Servers can be used for a whole host of applications, from individual projects to full-scale business-based enterprise operations. But understanding the technology behind servers and what each component does can help you learn what kind of server you may need for your enterprise operation.
This will be a brief guide that you can use to begin your educational journey and should be used as a point of reference for further research.
The Brain Of The Server
And in general, the brain of any computer is the central processing unit (or CPU for short). This is the component that performs the necessary calculations and mathematical operations that drive your computer’s programs.
It is responsible for all the operations of a computer on a day-to-day basis. For server machines, it can get a bit more complicated as some machines have the capacity to house two CPUs.
Some servers really do need this amount of sheer, raw processing power. Data centres that handle workloads like artificial intelligence applications or machine learning processes would require such a server.
More downscale are single CPU servers and for most SMB applications, they will suffice. But don’t be deceived, some of the higher range single CPU servers are still very powerful machines.
The Random Access Memory Chips
Random Access Memory chips (or RAM chips) are vital to overall server performance. Think of RAM as the ‘thinking space’ of your server. The more RAM you have, the more ‘space’ your computer will have for performing operations.
RAM is a temporary memory storage function that gives applications the computer for running space to store and quickly retrieve information.
There are different types of RAM, but nowadays you will most likely come across DDR3 and DDR4 RAM. DDR4 is the more up to date type of RAM and generally performs better than the older DDR3. It is important to match RAM speeds too. RAM speed is measured in MHz.
As an important note, if you install two RAM chips with different MHz speeds, the computer will run both chips at the lowest speed. This is why matching RAM speeds is recommended.
When it comes to setting up a server, storage is very important (more so than a regular computer). With regular computers, you can always install external hard drives to expand storage, even if that storage is a bit on the slower side.
With servers, however, having slower drives will greatly reduce the overall performance of the server. This means longer fetching times and, if you are running something like a website, longer load times.
Solid State Drives (or SSDs) are by far the preferred choice for running a server as well as Serial Attached SCSI drives (SAS drives). For SAS drives, a speed of 6 Gbps is fine for most applications.
That being said, if the internal transfer speed of the drive is over 750MBs then consider upscaling to a 12 Gbps drive. For bulk storage, the hard drive disks (HDDs) will suffice.
It is recommended to read more into the different drives to determine what one will suit your build accordingly.
The last important bit of tech to consider is a RAID controller. Without getting into too much detail, RAID controllers help your server by virtualizing drives into different groupings. This is to improve overall server performance.
It is also important to know that a hardware-based RAID controller isn’t always needed and that software-based RAID controllers (and hybrid controllers) do exist.
RAID controllers also exist with a classification system; RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5 & 6, and RAID 10. RAID 0 offers the least features and is the cheapest with RAID 10 being the most comprehensive and expensive. You can choose yours in accordance with your data centre.
There are other components to servers to consider, but these are the most important. However, companies like ETB tech have a custom server build option to help guide you through the process.
In any case, happy researching and building!