What's a Server?
Your XP computer can be server, and if you've followed along in previous chapters, it already is. How's that? In Chapter 8, "Print Management," I showed you how to make a printer available on the network. If you completed that chapter, then congratulations! You set up a print server.
When most people think of a server, they think of a big, powerful computing box or an operating system such as Windows Server 2003. But a server is not a piece of hardware. More accurately, it's a computer behavior. When a computer makes something available to network users, it acts as a server. For example, a Web server can be described as such not because of the manufacturer of the computer, but because it's making a Website available to network users.
Likewise, the term client also describes computer behavior. When a computer accesses resources that have been made available by a server, it is acting as a client of that server. Applications are also commonly described as client applications. For example, Outlook Express is a client application of an ISP's email server. As you might conclude, a single computer is likely to be a client in some operations and a server in others.
What's more, the designations of client and server are independent of the operating system. XP Home, XP Professional, Server 2003, Mac OSX, and Linux, to name just a few, are just the titles of operating systems. Each operating system has different server capabilities; some OSs can share out resources that other OSs cannot. Our focus here, naturally, is on the XP Home and Professional operating systems, which can serve as perfectly capable file and print servers.
XP system has this file sharing ability, by the way, because the Server service runs at startup time. You can verify and manage this default behavior by checking the Services that are running on your machine. To view this list:
The Server component actually makes shared resources available through a protocol called Server Message Blocks (SMBs), which is the "language" Windows computers speak to one another when they request and deliver shared files and printers. So what is the client component that speaks SMB? It's the Workstation service, which is also found in your list of services and also starts automatically when the computer boots up. The Workstation service is the software that allows access to files that have been made available through the Server service.