Components of a Server
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A server is a data storage system and a crucial element of any information technology (IT) infrastructure. Businesses of all sizes use servers to store, protect and share data seamlessly across devices on the network. Each server comprises various components that contribute to its functionality.
Kirbtech is an IT company in central Pennsylvania that helps businesses manage their servers. We’re here to help you understand what servers do and the parts that make them work.
What Is a Server?
Modern business relies less on paper and filing cabinets and more on digital data. Still, your company’s data needs somewhere to go. A server provides storage space for files and web pages.
Servers can take the form of hardware or cloud-based software that stores data and communicates it to receivers upon request. The receiver — or client — is a device that connects to the server through wired or wireless means. The client requests information from the server, and the server responds accordingly.
There are many types of servers that serve different purposes. Businesses use servers to manage the resources available to devices on the network. A server can control which devices may access the network, which information those devices can access, how the devices can communicate, and where the devices can relay information. Servers host websites, facilitate email communication, manage print jobs and otherwise hold data until a client needs it.
Types of Servers
A few common types of servers include:
- Web servers: Servers for Internet websites
- Proxy servers: Servers that facilitate communication between a client and a host server
- Virtual machines: Servers that communicate information through software
- File transfer protocol servers: Servers that move files between computers
- Application servers: Servers that connect the client to an application without the client downloading the program
- File servers: Servers that contain files that multiple users can access quickly
- Database servers: Servers that store large amounts of data to process multiple programs
- Mail servers: Servers that allow users to send, receive and store emails
- Domain name system servers: Servers that read domain names to determine a client’s IP address and deliver information accordingly
- Dynamic Host Communication Protocol (DHCP) servers: Servers that assign IP addresses and network configurations to multiple devices on a large network
Parts of a Server
Servers are complex systems that comprise numerous parts. Learn more about the essential server hardware components.
The first notable component of a server is the motherboard. Similar to how the human heart sends and receives blood from all parts of the body, the motherboard sends power to each essential component within the server.
A motherboard features an electronic circuit board with wires that connect to other vital components, including the central processing unit (CPU), random access memory (RAM), fan assembly, chipset and the basic input/output system (BIOS).
Connecting all internal components to the motherboard allows each part of the server to act as one uniform device.
The CPU is the next important server component. The server’s CPU determines the amount of resources the server dedicates to each component at any given time. The CPU reads information to analyze and execute requests when a hardware or software client requests data.
The CPU is among the most influential components in shaping the server’s performance. Each CPU features one or more processing cores that use arithmetic and logic to interpret data input and provide the desired data output. A single processing core can execute a single task. Increasing the number of processing cores allows a server to accomplish more at once. Modern servers use eight to 30 processing cores.
Another vital server component is the graphics processing unit (GPU). The GPU is a type of processor chip with one or more cores dedicated to graphics processing tasks. A server’s GPU allows devices on a network to use programs that rely on visual data, including picture or video editing software, 3D modeling software, and various design applications.
There are two common types of GPUs — integrated and discrete. An integrated GPU is one with the server’s motherboard, while a discrete GPU attaches to a removable graphics card.
A GPU can run complex models and large data sets. As a result, GPUs are essential among businesses that work in machine learning, artificial intelligence and big data.
RAM is one of two data storage components a server contains. RAM equates to short-term memory, meaning it offers the fastest way for the CPU to access data — but it’s only a temporary storage location. Powering off the server will erase RAM data.
RAM contributes to the number of processes a server can handle at once. The typical server contains 16 to 32 gigabytes of RAM, meaning the server can process 16 to 32 gigabytes at a time. The server’s performance will dwindle as it approaches its RAM limit.
A server with 16 gigabytes of RAM will handle most basic office computing. Increasing RAM to 32 gigabytes or more is ideal for businesses that use demanding programs for multimedia editing or machine learning.
The second critical memory component within a server is the hard disk drive (HDD). The HDD is a permanent storage system.
Most HDDs consist of a mechanical hard disk with a spindle, disk platter, actuator, actuator arm and a read/write head. The disk stores information, which becomes accessible as the spindle and actuator drive the disk into motion. The read/write head interprets electromagnetic information from the disk as binary code. An HDD also features an interface that facilitates communication with the motherboard.
As a nonvolatile component, the HDD retains data even without electrical power. Shutting down the server will not erase HDD information.
A server is only effective if it has a network to use as a communication channel. Every server has a way to communicate with clients through a network using a wired or wireless connection.
The network itself is not a hardware component, but each server has hardware that allows network connection. The connection point on the server is usually on the motherboard. It may be a port for a cable or an input for an adapter that allows wireless network connectivity.
Each device that seeks to access the server’s data must also connect to the network through wired or wireless means. A network can transmit data from the server to the client at speeds of anywhere up to a gigabyte per second.
The final notable component of a server is its power supply. A power supply converts alternating current (AC) electricity into direct current (DC) electricity before transmitting it to the motherboard. Servers require significant power due to the amount of information they process and the number of devices they communicate with. The typical server requires a 300-watt power supply or larger.
Ideally, a business should emphasize redundancy in its server’s power supply. When you use more than one power supply with hot-swapping capabilities, your server can remain online through power outages and electrical maintenance. Connect each power supply to a separate circuit so the server can continue working in the event of a trip. Power redundancy reduces downtime for businesses that rely heavily on their servers.
Outsource Server Setup and Management
Servers are complex systems that require expertise and diligence to maintain. Kirbtech offers server setup, monitoring and maintenance services for small and midsized businesses that need to budget their resources for other tasks. We work with businesses spanning numerous industries in central Pennsylvania, and our team is ready to embrace your needs. Contact us online for more information or to request a free server assessment.