Russ Lipton Documents Radio ...

What Is A Server?

As you work with Radio, you will hear terms like the Community Server or even the RCS (Radio Community Server). Amazingly enough, those two are not the same.

(See What is the Difference Between the Community Server and the RCS? for partial enlightenment. I won't discuss the RCS further in this topic.)

But what is the 'Server' part of these things anyway?

Clients and Servers

Oversimplifying rather outrageously, a 'server' is a computer that can display-or-send files to another computer. That second computer is referred to as the 'client' of the server since it receives services from the ... server. What more can I say?

(Well, I could use the analogy that your lawyer or tax accountants are 'servers' to you as a 'client' but why spoil everything?)

The Community Server

The Community Server is a computer that Userland makes available to provide hard disk space for storing and displaying the upstreamed files from Radio users whose subscriptions are current. This is where your local weblog 'lives' on the Internet - that is, unless you decide to have it hosted on another server altogether.

(Oops, here we go again. Consult What Is Hosting? for help on this term.)

You Have A Server On Your Own Computer ...

There is really nothing magical about the notion of a server. In fact, your personal computer has server software on it. It's called 'Radio'.


Radio contains server software that communicates in various useful ways with Userland's external Community Server.

Billions and Billions Sold

Well, not quite. Let's not mix hamburgers and oranges quite yet.

Still, there are millions of servers connected to the Internet and, of course, hundreds of millions of other computing devices connected to the Internet as well - the majority of personal computers, for instance.

As of today, not many personal computers can behave simultaneously as either a client or a server. Still, I hope you realize now that 'being a server' is not a matter of the physical size of a machine but simply a question of whether one computer can provide certain services to other computers that are connected to it.

In other words, this is more of a software than a hardware issue.

(By the way, the reason your local Radio server is not hooked up directly to the Internet but is only used 'privately' between Userland and yourself is to protect you from potentially undesirable security problems that might result otherwise).

Big Servers

Certainly, some servers process enormous amounts of information. AOL (and other ISPs) maintain dozens and sometimes hundreds of servers to meet the needs of millions of users.

Likewise, corporations maintain powerful servers to meet the needs of their own employees. They often use 'firewalls' to protect their internal networks from intrusions. You could think of such a network as a 'mini-Internet' of its own - connected to other machines on the Internet through a carefully managed series of contractual agreements to share (or not share) information.

What makes servers 'big' is not their size per se but the sophistication of the software that connects servers to each other and/or to the Internet at large. In that sense, your personal Radio server is rather simple, by conscious design.

Last I looked, you and I could not be confused with IBM.

Over the coming years, we expect to see far more interweaving between servers-and-clients in the Radio style. Indeed, don't be surprised if Userland someday 'opens up' your local Radio server to give you the ability to provide services to other 'clients'.

Meanwhile, don't be intimidated by the terminology"

A server is just a computer that provides file-and-display services to other computers that have due authorization to receive and use such services.

© Copyright 2002 Russ Lipton. Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.
Last update: 06/09/2002; 3:51:35 PM.