20 Different Types of Servers and How Each Works

types of servers

20 Different Types of Servers and How Each Works

Various types of servers are essential in today’s digital world, acting as the internet’s backbone and allowing businesses to store, process, and distribute data. A server is a computer system that provides services or resources to other network devices. Other computers, smartphones, and IoT devices are examples of such devices.

We will look at various types of servers, such as web servers, file servers, database servers, and others. Businesses can make informed decisions about which servers to use for specific applications or functions by understanding the various types of servers available.

Web Servers

Web servers are computer systems that provide hosting for websites, web applications, and other online content. They receive client requests, such as web browser requests, and respond by providing the requested content.

A web server communicates with clients via HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) and can handle multiple requests at the same time. Apache, Nginx, and Microsoft IIS are some popular examples of web servers. These types of servers host most of the websites on the internet.

File Servers

A file server is a type of server that stores and manages files that other network devices can access. It allows users to store and retrieve files in a centralized location, eliminating the need for local storage on individual devices.

A file server distributes files using protocols such as SMB (Server Message Block) and NFS (Network File System). Users can access files on the server using a file manager or explorer and, depending on their access permissions, they can even modify or delete them. Windows File Server, Linux Samba Server, and FreeNAS are all examples of popular file servers. 

Database Servers

joins in sql
As a database server, the Microsoft SQL Server stores and retrieves data as requested by other software applications.

A database server is a type of server that stores and manages databases. Databases are collections of data that are organized in a specific way. They enable clients to query the database and perform operations like adding, modifying, and deleting data.

A database server operates by running database management system (DBMS) software. The DBMS software manages the database and provides an interface through which clients can interact with it.

Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle Database, and MySQL are some examples of popular database servers. These types of servers are commonly used in businesses to manage large amounts of data as well as to support a variety of applications and services.

Application Servers

A computer system that hosts applications and provides services to other devices on a network is known as an application server. It manages an application’s business logic and provides a runtime environment in which the application can run.

An application server operates by executing application server software, which serves as a platform for hosting applications and managing application resources. IBM WebSphere, Oracle WebLogic, and JBoss are some popular application servers. These types of servers are commonly used in businesses to deploy and manage web applications, as well as provide client services.

Mail Servers

A mail server is a type of server that manages email messages sent and received over a network. It serves as a central hub for email communication, storing, processing, and forwarding email messages.

A mail server communicates with other mail servers and clients by using email protocols such as SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) and IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol).

Microsoft Exchange Server, Postfix, and Sendmail are examples of popular mail servers. In businesses, these types of servers are commonly used to manage email communication between employees and clients.

Print Servers

A print server is a server that manages printing devices like printers, scanners, and fax machines across a network. It serves as a centralized control point for printing activities, allowing multiple users to share the same printing resources.

A print server manages print queues and sends print jobs to the appropriate printer after receiving requests from clients. Print servers that are widely used include Windows Print Server, CUPS (Common Unix Printing System), and PaperCut. In businesses, these servers are commonly used to manage printing activities and control printing resources.

DNS Servers

The DNS server helps identify computers that are reachable through the Internet.

A DNS server (Domain Name System) is a type of server that converts domain names into IP addresses and vice versa. It serves as an internet directory, allowing users to access websites and services via easy-to-remember domain names rather than numerical IP addresses.

A DNS server operates by maintaining a database of domain names and their corresponding IP addresses. Then, it responds to client requests to translate domain names into IP addresses.

BIND (Berkeley Internet Name Domain), Microsoft DNS Server, and Google Public DNS are all popular DNS servers. These servers are critical for Internet communication because they allow users to quickly and efficiently access websites and services.

Proxy Servers

A proxy server is a computer system that acts as a middleman between network clients and servers. It receives client requests and routes them to servers while hiding the client’s identity and protecting their privacy.

A proxy server intercepts client requests, caches frequently accessed resources, and filters out unwanted content. Squid, Apache, and Nginx are some popular proxy servers. These servers are commonly used to improve security, performance, and network activity monitoring.

FTP Servers

An FTP server is a type of server that enables users to transfer files across a network. It works by connecting the client and server and allowing the client to upload or download files. For authentication, FTP servers frequently require a username and password.

FileZilla Server, ProFTPD, and vsftpd are some popular FTP servers. FTP servers are widely used to share files among employees, as well as to provide remote access to files. They can also be used to provide users with software updates and patches.

Game Servers

Best Cheap Gaming Laptops
OVH’s game servers are based on the AMD Ryzen platform.

