Get To Know Your Server

Take a look behind the scenes of web hosting to get up close and personal with your server.
You have most likely mastered the basic art of website design seeing as you have purchased a hosting account, created your flawless website and keep up with most of the latest SEO tricks and tips. But how much consideration do you have for what goes on beyond your CHI account? Following the many cords and cables back to the heart of the operation – the data center – we can see the wheels turning, a sight that few of our clients ever witness.
Unless you consider yourself something of a technical expert, you might not understand the what goes on behind the closed doors of a data center. In fact, even self-professed technical experts might not understand every nook and cranny of a server. While we can’t exactly dive in to the more complex concepts in a blog post, we can definitely scratch the surface of the basic components that are at work behind the scenes, keeping your data safe and available. Let’s get started…
The power behind the website:
Whether you have shared, dedicated or virtual private servers, they are all supported by a physical machine. The only difference between these primary types of web hosting is how much or how many parts of a machine you have access to. No matter what type of hosting you have, your data is tied to a physical machine in a data center somewhere in the world.
Our data centers take care of the power, cooling, network and security of your physical machine to ensure that it is up and running around the clock. Within each of these data centers are hundreds (if not thousands) of individual physical machines. Each belongs entirely or partly to a client of Midphase. Within these physical machines are basic components, much like your own personal computer, but with some extra features that can turn a Clark Kent machine into a Superman machine.
Inside the box:
Each physical machine is made up of hardware and software, and understanding the difference between these two is pretty easy. Hardware is any part of the machine that you can hold in your hand, and software is the data and applications that exist within the machine to create operating systems and functioning tools. The software you have implemented depends on your specific needs, but the hardware is usually similar in each machine, unless specifically designed differently.
The hardware within each machine is composed of the following six primary features:
This is the primary circuit board of a computer, and all other hardware within the machine is routed through this device. Think of the motherboard as the common room to which all other rooms are connected for communications and control of each of the attached portions. A motherboard has connecting ports, called slots, for keyboards, monitors and mice along with a few extra for anything else that might need to connect or expansions that might come later.
Basic Input/Output System (BIOS)
The BIOS gets to work as soon as you turn a machine on, as it contains all the program controls for the autonomic functions need to get the ball rolling. The name pretty much says it all: basic system for input and output functions between the computer’s operating system and other devices attached to the motherboard. The BIOS boots up and checks all the hardware attachments for functionality before it continues with the boot process. It will then manage the data flow between the operating system and all other hardware that is attached.
Random Access Memory (RAM)
This part of the machine is used to store data for your operating system and application programs. The machine’s processor will access this storage for quick access to important information. RAM is faster for read/write operations compared to other storage methods. Think of RAM as your server’s short term memory, whereas the hard disk drives that we will discuss later act as long term memory.
In a shared hosting environment RAM can run low quite quickly as each user allocates RAM for their own use. Alternately, in Virtual Private Servers each user is allocated their own portion of RAM so that each user has a specific amount of RAM available. Dedicated servers allow for much more available RAM due to the fact that the entire server is dedicated to you.
Central Processing Unit (CPU)
The term ‘central processing unit’, or CPU, encompasses processors and microprocessors. This unit contains all the logic circuitry within the machine; in other words it keeps all of the instructions and commands and will order the machine to perform certain tasks upon the user’s request. Think of the CPU as the ‘brains’ or the power behind the machine. The more CPU cores your machine has, the more it can ‘think’ and the faster all tasks will be performed.
Hard Disk Drives (HDD)
The hard disk drive is a moving part within the machine. It is the long term memory of the server. Think of it as something like a CD or DVD; an arm extends across a stack of metal disks to magnetically store data on the disk as it spins at high speeds. The larger the machine’s HDD, the more memory it will have for storing files and programs.
Solid State Drives (SSD)
An SSD is more like the USB sticks, or flash drives, that easily attach to our key chains. Solid State Drives allow us to store large amounts of data in a relatively small space without any moving parts. An SSD has an array of semiconductor memory organized as a disk drive, but without magnetic storage. SSDs use integrated circuits to store data that can quickly and easily be written or retrieved. This form of data storage is seen as the ‘next generation’ in server storage and is quickly gaining momentum across all hosting companies.
If you have any more questions about the inner workings of your server please take a look at this helpful technical glossary or have a chat with someone in our expert support team, available 24 hours a day and 365 days a year.