For example, servers may incorporate “industrial-strength” mechanical components such as disk drives and computer fans that provide very high reliability and performance at a correspondingly high price. Aesthetic considerations are ignored, since most servers operate in unattended computer rooms and are only visited for maintenance or repair purposes. Although servers usually require large amounts of disk space, smaller disk drives may still be used in a trade-off of capacity vs. reliability.
The major difference between servers and desktop computers is not in the hardware but in the software. Servers often run operating systems that are designed specifically for use in servers. They also run special applications that are designed specifically to carry out server tasks.
The most popular operating systems for servers—such as FreeBSD, Solaris, and Linux—are derived from or similar to the UNIX operating system. UNIX was originally a minicomputer operating system, and as servers gradually replaced traditional minicomputers, UNIX was a logical and efficient choice of operating system for the servers. However, the market share of the Windows Server product line has been growing steadily, and has become the new top server operating system in revenue from sales, as of 2005. However UNIX-based systems, many of which are free, are more popular.
Any computer or device serving out applications or services can technically be called a server. In an office or enterprise environment, the network server is easy to identify. A DSL/Cable router is a server as it provides a computer with application services such as assigning an IP address (via Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol, DHCP), and Network Address Translation (NAT) services which is the firewall that protects a computer from the internet.