A game server is a server that hosts multiplayer games over the internet or on a local network. These servers enable players to connect and interact in real-time live gameplay.

Typically, game servers run specialized software that manages the game world and player interactions. This software is in charge of keeping the game state, synchronizing player actions, and managing network latency.

Minecraft, World of Warcraft, and Counter-Strike are examples of popular game servers. These servers frequently have large communities of players who use them to connect with others and play competitive or cooperative games.

Individuals or businesses can run game servers, which can be hosted locally or in data centers. To accommodate large numbers of players and provide a smooth gaming experience, they require high-performance hardware and network connectivity.

Virtual Servers

A virtual server, also known as a virtual private server (VPS), is a type of server that divides a physical server into multiple virtual ones using virtualization technology. Each virtual server has its own operating system, allocated resources such as CPU, memory, and disk space, and can be rebooted independently of other virtual servers.

Virtual servers are popular because they provide many of the same advantages as dedicated servers, such as increased security and control, at a lower cost. Businesses and individuals commonly use them for web hosting, development environments, and other similar applications.

A software program known as a hypervisor is installed on the physical server to create a virtual server. The hypervisor then creates and manages the virtual servers, which are physically separated and have their own virtualized hardware.

VMware, VirtualBox, Hyper-V, and KVM are examples of popular virtual server software. Users can use these software programs to manage and create virtual servers on a single physical server. This makes them an efficient and cost-effective solution for hosting multiple applications.

Chat Servers

A chat server is a type of server that allows multiple users to communicate in real time over the internet. It sends messages via various protocols, including text, audio, and video. A chat server works by connecting the clients and allowing them to send and receive messages in real-time.

IRC (Internet Relay Chat), Discord, and Slack are some popular chat servers. IRC is one of the oldest chat protocols and is still widely used for open-source and community-based chat rooms, whereas Discord and Slack are popular for business and team communication.

Media Servers

types of servers
Plex began as a freeware hobby project in December 2007.

A media server is a server that enables users to share multimedia files across a network. It is capable of storing and organizing media files such as music, videos, and photos. To share media files, media servers employ a variety of protocols, including HTTP, FTP, and UPnP.

When a user requests a media file, the media server locates the file and sends it to the user’s device. Some media servers also include features like transcoding. This allows users to convert media files to different formats. They can also have remote access, which allows them to access media files from outside their home network.

Plex, Emby, and Kodi are examples of popular media servers. Plex is a media server application that enables users to stream and access their media files from any location.

Emby is another media server software that provides features similar to Plex, such as transcoding and remote access. Kodi is an open-source media player that can also function as a media server, allowing you to share media files across a network.

Backup Servers

A backup server is a server that backs up and stores data from other servers or devices. It offers an off-site location where data can be securely stored and accessed as needed. Backup servers collect and store data from other servers or devices via a network.

This data is then compressed, encrypted, and saved on the hard drives or other storage media of the backup server. Backup servers can also perform scheduled automated backups, making it simple to ensure that critical data is always backed up and recoverable.

Acronis Backup, Veeam Backup & Replication, and Commvault Backup are examples of popular backup server software. Some cloud-based services, such as AWS Backup and Microsoft Azure Backup, also provide backup server capabilities.

Security Servers

A security server is a server that offers security to other servers, networks, and applications. Its primary function is to safeguard data integrity and confidentiality, prevent unauthorized access, and reduce the risk of cyber attacks.

A security server operates by putting in place various security protocols. These are protocols such as firewalls, intrusion detection and prevention systems, anti-virus and anti-malware software, and encryption algorithms. This type of server monitors network traffic, detects potential security threats, and takes preventative measures.


  • Cisco Adaptive Security Appliance (ASA): A firewall security solution that provides comprehensive security services for networks and applications.
  • Symantec Endpoint Protection: A security server that protects endpoints from malware, viruses, and other cyber threats.
  • Microsoft Threat Management Gateway (TMG): A web security gateway that protects against web-based threats and provides secure remote access.
  • McAfee ePolicy Orchestrator (ePO): A security management platform that provides centralized management of security policies and endpoint protection.
  • IBM QRadar: A security information and event management (SIEM) solution that helps organizations detect and respond to security threats in real time.

VoIP Servers

types of servers
VoIP transports media streams using special media delivery protocols.

A VoIP server is a server that manages Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) calls. It assists in the routing and transmission of voice calls over the internet. The server is in charge of translating analog voice signals into digital packets and vice versa. The VoIP server is also in charge of managing the call’s signaling and control information.

A VoIP server utilizes an array of protocols and codecs to ensure that the voice call is clear and uninterrupted. The digital packets are sent by the server to the recipient, who converts them back into analog voice signals.

