What Is the Difference Between a Server and a Standard Computer?

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What Is the Difference Between a Server and a Standard Computer?

Computers are a familiar sight in both home and office. More often than not, multiple PCs exist in a location, where they are linked to other machines, both computers and peripherals alike. This interconnectivity enables them to share programs, information, files, storage, printers, and more. Although standard computers can function in the role of servers, those wishing to network multiple PCs together often look for a dedicated server to ensure optimum functionality.

Prior to making a server purchase, it is important for a buyer to take inventory of his or her needs. Depending on the amount of memory, storage capacity, and reciprocity needed, a standard computer may be sufficient; however, as the number of users increases and the need for access grows, a dedicated server might be more appropriate. After performing an analysis of needs versus options, buyers can take that knowledge with them to eBay to find what they need.

About Servers

A server is a dedicated computer, its hardware running one or more services as a host to users of one or more other networked computers. Indeed, a server is considered to be any computerised process that delivers a resource with at least one client, or subservient, process. Server versions of operating systems, software, and hardware are available in addition to single- or multi-user licensed versions.

When it comes to client-servers, the server itself is a computer program, rather than a dedicated unit. The operation of this software program serves to fulfil the requests of other programs, or clients. In a client-server set-up, the server may be a separate unit, or it may be run on the same computer as the clients. As it pertains to Internet Protocol, or IP, networking, the program operating as a socket listener is known as the server.

While servers may fulfil many purposes, amongst the most common are file servers, database servers, print servers, mail servers, application servers, home servers, gaming servers, proxy servers, and Web servers.

Network Servers

In an office environment, network servers are generally located on the same site as the client computers. However, this processing and delivery of data may also take place over the Internet from afar. Because they take care of multiple units and users, network servers generally have additional storage capacity and processing memory than their client computers. Falling under the umbrella of network servers are Web servers, FTP servers, online game servers, and proxy servers.

Web Servers

A Web server is one type of server that generally does not require a separate unit; rather, any capable computer may run this type of server. HTTP clients send commands, receive responses, and obtain data through a connection to Web servers . While older or simpler models may be used only to receive and fulfil file requests from clients, the advanced functionality of more advanced Web servers has often garnered them the name of application or information servers.

History of Servers

The personal computer explosion of the early 1990s soon necessitated servers, as businesses moved processing from microcomputers or mainframes to individual workstations. Multiple CD-ROM drives were common on early file servers, as these enabled the unit to host large database applications.

Dedicated hardware made its debut later that decade, leading to a growth in self-contained server appliances. As operating system use in the form of Microsoft Windows and Linux spread, the client-server architecture grew in popularity; in fact, operating systems can be seen as servers themselves, as they feed overarching hardware to the software . Often running in the background of the operating system are services, also known as daemons, which lie in wait until they are needed.

Even the internet, a mass of millions of servers and clients, can be viewed as an aggregate server in and of itself. In essence, every action an internet user performs demands interaction with at least one server, if not more. Amongst the servers in continuous operation that connect to the internet are those for the World Wide Web, email, chat and instant messaging (IM), file transfer protocol (FTP), streaming audio and video, voice communication, online gaming, and Domain Name System (DNS).

Dedicated Servers

For smaller networking and oversight, a standard computer may be sufficient to act as a server, even in a stand-alone capacity. However, if more than a few computers are sharing the same network, a dedicated server designed for the task may be more in order. An official server has greater capacity than a standard computer, both in terms of processing speed and memory size but also storage space. In addition, a separate server has plenty of room for expansion by way of more RAM and additional hard drives.

Perhaps most importantly, a dedicated server is known for its fault tolerance features, in particular redundancy. In other words, the server continues functioning, even if one component is damaged. Similarly, parts of this server can be upgraded or expanded upon without the server as a whole losing its functionality. Other assets to consider are the server’s larger or multiple hard drives, faster CPUs, and more high-performance RAM, including additional slots so memory may be added later.

Home Servers

A home server is similar to one found in a business location. However, due to the reduced number of PC users networked into the server, home servers are generally much smaller than office ones; as such, they can have far fewer bells and whistles, as well. At home, the server draws upon a home network, the Internet, or both to send information to devices within the home.

