What Is Client-Server Architecture?
Client-server architecture is a type of distributed computing architecture where a specific server manages the resources and services that one or more client computers use. A network delivers all requests and services. This is in comparison to other network communication architectures, such as peer-to-peer networks, where client systems access each other directly.
Comprehensive Overview of the Client-Server Model
In any client-server architecture system, the server is the producer, whereas the client is the consumer. The resources served could include nearly anything from access to SaaS applications, a networked printer, and the (typically) faster processors of the server to file storage and sharing.
The client-server model sees individual client systems using a common network connection to send requests to the server. The server then processes and fulfills the request, delivering it to the client system through the same network. However, the setup is rarely so simple. Most servers manage many client systems, and many client systems connect to several different servers, each specializing in one or more types of data or system resources.
This client-server model is at the heart of what we once called Web 2.0, where the internet became the most common network connecting servers with client systems.
Types of Client-Server Networks
Before you can ask what is client-server architecture, you should know that there is no one answer. After all, not all client-server networks are the same. The most common types of client-server architecture are:
- Domain Name Systems (DNS): used to route internet searches and browser activity to actual website addresses, the links between those web browsers, and the websites’ servers.
- File Transfer Protocol (FTP): used to transfer large files through networks.
Why Are Client-Server Networks Used?
Ultimately, Web 2.0-style client-server architecture works by administering applications and data in a central hub. This kind of client-server network allows data to be transmitted and shared relatively easily. It also allows the hub server to protect the integrity of the data and the safety of the network.
A client-server network can make sure that all data transmissions are encrypted (like the https links you already know online), and the server can provide multiple, redundant backup systems in cases of mechanical failure or spotty network connections. While this is slower and a little more effort than installing duplicates of all necessary hardware, data, and software for each end-user, it is thousands of times less expensive. The web would not be what it is today if we couldn’t rely on the scalability and efficiency of client-server network architecture.
How Does the Client-Server Model Work?
The core concept of client-server architecture is that of the remote workstation and the central data or process server. The server might be a big machine up in IT country, any of a million as-and-when-needed devices connected through the cloud, or a fenced-off section of a big commercial server farm a few miles from your office. If it all works correctly, you’ll never need to know where all that data and processing power is physically located.
For a client-server architecture example, consider the browser you are likely reading this article on – mobile or desktop. Your phone, desktop, laptop, or other device is the client in this model. You clicked on a link for this blog, and a DNS server found the most convenient location of a copy of the text and served you the page you’re reading.
Dedicated Servers and Client-Server Architecture
Dedicated server architecture allows one server for each type of application or data. This can be advantageous in terms of speed and troubleshooting network failures. It can also be more expensive – you have to keep several, somewhat separate servers connected and running, after all. For example, you might have a separate application server and email server.
Pros and Cons of the Client-Server Model
- Client-server networks are much easier to keep secure than peer-to-peer networks.
- The crash of one client computer or a loss of power in one location will not affect the rest of the network.
- A central network admin can oversee data back-ups and recovery – you only need one skilled tech.
- Anyone in control of the server can control (and restrict) the distribution of data and other resources across the network.
- Centralized stored data is typically more secure than distributed data.
- Specialization makes both servers and client systems faster.
- Networks can scale almost infinitely.
- Servers, server clouds, and server farms have higher maintenance, power, and upkeep requirements than typical stand-alone systems.
- Server networks generally require a technician on an on-call basis, at the least.
- More specialist knowledge is required to set up a client-server network than a peer-to-peer network.
- Client-server networks tend to be more expensive, overall.
- Failure of a server or loss of power to a server farm can wipe out the entire network unless expensive, redundant backups are used.
The client-server network model offers several advantages over peer-to-peer networking, including increased security and easier maintenance. However, it also has some disadvantages, such as higher costs for server upkeep. If you need help determining which type of network is right for your business, Liquid Web’s team of experts can help you decide.
Chika Ibeneme is a Community Support Agent at The Events Calendar. He received his BA in Computer Science in 2017 from Northern Caribbean University and has over 5 years of technical experience assisting customers and clients. You can find him working on various WordPress and Shopify projects.
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