How Does a Network Server Work?

By Jacquelyn Jeanty


Over the years, computer usage has become increasingly interactive and so has the technology used to coordinate them. Network servers are computers--or software applications--that coordinate the tasks for a group of computers. This group is made up of client computers that are assigned to different sectors of the network by the server computer. Network assignments can include printer, email and fax usage where each device is assigned a certain set of users. The benefit in using a network is that it requires fewer devices per user as opposed to each user having her own device. Multiple tasks can be handled by a server computer, and sometimes the server itself will share its resources with its clients. This requires a large storage capacity, as well as faster processing speeds. The size of the network will determine what capabilities will be needed by the server.


Network servers make use of communication ports to assign client users to devices. Connections are made through a local area network (LAN) in a business office setting. Different assignment tasks are handled by specific network servers. For example, within a Microsoft-run network, printer tasks will be coordinated by a printer server whereas email and fax functions will be handled by an email or fax server. All this can be coordinated by one or more computers. Device assignments can be sorted and rearranged, according to whatever needs a business may have. One additional benefit to this type of setup is it provides a security measure in terms of who can and cannot access a particular device or feature within the network. Yet another area where servers are used is on the Internet. These are known as web servers. As the Internet is a virtual medium, coordinating tasks for online users requires a different approach.

Web Servers

Internet service providers, hosting companies and browser applications are all examples of web servers in action. Internet service providers are like network coordinators who work together in sending and receiving the web page requests made by online users every day. Each one manages and coordinates usage requests made both inside and outside of the subscriber base. On the other hand, hosting companies manage web usage by renting out domain spaces to web users. These companies coordinate website assignments, as well as how much space each website will take up. Browser applications, like Firefox and Internet Explorer, are simply software programs that handle user requests and translate web data into a user-friendly form. Browser applications act as the highways on which user information requests are sent. They do this through the use of programming languages, and location protocols to receive, coordinate and fulfill user requests.