9. June 2023

PC vs. Server: Where are the technical differences?

If you look around on the market for computer components, you will find that there is also a server variant for pretty much all parts: Mainboard, CPU, hard drive – even for the graphics card there is an extravagant version with the “workstation” editions. Not entirely without reason, you can ask yourself here whether it’s even necessary to resort to server hardware, since it’s usually also more expensive.

It starts with the processor

It starts with the processori7 or Xeon? These are the two most powerful processors from Intel. The i7 is for the PC, the Xeon for the server (or workstation). In fact, the two processors hardly differ from each other in principle. They both handle the x86 and x86-64 instruction set, each with various extensions like SSE in different versions and much more. Even the configuration of the cores is the same in most cases. At least there is one small detail that is different: The memory controller.

The memory controller has not been located on the chipset for some time now, but on the processor for performance reasons. Server processors master the error correction ECC (Error Checking and Correction). This is intended to detect and correct errors during data transfer to the main memory. Desktop RAM that comes without this feature would simply pass on erroneous information and crash the system in most cases.

The mainboard has to be able to do it

Even if the chipset is now used for providing interfaces like PCI-Express, SATA or USB at best: The motherboard must also be able to use error correction. This is not only limited to the physical differences, the interfaces also have to be addressed accordingly. In general, it can be said that server mainboards are more generously equipped and are designed for much more performance than they are actually supposed to deliver. This is to achieve a certain longevity that is not necessary or simply doesn’t matter on the desktop. In this way, server manufacturers like IBM, Dell or HP are able to offer long-term support contracts and keep them as cost-effective as possible.

Special hard disks for servers

As a rule, a desktop PC is loaded much less than a server. For example, the hard disk is not used most of the time and can remain idle, while the server constantly has to process requests. In addition, a server attaches importance to availability, which is why redundancy is used – in this respect, several hard disks are used, which is usually not the case in a desktop PC. The manufacturer has to assume that something is constantly going on in server operation, so the hard disks will rotate 24 hours a day and the technology has to be designed for that. So you can say that at least the hard disks have to be adapted to the rugged requirements. Experience shows that common consumer goods often do not even survive the warranty period for “power users”, even though they are used in a “species-appropriate” manner.

Is server hardware necessary?

In short: Not in most cases. If you want to save money, you can do just as well with desktop components. Only you should worry about availability and pay attention to high-quality components. Mostly it is the power supply or the hard disk that fail prematurely. A RAID system helps with hard disks (whether software or hardware RAID is secondary). For the power supply, you should use a server power supply – it consists of two independent power supplies. In case of a defect, one can be replaced. As far as stability and computing power are concerned, normal components are also suitable.

Of course, hardware-based error correction has its appeal, especially when it comes to system availability. However, this addresses a problem that rarely occurs in practice. On the other hand, server components are a good choice when it comes to working out long-term maintenance contracts with guaranteed availability.

How to run a server

How to run a serverWhether it is the storage location of a website, a cloud or email service: The data is located on a data or mail server and is accessible via the Internet. Today, companies cannot do without their own servers. Users thus have the option of retrieving data on the move or storing it there. For private users, a server also offers a number of advantages. Whether as a central storage location for their home network devices, for web hosting, or as a mail, cloud or chat server: The reasons to set up a server are many. You certainly have the hardware for your own server at home. Which operating system and which software you need, and what the difference is between a dedicated and a vserver, you can read here.

A PC configured as a server provides you with data, services and, depending on the case, certain applications. Such a PC is accessed either through a home and corporate network or through the Internet. Whenever you call up the address of a website, retrieve a mail or access files in the company network: Your requests end up at a server. If you open a menu item here or download files, the server makes the corresponding resources available to you. The entire IT world is based on this system, known as the client-server model. Important: Servers must be fail-safe and have sufficient capacity. And regardless of whether you host a server at home for private chats or use it for commercial purposes: The server must ideally run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

How much does a server cost and how do I run it?

The first question is whether you run the server at home or rent a computer from a provider like Strato. Purchasing a home server, for example from HP, will cost you around 300-400 euros. There are also manufacturers that offer a transportable server solution. A virtual server can be good choice, for example from this http://www.peer-server.com/en/iozoom/ or this hoster: https://virmach.com/.

If you rent a server from a provider on the Internet, you pay a monthly fee. How much it costs depends on what functions you want the server to perform and how much performance you need. The larger the RAM, or main memory and hard disk space, the more expensive. Also, providers make you pay for the CPU speed and the amount of data transferred. In this case, the more power, the more expensive a server is. However, a web server on which you host your own homepage usually costs no more than 3-4 euros per month.

Note: By the way, renting does not mean that the provider’s hardware is located at your home, but in one of your provider’s data centers. Administration, i.e. access to the server, is done remotely. You make the settings either with a special program or by remote access to the server’s operating system.
Setting up and operating a server at home

Keep these 4 points in mind when setting up and running a server at home:

  1. A fast Internet connection. We recommend 20 – better still 50 Mbit per second, so that the loading time of your website is short.
  2. A suitable place to set up the server, such as a basement room.
  3. Energy-saving hardware, so that the electricity costs are not too high.
  4. Redundant hard disks, to prevent a failure of your offer.

What are the functions of a server and why do you need it?

As mentioned, a computer that acts as a server can perform countless tasks and services. Without a server PC, it would not be possible for several users to access the domain of a website in parallel. Also DNS (Domain Name Service), online shopping, retrieving mails or accessing cloud data is only possible with a server. Furthermore, there are servers that are aimed at PC gamers. If you want to play together with several friends, a game server, for example for Minecraft, is the solution. Users who are to have access to their server need the IP at which it can be reached, as well as a port number if necessary, in order to access certain services of the server.

Security comes first in any case. Especially if you run a server that contains sensitive files, a database or a website. An upstream firewall prevents attacks from hackers and data thieves An SSL certificate protects you and your users by providing an encrypted connection. This makes it impossible to intercept data that is transmitted when connecting to your server. These certificates are also available free of charge, for example from Let’s encrypt.