A Simple Explanation of Servers

Posted on Posted in Information and training

How many times have you heard the term “the server is down” or “the server failed”? Many times most likely.  In today’s technologically savvy world, we have all become familiar with the term “server” but few people outside the Information Technology world truly know what it means or can accurately describe it. Servers are everywhere today from the supermarket, to our workplace to our schools, it’s time to be in the know!

What is a Server?

A “server” is a powerful computer on an office or school network that manages the resources available to all the other the computers attached to that same network. There are different types of servers; some can multitask between different sets of data and others can be dedicated to a single type of task, such as printing or file storage. Servers can be either on-site or off-site.

A computer server handles the request for processing that your computer has sent in order to accomplish the task you want to do. Computer servers have to put tasks into order of importance and many times, this is on a first-come-first-serve basis. However, tasks can also be ordered by type of job, company department or individual positions within a company or school.

How Does it Work?

When a computer related job (task) is required, the server is the first line of contact. A job may be document printing, copying, faxing, file storage, data processing and more. It is the server that assigns each job to the most appropriate resource, gives it a priority ranking and places it in a queue. This queue is designed to order tasks into a tiered level of importance.  If there were no organisation, the server would get overloaded trying to process all of the requests at the same time and the result would be an inefficient, slow or broken system.

How does the server know what which jobs to process first?  Well, the server assigns the jobs based on a set of rules that the administrator of the server has set up.  For instance, in many companies, priority may be given to particular staff or departments.  Any jobs coming from the CEO’s office could be assigned top priority and be processed before any others.  Servers also assign jobs based on available resources.  For instance, it will send the colour print jobs to the colour printer, a fax to a fax machine and copies to a copier.

Finally, servers also organise tasks based on efficiency. A server can recognise when one resource is being utilised and send a job to another resource to increase overall efficiency.  A good example of this is a large print job.  If one printer has been assigned a large (100 pages or more) print job and a small two-page job comes through, rather than assigning it to the printer printing the large job and make the requestor wait, the server will assign it to a free printer if one is available.

How Does This All Fit Together?

Let’s put this all together.  Here is an example of how a server works and helps organise the jobs sent to it from the network computers.

For instance, in a large office of a hundred people, there may be multiple printers that have different printing capabilities, various file storage options, different levels of staff and different roles of varying importance.  Let’s say that 15 people send a job or task to the server within a few minutes of each other.  The server analyses each job based on information such as IP address, proximity to the server and order of importance in processes.  The server determines first, who has priority ranking – is the job coming from the CEO, the accounting department or sales?  Then the server determines what resources the job requires – colour printing or black and white?  The server then can choose to send the CEO’s print job to high quality printer; the accounting department’s spreadsheet to the regular black and white printer; and, the sales department’s presentation to the colour copier or printer.

Think about all the steps that are involved in any business small or large.  The server organises all the computer related tasks for the most efficient use of resources and speed.  Depending on the size of the business, there may be many servers both on- and off-site.  When a server ‘goes down’, all the technology related tasks become disorganised and things slow down or don’t function at all.

When this happens in your office, it’s time to give me a call.  🙂

Phone Philip 950 3675