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The underlying operating system for Microsoft Windows Small Business Server 2003 is Microsoft Windows Server 2003, the latest version of Microsoft’s mission-critical enterprise operating system and an appropriate choice for a small business suite of server products. Your business might be small compared with, say, Microsoft, but that doesn’t make it any less mission critical to you and your employees.
In this chapter, we provide some general information about servers, clients, and networks to give you the background you’ll need for later chapters.
If you’ve ever made a phone call or used a bank ATM, you’ve already experienced using a network. After all, a network is simply a collection of computers and peripheral devices that can share files and other resources. The connection can be a cable, a telephone line, or even a wireless channel. The Internet itself is a network—a global network made up of all the computers, hardware, and peripherals connected to it.
Your bank’s ATM consists of hardware and software connected to central computers that know, among other things, how much money you have in your account. When you call cross-country or just across town, telephone company software makes the connection from your phone to the phone you’re calling through multiple switching devices. It’s something we do every day without thinking about the complicated processes behind the scenes.
Both the telephone and the ATM networks are maintained by technicians and engineers who plan, set up, and maintain all the software and hardware; however, the assumption underlying Windows Small Business Server is that there isn’t anyone dedicated to maintaining the network and its operating system full time. Instead, Windows Small Business Server provides the Manage Your Server interface—a unified administrative interface designed to meet the needs of small businesses and simplify your choices.
A server is a computer that provides services. It’s really just that simple. The difficulty comes when people confuse the physical box that’s providing the service with the actual service. Any computer or device on a network can be a server for a particular service. A server doesn’t even need to be a computer in the traditional sense. For example, you might have a “print server” that is nothing more complicated than a device that’s connected to the network on one side and to a printer on the other. The device has a tiny little brain with just enough intelligence to understand when a particular network packet is intended for it, and to translate those packets into something that the printer can understand.
In Windows Small Business Server, a single computer acts as the physical server box, but that box provides a variety of services to the network beyond the usual file and print services. These services meet your core business needs, including authentication and security; e-mail and collaboration; an Internet connection; sharing; faxing; and, in the Windows Small Business Server 2003, Premium Edition, database services and a full featured firewall.
A client is anything on the network that avails itself of a server’s services. Clients are usually the other computers on the network. The client machines typically print to network printers, read e-mail, work on shared documents, connect to the Internet, and generally use services that aren’t available on their local machines. Clients aren’t usually as powerful as servers, but they’re perfectly capable computers on their own.
Another portion of a network is the actual network media that connects the various servers and clients to each other. This media includes both the network cards that are part of the server or client and the physical wire (or wireless connection) between them, and the various other components involved, such as hubs, routers, and switches. When all these media components work as they should, we pretty much forget about this portion of the network and take it for granted. But when a failure of one component of the network media occurs, we face troubleshooting and repairs that can be both frustrating and expensive—a good reason to buy only high-quality network components from vendors and dealers who support their products.
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