The roles of each computer in a client/server network are distinctive, affecting both the hardware used in each computer and the software installed in each computer. In a client/server environment there are many advantages including centralized administration, better sharing capabilities, scalability, and possibly increased security.
Most departmental and larger networks are client/server networks. The networks controlled by Windows Server 2008 and 2003, Windows 2000 Server, and Novell NetWare servers are examples of client/server networks.
One example is a server with three workstations, each of which is using a different shared resource: One is using the server’s inkjet printer, one is printing to the server’s laser printer, and one is copying a file to the server’s RAID array.
A server is a computer on the network that provides other computers (called clients or workstations) with access to resources, such as disk drives, folders, printers, modems, scanners, and Internet access. Because these resources can be used by different computers over the network, they are called shared resources.
Servers can also be used for different types of software and tasks. For example, application servers run tasks for clients, file servers store data and program files for clients, and mail servers store and distribute email to clients.
Servers typically have more powerful hardware features than typical PCs, such as SCSI or SATA RAID arrays or network attached storage for hard disk storage, larger amounts of RAM, hot-swap power supplies, and server-optimized network adapters. However, because servers are not operated by an individual user, they often use low-performance integrated or PCI video and might be managed remotely rather than with a keyboard or monitor connected directly to the server.
A client is a computer that uses the resources on a server. Typical examples of client computers include Windows Vista, XP, and 2000. Depending on the network operating system in use, clients and servers can be separate machines or a client can act as a server and a server can act as a client. Clients can refer to servers either by assigning drive letters to shared folders or by using a Universal Naming Convention (UNC) path name to refer to the server.