Client Server Network Primer (A003/N003)

client server network

The client server network model allows for rapid growth and simple, convenient management thanks to centralized administration from the server.

As you can see, this is a combined post because the concepts are relevant to networking and system administration. Because the client server network setup is so common, knowledge of this concept is fundamental to both areas.

Peer to Peer vs. Client Server Network

Unlike a peer to peer network, the hosts in a client server network are not directly connected to one another. Instead, we connect the hosts to a server. The term host simply refers to a computer, while a client is a host attached to a server. Think about your job — in a client server network, you are the server providing services to your customer. In networking, the client is like a customer.

A server gets its name because it provides services to clients. Many tasks can be considered services. These include file sharing, printing, DNS, DHCP, time synchronization, and more. Any client connected to a server can take advantage of the services offered.

Users may create files on different machines, but the server will store all of those files. Employees that need to print will connect to the server with the attached printer. At the same time, workstations might use that server for DHCP. Don’t worry if you’re not sure what DHCP means yet — for now, I’m  just using it as an example of a service.

Now that you understand what servers do, think about a peer to peer network. When we connect hosts directly, each one can act as both a client and a server. We will connect to computer with the largest hard drive to save files. In addition, clients will connect to the host with the printer attached when they need hard copies. Again, both printing and file sharing are services. Standalone servers and clients in a peer to peer network probably act the same way.

Here are some advantages and disadvantages of the client server network model:

Client Server Network Advantages

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Centralization
Since all clients connect to one server, management is easier and takes less time. The administrator can apply updates to all clients from the server. In addition, user accounts can be managed from the server. We can also configure security settings on the server and apply them to just once to all clients. There is no need to repeat actions on any host.

Scalability
The ability to apply updates and other settings to all connected clients means it doesn’t matter how many there are. Clients connect to the server as they join the network. As the business grows, the number of machines will increase. The server still manages all new clients. This means that if I send an update from the server, it doesn’t matter if there are 10 clients connected or a thousand.

Client Server Network Disadvantages

Cost
Servers are much more expensive than client computers. The possibility of scaling to large numbers means greater processing power, storage and memory are required. In addition, servers require their own version of the operating system, which is generally much more expensive than a standard desktop OS. In medium to large organizations, there is no choice because only a server can meet the needs of the employees.

Single point of failure
Since all clients connect to one server, they cannot to function if the server goes down. Think of a web server, for example — if my web server for 360SecurityLessons.com goes down, you would not be able to access this site anymore.

It isn’t a big deal for me because my livelihood does not depend on this site, but outages affect large companies like Amazon or eBay who make all of their money online.
These gigantic companies have multiple servers and do what they can to prevent this, but sometimes servers simply fail or attackers intentionally bring them down.

That’s it for this lesson. Now you understand how a client server network differs from a peer to peer network. You should also know when investing would be a good idea. Think about your company’s future needs and potential for growth. You may not need a server

Next, I’ll cover the OSI model, an easy way for IT professionals to communicate about network activity.