Your Server Questions, Answered
This how-to guide provides practical answers to the 12 most important questions about how to buy, configure, support, and get the most from your servers -- whether you're ready for your first or adding your 20th.
1. What kinds of things can a server do?
- File and printer sharing, so that all the users in the office can access the same stored information, and print their documents on the same printer, or group of printers.
- Internet access, so that all the users in an office can share a single high-speed line to the Internet (alternatives include each person using slow dial-up connections or individuals each having their own high-speed connection).
- Office e-mail, where the server handles e-mail and messaging throughout the office network.
- Intranet services, where the users have access to a Web site that can be seen only by users in that office. Such sites are often used to distribute an organization's internal information. Hosting a Web site. A server, with the appropriate software, becomes a site on the World Wide Web.
- Shared business applications, such as financial systems, production systems, or HR processing that require input from throughout the organization.
- Terminal services, where the servers support terminals typically used by clerical workers in situations where using workstations would incur unnecessary costs or add to security risks.
These applications are not mutually exclusive, except that business applications are usually kept on separate servers for maximum performance and security.
2. What's the difference between a server and a desktop?
A desktop, or workstation, is intended to run applications used by one person, such as word processing, Web browsing, or spreadsheets. Whereas a server is used by multiple people in an office. Because more people use a server, and it's often left on and unattended for long periods, ultra-high reliability and security are very important. With a workstation 24x7 availability may not be as high a priority.
Because of these distinctions, desktop PCs do not have server-level management, reliability, or security functionality. That's why desktops are not good candidates for use as servers.