Network Basics: Clients and Servers

The network computer that contains the hard drives, printers, and other resources that are shared with other network computers is called a server. This term comes up repeatedly, so you have to remember it. Write it on the back of your left hand. Any computer that’s not a server is called a client. You have to remember this term, too. Write it on the back of your right hand.

Only two kinds of computers are on a network: servers and clients. Look at your left hand and then look at your right hand. Don’t wash your hands until you have these terms memorized.

The distinction between servers and clients in a network would be somewhat fun to study in a sociology class because it’s similar to the distinction between the haves and the have-nots in society:

  • Usually, the most powerful and expensive computers in a network are the servers. This fact makes sense because every user on the network shares the server’s resources.

  • The cheaper and less powerful computers in a network are the clients. Clients are the computers used by individual users for everyday work. Because clients’ resources don’t have to be shared, they don’t have to be as fancy.

  • Most networks have more clients than servers. For example, a network with ten clients can probably get by with one server.

  • In some networks, a clear line of segregation exists between servers and clients. In other words, a computer is either a server or a client, and not both. A server can’t become a client, nor can a client become a server.

  • Other networks are more progressive, allowing any computer in the network to be a server and allowing any computer to be both server and client at the same time.