Asterisk, FreeSWITCH, Kamailio, and OpenSIPS are some popular VoIP servers. To help manage and optimize VoIP calls, these servers include features such as call routing, call recording, and auto-attendant.

DHCP Servers

A DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) server is a type of server that automatically assigns IP addresses to devices on a network. When a device connects to the network, it sends a request to the DHCP server, which responds by providing the device with an available IP address.

The DHCP server ensures that each network device has a unique IP address and reassigns IP addresses as needed. This eliminates the need for manual IP address assignment and avoids IP address conflicts between devices.

Microsoft Windows Server, ISC DHCP, and Dnsmasq are some popular examples of DHCP servers. These types of servers are commonly used in enterprise networks, home networks, and other settings where a large number of devices require network connectivity.

Time Servers

types of servers
An existing network server (such as a file server) can become a time server with additional software.

A time server is a server that keeps time and synchronizes it on connected devices. It is used in time-sensitive operations to ensure consistency. Time servers function by receiving time updates from reference clocks such as GPS satellites and atomic clocks and then distributing the precise time to connected devices.

Network Time Protocol (NTP) servers such as NTP.org, Chrony, and Meinberg NTP are examples of popular time servers. Time servers are frequently used in financial institutions, hospitals, and other industries where accurate timekeeping is critical.

Remote Access Servers

A remote access server is a type of server that allows users to access network resources or services from a remote location. It allows you to connect to a network from a remote location in a secure and efficient manner.

Remote access servers operate by establishing a secure connection between the user’s computer and the network via protocols such as Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) or Virtual Private Network (VPN). Before granting access to network resources, the server verifies the user’s credentials and permissions.

Windows Remote Desktop Services, Cisco AnyConnect VPN, and OpenVPN are some popular remote access servers. These servers enable users to securely access network files, applications, and other resources from anywhere in the world.

IoT Servers

An IoT server is a type of server that allows Internet of Things (IoT) devices to communicate and exchange data. It serves as a central hub, connecting various IoT devices and allowing them to share data with one another. The Internet of Things server is critical in collecting, processing, and storing the massive amounts of data generated by IoT devices.

Protocols such as MQTT and CoAP are used by IoT servers to facilitate device communication. The server typically receives real-time data from IoT devices, processes it, and stores it in a database. Analytics and machine learning capabilities may be included in IoT servers to provide insights into data collected by IoT devices.

  • AWS IoT Core: A cloud-based platform that provides a suite of tools and services for managing IoT devices and data.
  • Microsoft Azure IoT Hub: A cloud-based platform that enables secure communication and data exchange between IoT devices and the cloud.
  • Google Cloud IoT Core: A cloud-based platform that provides a scalable and secure infrastructure for managing IoT devices and data.
  • IBM Watson IoT Platform: A cloud-based platform that enables organizations to connect and manage IoT devices, as well as analyze and visualize the data generated by those devices.


Understanding the various types of servers is critical because they serve specific functions and are essential to the smooth operation of businesses, organizations, and individuals in the digital age. Choosing the right server can have a significant impact on a system’s or application’s performance, security, and reliability.

To summarize, servers are the foundation of our digital world, and understanding their various types and applications is critical for anyone working in the IT industry or using digital systems. Knowing the purpose and functionality of each server type allows one to make informed decisions about which server type to use for specific applications, ensuring optimal system performance and security

Frequently Asked Questions

What are 3 functions of a server?

  1. To store and manage data or resources for access by client computers or devices.
  2. To make communication and data exchange between client computers or devices easier.
  3. To provide client computers or devices connecting to the server with security, authentication, and access control.

What is the difference between a server and a service?

A server is a physical or virtual machine that makes resources or services available to other computers, whereas a service is a specific function or application that runs on a server to provide specific functionality, such as email, file storage, or database management. A server, in other words, is the machine that provides the service.

What are 4 major components of a server explain each?

  1. Processor: The processor, also known as the CPU, is the brain of the server that performs all the data processing and calculations.
  2. Memory (RAM): RAM is temporary storage that allows the server to quickly access and retrieve data.
  3. Storage: The storage component of a server can be in the form of hard drives or solid-state drives (SSDs) that store the server’s operating system, applications, and data.
  4. Network Interface: This component allows the server to connect to the network and communicate with other devices, either via wired or wireless connections.

What are the three main server types?

The three main server types are file servers, application servers, and database servers.

What is a server in networking?

A server is a computer or software program that provides resources or services to other computers, known as clients, over a network.

To top