What is a server?

Granny Sue

Well-Known Member
Oct 18, 2019
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What is a server and why would I want one? I don’t know if this is the right place for this post because it is computer general and not Linux specific However, I’ve always wondered about this question. Why would somebody at home need a server because I thought servers were for great big networks. Even though I’m not sure what a server is. Anybody want to take a shot at this?

There are many kinds of servers, and you are right... they are frequently used in big networks, like for corporations and on the internet. And probably most people do not need any servers in their home. But some people use a web server from home so they can have a website. I have several websites myself, but they are not on home servers. I rent space on the internet that "hosts" my websites.

Here's one that I think will make the most sense: a media server. Media servers are pretty popular and a lot of people have them (but I don't myself). The "media" that is served for people in their homes is their personal collections of movies and music. There is special software developed for this, and it can run on a home computer, or even a neat little gadget called a Raspberry Pi (often called rPi). This little computer is about the size of a pack of cigarettes and has built in WiFi and Ethernet. They can do many things, and they only cost about $35 (power supply and other options are extra). Once it's set up as a server, it no longer needs a monitor/keyboard/mouse attached.... just the external hard drive(s) that will actually store the media. The rPi does not have any hard drive, and it boots/runs off of a micro-SD card, like for a camera.

So, would you want one? You might, if you have a collection of movies and/or music that you would want to access from anywhere in your home, and from any device... computer, tablet, or phone. I think you can even access your media over the internet when you're away from home. But your media also needs to be in digital formats so it can store on a hard drive. It's not like an old jukebox that will pull out a DVD movie and play it. :D People have spent a lot of time converting their DVD movies, and their CD music, and in some cases even LP Records... into digital form. Or they have downloaded them from the internet.
Thanks, Atanere, for that concise definition. That’s something I might think about for the future. I just happen to have a raspberry pie that my brother-in-law gave me for my birthday one year. Are used it to access his Plex account although he doesn’t have that anymore. So I can use it for something else. Unfortunately, I’ve moved so many times I no longer have a CD or music collection. I would like to start one again, so who knows, maybe sometime in the future. Right now I’ve got enough going on with Linux.
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What is a server...

Fair question :)

If you simply type in at Google

what is a server

... you can read for ages.

One I found quite good was


If you wanted to network those old computers of yours and have them in different parts of the house, then you might choose one to be a Server, and it can feed "content" to the other PCs.

In a home environment the Server rig does not need to be the biggest fastest newest one with the most grunt, but it needs to have a fair bit of memory and to be RELIABLE. You may want the Server to be on 24x7, even if you switch the other computers off overnight.

You were confused a little elsewhere with the difference between memory and capacity.

Your 350 GB hard drive is your capacity, for operating system (OS) software and storage. Like your body, it might be small (4'11") or long/tall (6'6"). Your CPU (central processing unit, or chip) and your RAM (Random Access Memory) are like your brain and memory. You might have 2 - 4 gigabytes of RAM, or some rigs can have 16 - 32 GB RAM (I have 16 GB on this Dell).

A computer chosen to be a Server can get server software installed on it, the most notable is probably Apache.

Linux Servers are the best in the world, and as Walter Brennan used to say in The Guns of Will Sonnett "That's no brag ... just fact!".

If you find any company that relies on say more than 100 computers being up and running, and they are not running on Linux servers ... they likely need their heads read.


Why would somebody at home need a server because I thought servers were for great big networks.

Servers are behind many services you use everyday. The best reason for having servers at home is sovereignty. You do what you want the way you want of your data. To me having a physical server is like having a garden : you can grow your own stuff with no chemicals, build stuff in it, store your things, make private parties...
Everything you do on your own server has an extra taste of freedom.

Some servers are big ones, just like farms can be gigantic. But you don't need to feed millions of people, its ony for you and people you want to share it with. A server can be as small as a raspberry pi, even smaller.
the succinct answer is if you have a html document and open it; it will usually open as a file. To display as intended it it needs to be opened in a web browser. Thats ok for one file (html) , but when one htm ldoc has a link to another link and then you have php files you really need them from a web server. I have apache on my slackware box as dev environment