'Server' is one of the most multi-sided terms on the Internet. The most common meaning of 'server' designates a network attached computer which hosts a specific service or group of services.
What is a server?
From a networking point of view, a server refers to any computer that is attached to other computers through an Internet or local network connection and that provides specific services.
Depending on the services provided there are different types of servers. When the server provides access to a specific software application or operating system we have an application server. If the server is responsible for handling a database for a specific application or website, we talk about a database server. There are file servers, which provide a file hosting service; print servers, which manage the connection between all the computers in a network and their printer devices; web servers, which provide hosting services for websites and web based applications. There are also many other different types of servers – email servers, peer-to-peer servers, game servers, fax servers, etc.
The hosting server
The hosting server is a server machine which is dedicated to providing web hosting services. The ordinary hosting server runs a Linux or Unix-based (like FreeBSD) operating system with a MySQL and/or a PgSQL database server, a ProFTPd FTP server, an Apache web server, a BIND DNS server and an Exim mail server. There are also hosting services based on the Windows Server platform, the IIS web server and the MS SQL database solution.
The Linux and the Windows server hosting platforms differ in software and in some of the services provided, but both are dedicated to offering web hosting services. Both store website files, as well as various programs and applications. Both provide access to modern, fast and secure database management systems.
How to get hosted on a server
To take advantage of the services provided by a server, individuals or companies need to sign up with a hosting provider and to choose a plan that corresponds to their particular demands. Depending on their needs they can sign up for various types of hosting packages and different sets of dedicated servers. Some large organizations and great enterprise companies run their own servers.
The hosting package allows shared access to the services provided by a server. The server provides services to multiple clients and every client has access to a “portion” of the server which corresponds to their hosting package features. Beside web hosting packages, there also may be domain hosting, file hosting or email hosting plans.
Unlike the shared hosting packages, the dedicated server hosting solution allows a single customer to run different types of services on a server. The access to the server is granted via an SSH connection. Another server management option is the web-based Control Panel.