, the most common method for gaining access to one is going through a hosting provider. A hosting provider provides server space that can be accessed remotely virtually anywhere with an internet connection. Hosting providers typically offer many different options to cover all different types of clients.
There are generally 2 basic types of hosting. These are shared hosting plans and dedicated hosting plans. To understand the two, it's a good idea to use an example that anyone can relate to.
Shared hosting can be comparable to an apartment building, while dedicated hosting can be comparable to a house. An apartment building must be shared by several tenants, just like a shared hosting server must be shared by several users. The apartments are not extremely spacious, and tenants must often just deal with their neighbors making noise or doing other equally annoying things. On a shared server, users must share space with others, along with resources. This means that if one user is pulling a lot of processor power with their bandwidth, the other users will suffer the power consumption with decreased performance.
Dedicated hosting is like a house that only one tenant uses. The user has full control and consumption over the available resources, and they do not have to worry about sharing.
Setting up Your Own Server
A less common option that people go with when they choose to start using a server is setting up their own. This is practically the same as having a dedicated hosting server through a provider, except the physical tower is yours and you are responsible for maintaining it. It is the best option for more advanced users.
The Different Types of Servers
There are many different types of servers that have different purposes. These can include:
- FTP servers
- Mail servers
- Web servers
- IRC servers
- Fax servers
All of these servers have various purposes. For example, a mail server's purpose is to store and transfer email over networks generally used in business/corporate environments.
Software Designed for Servers
Servers also run on different types of software, often referred to as operating systems. A couple of common examples of operating systems used on servers are Windows and Linux. Both different types of operating systems come with their pros and cons. For example, Windows is great for software compatibility, while Linux is superb in stability and security when it comes to serving information. Many server masters will tell you that the choice in operating system boils down to personal preference.
Storage space is something else to consider when thinking about servers. How much space comes on a server is really up to the discretion of the owner. Purchasing large amounts of space when you really want to only store a small amount of data isn't really necessary. Servers can use any hard drives that are compatible, so there are loads of options to consider.
Overall, servers come in all different types of sizes, specs, and flavors. The thing to remember is that you should go with what you need. Many people unknowingly go into server computing and purchase a $5,000 machine that they don't even really need. If you're looking for something to host your files so that you can remotely access them from anywhere, you don't need a server with all the bells and whistles. You could probably easily get away with shared hosting. Assess what it is that you need, and buy accordingly. If all else fails, consult an IT professional about your needs.
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