IT for Beginners: Workstations & Servers

Almost everyone interacts with workstations or some other type of computerized device every day. Whether you’re searching for information, purchasing tickets, booking a flight, or watching TV, there’s a computer chip in your device somewhere. but when it comes to computers and technology, many don’t understand the difference between a desktop computer and a server, a file browser and a web browser, or a website and a Facebook page. This new series of short posts helps to iron out some of that confusion and fill in those knowledge gaps.

And we’ll start with computers themselves.

So what is the difference between and workstation and a server?

Quite simple really:

  • In an office environment, workstations provide a platform for you to do your work, while servers provide the resources (data, applications, and communications) that allow you to access your work get your work done. Its kind off like your workshop, where your bench is equivalent to the workstation and the toolbox, wood pile, and parts drawers are equivalent to resources ‘served’ to you by the server.
  • In the home environment, your laptop or tablet, or other home computer lets you chat to your friends on social media, watch videos, or browse the internet, while the web servers provide the data and communications to allow you to do that.
  • Servers themselves can operate as an individual server (providing all services and sources for a small business for instance), can be dedicated to a single service or application (such as a mail or file server), or can be combined into server clusters or farms (for large-scale data-centers or web servers for example).

Lets go into each in a bit more detail.


Desktop Workstations

This is your typical, non-portable desktop computer, and typically, its either a Windows or an Apple computer of some kind.


Laptops are of course the portable cousins of desktop computers. Of similar or equal power, they are self contained, fully-fledged Windows or Apple computer systems.

Thin Clients

These are a little different. Thin clients are computer systems that connect to, and use, the network applications and data of a server based system. They don’t contain the drive space or power to run applications of process data themselves as they use the resources of the server or server farm to do so.


Web Servers

Web servers run the internet. Whether they’re DNS servers, website or application host servers, social media servers, or data centers, they are some kind of web server. And without them, none of your social media, sharing, file uploads and downloads, Googling, and website browsing would be possible.

File Servers

In an office environment, file servers serve files and data to connected desktop or laptop computers that use their own applications and resources to process and work with those files and data. Good examples of applications that can access file servers for data include include MS Outlook, Adobe Creative Cloud, and various CRM systems.

Application Servers

In contrast to File Servers, Application Servers serve programs, and data too in some cases. This is where thin clients come in, connecting to application servers in order to get work done. Other client computers can also connect to Application Servers. Good examples would be CRM systems, or high-end project management systems.

Mail Servers

Mail Servers, such as Microsoft Exchange, receive, store, send, and manage email. In a corporate environment, programs like Apple Mail and MS Outlook can connect to a mail server in order to send, receive, and manage a user’s email and communications.

Operating Systems: Apple verses Windows verses Linux Workstations

When it comes to client computer systems, there are three main Operating Systems: MacOS, MS Windows, and Linux. A computer’s operating system is core to the usefulness of a computer system. Without an operating system (OS) of some kind, all of the hardware – the motherboard, hard drives, processors, and interfaces – would be useless. The OS allows human interaction with the components of a computer system, manages system resources, and runs programs that allow you to work and communicate.

Windows is by far the most-used desktop OS in the world, and offers the most flexibility and ease-of-use, and the options of hardware and software are virtually endless.

MacOS computers account for less than 10% of the market, but Apple computer systems occupy key niche markets, such as the graphics, education, and medical industries. The means they’re always going to around, in constant development, and will always be in demand.

Linux OS is an open-source product with multiple versions available from different companies around the world. less than 2% of desktop computers run Linux, but many servers run Linux as its robust, highly customizable, and free.

Which operating system and computer is right for you depends greatly on your environment. If you’re a graphics professional, you may want to choose Apple. If you work in an office environment, then Windows is the computer of choice. For help on choosing the right system, talk to TechPoint.

Phones and Tablets: Where do they fit in?

Mobile phones and tablet computers don’t generally have the power or functionality for effective office work, but they can connect to network resources like Mail Servers, can perform some word processing and graphic work if need be, and can obviously work online via web browser or app. This said, for most professional work, its best to use a desktop or laptop computer.

For more info on computer systems and servers, talk to TechPoint.

Most people interact with some kind of tech device every day, but when it comes to computers many don't know the difference between workstations and servers. This aims to fill in that knowledge gap.

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