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What is a server?

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Definition: A server is primarily a program that runs on a machine, providing a particular and specific service to other machines connected to the machine on which it is found.

Nowadays, server functionality has become so rich, complex and varied in nature that there are whole very powerful computers dedicated to being exclusively servers. This has led many non-technical people to denote servers as being machines that run services.

Generally speaking, a server is a machine with a specific set of programs that offer different types of service, which other machines (then called clients) request to do certain tasks. For example, a file server is a machine which keeps files, and allows clients to upload and download them from it. A web server is a machine that hosts web sites and allows Internet users (clients) to access these web sites. The page you are reading now comes from the about.com web server. A mail server is a machine which, along with the storage and management of email messages, provides service to email users who can read, retrieve, and manage these emails messages.

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