Some of the primary functions home servers perform are printing, file sharing, media storage, Web serving and caching, and account authentication. Oftentimes, personal computer operators use their home server as a backup drive to protect their documents and files. Since home servers are smaller than their business counterparts, a dedicated standard computer often proves sufficient in this role.

Centralised Storage

Households often have multiple computing devices that multiple users operate. As such, the need for centralised storage becomes an issue. With a home server, family members can access securely stored, shared files, any of which may be password protected, as needed. In this fashion, the home server functions as something known as network-attached storage, or NAS. With the use of remote access, home files may be shared over the internet, accessible from anywhere on the planet.

Media Serving

Sometimes, people in households choose to run their multimedia content from a single source. By using a home server in this fashion, all networked devices in the home can access music, video, photos, games, and more. Functioning as a media server, the unit can even feed and receive information to and from gaming consoles, televisions, radios, and more. As servers are almost always powered on, those used for media may function as programmable recording devices, as well.

Remote Access

By combining remote desktop and administration software with home servers, computer users are able to access their files from outside the home via the internet. Remote desktop sessions allow those with proper permissions to link up to their home PCs, accessing files that reside on their hard drives at home, such as those in the PC’s My Documents folder.


When individuals own their own domain name and run multiple email accounts from it, they may choose a home server dedicated to email. Doing so enables not only more mailbox storage space but also faster access to email and a greater capacity for large messages and attachments. Another benefit of a dedicated email server is the added message security it provides.

Security Monitoring

Home network servers can receive and store video captured by closed circuit television, or CCTV. On a specified schedule, the server’s digital video recorder (DVR) saves and stores these files, enabling viewing from any networked PC or computing device. In lieu of more expensive CCTV operations, homeowners can implement a simple webcam and record or stream over the Internet for away-from-home viewing.

The Difference Between a Server and a Standard Computer

The fact that a standard computer can be used as a small server reveals that the two are similar at heart. Both can power hardware that serves multiple individual computers, or clients, as well as act as network and backup drives. However, the need for an actual server becomes apparent when more users or advanced needs come into play.

In general, server hard drives are faster and have greater capacity than PCs. In addition, they boast more RAM, faster processors, and better networking capabilities than a standard computer. Servers have hard drives and power supplies that are redundant, meaning that the entire system does not go down if a single component fails. Additionally, this redundancy factor allows for parts to be replaced without service interruptions. Whereas a standard computer is a collection of hardware, the server itself can be composed of either hardware or software, or both. Most people shut down their personal computers at the end of each day; servers, on the other hand, are usually left running.

How to Buy a Server or Standard Computer on eBay

By now, you have learned that the choice between a standard computer and server begins with your intended use. If you have only one or two computers at home that you wish to network, a spare PC should suit you just fine. However, if you are looking to network multiple personal devices or are seeking to buy a server for office use, a dedicated server may be more up your alley. In either regard, you have come to the right place.

On eBay, you can find a rich range of options in the computers, tablets, and networking category. The site has a specific server subcategory in which you can view not just stand-alone units but CPUs and targeted servers, as well. You can plug specific terms into eBay's search bar, including print servers or Ethernet NAS servers. eBay is also a good place to find additional hard drives or RAM. The site also lets you quickly review server options by such things as form factor, brand, processor manufacturer, and memory capacity (RAM). Take note of seller satisfaction ratings, shipping terms, and return policies, too, as these contribute to your overall buying enjoyment.


Purchasing a server is not the most difficult decision buyers can make. However, making an uninformed decision may haunt them for many, many years. In some cases, a dedicated PC may be sufficient to fulfil this role; however, when multiple devices are to be networked, a stand-alone server may be more appropriate. To ensure reliable coordination between software and hardware, client and server, it pays to do some homework before heading to eBay.

Differences between servers and standard computers are most commonly those of capacity. While a standard PC may be upgradeable to some extent, a dedicated server should have plenty of add-on capacity, including the addition of extra RAM or additional hard drives. Prices may vary wildly, however, so it is important to work within a budget while ensuring the purchase of something to satisfy for a number of years. After both education and evaluation, savvy shoppers can visit eBay to find the device to suit their needs.

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