SERVER: a software/hardware system (i.e. a software service running on a dedicated computer) such as a database server, file server, mail server, or print server. Many servers have dedicated functionality such as web servers, print servers, and database servers. Despite the many server-branded products available (such as server versions of hardware, software or operating systems), in theory any computerised process that shares a resource to one or more client processes is a server. While the existence of files on a machine does not classify it as a server, the mechanism which shares these files to clients by the operating system is the server. Since any software that provides services can be called a server, modern personal computers can be seen as a forest of servers and clients operating in parallel.
Hardware requirements for servers vary, depending on the server application. Although servers can be built from commodity computer parts, mission-critical enterprise servers are ideally very fault tolerant and use specialized hardware with low failure rates in order to maximize uptime, for even a short-term failure can cost more than purchasing and installing the system. Servers may incorporate faster, higher-capacity hard drives, larger computer fans or water cooling to help remove heat, and uninterruptible power supplies that ensure the servers continue to function in the event of a power failure. Because servers must supply a restricted range of services to perhaps many users while a desktop computer must carry out a wide range of functions required by its user, the requirements of an operating system for a server are different from those of a desktop machine. While it is possible for an operating system to make a machine both provide services and respond quickly to the requirements of a user, it is usual to use different operating systems on servers and desktop machines.
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