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In the context of hardware, a server is a device on the network that manages network resources303 such as files, printers, email, Usenet News or databases.
Servers can be positioned on an organizations internal network or in the more public area of its network, called the DMZ (see section 3.3) that is accessible by Internet users.
Servers can be general-purpose computers dedicated to managing one or more resources, or special-purpose boxes designed to do a few things well. General-purpose servers can be very similar to workstations, using similar CPUs, memory, and peripherals. However, there are also some key differences between servers and workstations. Servers typically offer faster I/O (such as SCSI instead of IDE disks), more disk storage, more RAM and support for more processors than a workstation. With a server that is a general-purpose computer, you can change the functionality of the server by changing the software installed on it. This week, its a database server running Oracle on Windows. Next week, maybe its a file server running Linux. Contrast this to a special-purpose, dedicated server, which will probably only ever do what it was designed to do, be that acting as a fax server, a file server, etc.
(Hackers, dont start. We know that where theres a will, theres a way, to make even video game consoles run Linux. But in most cases, the vendor wont explicitly support it!)
303. Definition of server, http://www.webopedia.com
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