An Introduction to Client Server Networks

An Introduction to Client Server Networks
Page content

Structure of the Network Environment

Businesses use client-server networking especially when it comes to managing large data files. Their processing and distribution operations are large. In addition, it is not possible to do security with authentication, bandwidth control, and load balancing operations from server to server without a central management system.

In this new environment, there is a central point of management and there is an operation from the server level down to client level. Here the data goes to the client; it performs operations like database queries, or software updates, or data modifications. Then when the operations are complete the results go back up to the server. This makes data distribution possible. For example, a database may be modified by more than one individual and each individual can make changes at the client level, while the server contains the central database and it can be updated with current changes from a variety of client -users.

This minimizes the use of the server, and it allows other clients to perform their individual tasks without overly taxing the central server or network operations. Here the central site level manages the operations, while the actual operations are performed at the client level.

Advantages and Disadvantages


Start with the fact that it is centralized. It provides central control of the network resources, and computers, users, and passwords are under the control of the central system. Another feature is the ability to grow or have the flexibility of scalability features; this is important. Networks tend to grow by adding more users or more computers. The network servers have to be flexible. You can add new software to improve operations. You can also add additional hardware components to provide the capability to make the network load balanced where processing through several clients is possible. Network servers see network clients or the ability to interoperate. They work together. Finally, they are remotely accessible. Servers do not work in isolation and you can access them from a distance.

Now, Here are the Disadvantages.

For starters, they are expensive. Special software is required and a dedicated server must be isolated as the central controller. Part of the cost is the expertise required for maintenance. Expertise is required to run client-server networks. As they grow larger, they will require more staff. Finally, when the central server goes down the rest of the network will go down. There is a dependence on the central server that is not present with peer-to-peer.

Alternatives - What Came Before?

One question that comes to mind now, is why was the client server model necessary? What, if anything came before it?

One early model was the mainframe approach to computing. This was a central mainframe computer where terminal monitors were the workstations. These were attached to the central computer and the central mainframe did all of the processing. The end results were displayed to the user.

The other model was the Peer-2-Peer. It allows connections to take place between computers. Here they were attached to one another, and neither one had control over the other. However, they could share information.

Both models were important in their own right, but as computer hardware and software became more sophisticated and new ways to distribute operations developed, the new the client server model found an opening.

Another alternative is the thin client which you can read more about at PC vs. Thin Client.

Other Examples

Client Server networks are available to many users even without realizing it. When there is a connection to the Internet, the remote ISP is acting as a DHCP server which offers a network and IP address to the home computer network. Broadband routers from the ISP contain DHCP servers that provide IP addresses to DHCP clients (the home computer user). Also, when you have connections to other types of network servers found at home, including print servers and backup servers, you also have this structure.


Unlike peer-to-peer (P2P) networks, which are standalone computers connected with crossover cables or to a hub with straight-through cables, client-server networks take very different administration elements to work well. Staff, software, and a special server are part of the components to make them work.

Client-server networks, however, scale well, provide authentication features for security, and they are flexible in the use of software and operations that they provide. They allow the network to operate more efficiently. You can read more about this topic at Using Multiple Computers.


This post is part of the series: How Servers Work - Bringing Together Different Applications

Servers are the workhorses of a network. There are different kinds of servers,application, file, print; and there are specialized servers like finance, engineering, or database. In this series we look at different servers and their function.

  1. Client Server Operations: How They Perform in a Network Environment
  2. An Introduction to SQL Servers
  3. An Introduction to Database Servers