A standard server and a computer as a server difference?

Posted on 2010-01-04
Last Modified: 2012-05-08
What is the difference between a standard server and a computer being used as a server?
Question by:mahmood_786
    LVL 11

    Expert Comment

    The operating system.  
    LVL 95

    Expert Comment

    by:Lee W, MVP
    The quality and capability of the server.  A standard computer TYPICALLY does not use ECC RAM, does not provide for redundancy like RAID and redundant power, and typically does not have the kind of warranty that any sane administrator wants on the server that runs a critical function of the company business.

    Author Comment


    I am not convinced as I think these things can  be applied to normal custom made pc as well. Also, why there is so much noise in a server bu not in a pc if it is used as a server (If you say cooling so why not the cooling required in a normal pc upto that level) but if a normal pc is used as a server they will it have problems in the wrong run?
    LVL 95

    Accepted Solution

    Are you trying to be convinced or just asking a question?

    You can do what you want.  People who work in IT for a long period of time recognize the value of a quality server and BUSINESS CLASS machines that are NOT home built.

    Couple of points:
    1.  Way back, I worked for a large company and they bought Gateway systems back when they were still Gateway 2000.  Frustrated over the number of machines we got that needed repair/replacement parts within the first 6 months of ownership, we switched to Dell.  We were dismayed when, after we ordered about 10 machines, we had similar problems with about half the systems within 6 months.  We complained to Dell - and Dell told us something to the effect "Well, you ordered Dimension systems - our business class systems are more thoroughly tested and the models don't change as often".  So we tried the OptiPlex systems.  WOW - what a difference.  Our failure rate when down to perhaps 1 in 20 from 8-10 in 20.  That meant our users spent more time working, our techs weren't needed as often in the field and could learn new things and implement other new technologies and it saved LOTS of money - a LOT more than the extra 5-10% the systems may have cost us.  And they came with 3 year warranties by default.  So if there was a problem, we got parts quickly and at no cost to us.  Now Dell (and most other manufacturers) offer 4 hour warranties Server systems.  And when a server that handles services for 10, 20, 100, 1000, or 10000 people goes down, that's a MAJOR problem.  So you want that warranty that is going to get it running as QUICKLY as possible AND you want that system to be as reliable as possible to begin with.  If your blind to the concept of Total Cost of Ownership, you're going to waste LOTS of money doing things cheaply and spending more - just not all at once (really, you get a better deal from a lease).

    Further, server hardware includes server class hard drives - these drives run FASTER and more reliably than a desktop and "home built" PC.  Your typical SATA drives aren't expected to be running - with hundreds of reads and writes, they will fail sooner than later.  SAS drives are designed to work with a constant full load.  I had a drive I used for HEAVY file sharing and I killed it with 6 months of CONSTANT use.  Lost everything on the drive.  

    Finally, there's a level of sanity gained when working with ONE vendor.  Knowing I can call Dell and explain a problem I'm having with my RAID config and KNOWING that Dell won't tell me "well, it's not our disk" or "it's not our controller" and leave me hanging with no solution is great - BOTH the disk and controller are dell provided so they HAVE to help solve the problem and replace one or both components (I've had this happen before).

    ALL systems WILL fail.  It's not a question of IF, but a question of when.  You may get lucky.  You may run a cheap, home built system for a small network and be fine and never have actually needed the quality/support a major vendor and an "appropriate" system would provide.  But by buying name brand appropriate class systems, you REDUCE THE CHANCES of problems.  (Remember EVERYTHING will fail - and you COULD buy a server and be that one out of twenty that fails on opening or within 6 months... but I'll 95% chance of a stable system over the dice roll that is a home built system.

    Author Closing Comment

    well done!

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