A computer is a powerful tool. Create a document. Design a graphic. Analyze data. You name it, today’s computer can do this and more. If one computer is powerful, think about a room of them. But to unleash the power of two or more computers, the computers need to be connected to a server.
Do you remember the days before networked computers? Any file created on a computer had to be copied to a disk, so that you could share with colleagues. In the dark days before email networks, computers were essentially fancy typewriters. Today, data passes seamlessly and quickly from one computer to another through a computer server. Since the inception of computer networking, the size of the computer server has decreased from the massive room size servers of the 70s to today’s PC-sized (personal computer) server in the home.
What Is a Server?
According to Wikipedia, the term server can refer to:
- a computer program that runs to serve the needs of others
- a “physical computer” with the primary function of serving the needs of programs running on the same network
- a software or hardware system, for instance, a database server, file server, mail server, or print server
For the purposes of this article, the term server will be used to refer to a computer or multiple computers that link other computers over a network. Without a server, computers would not communicate with each other over the internet. From sending an email to a work colleague to sharing a document via Google Docs, your business would not survive without networking via computer server.
Servers are differentiated by type -- database, file, mail, or print server -- and by operating system. The server operating systems, include Windows 2008, Windows NT, Apple Mac OS X, LAN Manager, Novell Netware, and a number of less well-known versions. Apache is a leader in the web server software market according to Wikipedia. The server’s operating systems are hosted on platforms, including UNIX/Linux, Mac OS X, and Microsoft Windows. A server can either be hosted within the confines of your business or you can contract with an outside company to host your site on their server.
The server is the host for all computers in a business. The server plays many roles both within the business and externally. Within the business, a server allows all computers to access one printer or all employees to share a single program, for instance, Microsoft Word. From an external standpoint, the server connects your business to the Internet. The server waits for you to send out information over the web or via email, while standing ready to receive information from clients over the web.
A key step in the business development process is the establishment of the computer network. The business has an online presence through its website and social media pages. Customers count on the business to provide reliable access to its products and services. A business is only as good as the server that runs its website.
Contracting with Website Host
Look online to find a host that can handle your traffic. As you research, consider the size of your business, the amount of bandwidth you will need to run your website, and any other logistics. Find out if the host server can handle a large number of websites.
Some businesses decide to host their own server. Train or hire a person or team who will manage the server. Remember, your business cannot function when its website is down. Look at the cost of hosting a server in house versus finding a web host. Whether you hire a server company to host your website or host it yourself, be aware of the logistics of running your site.
Hosting a Server On Site
First things first, install a network operating system, for instance, Linux, MS Server, etc. A new release by Microsoft is designed for small businesses, Windows Small Business Server. By hosting a server in house, the business will maintain control over downtime and bandwidth. With a host serving company, your business must follow the host’s schedule for times when the sites are down. A huge benefit of a business hosting server is that no other business website is competing with your website.
Install all servers on the network operating system, for email, domain, web, and database servers. Add any web-based applications to the operating system. Be proactive by scheduling regular backups and maintenance.
Setting up a Server at Home
Due to the fact that many homes have multiple computers, installing a network at home is a good idea. You could review the paper your son wrote on his laptop without leaving your desk.
The first step to seeing up a server at home is by buying a router -- wireless or ethernet. Connect the router to your internet server, then hook up all all the computers in the home. A good choice for an operating system would be either Microsoft or Linux.
Whichever method you choose, remember that a server helps you run more efficiently and more reliably, which can help you succeed as a business.