Servers use the same basic architecture or configuration as your desktop computer. However, a server has enhanced hardware features such as:
  • Multiple multi-core processors
  • Faster memory options for increased application performance
  • Multiple hard drives for increased data capacity and redundancy
  • Specialized networking cards — and more

Server Hardware Configuration

System board
The system board, also referred to as a "motherboard," is the computer's main circuit board to which all the other components of your server are connected.

The major components on the system board include the processor (or CPU), supporting circuitry called the chipset, memory, expansion slots, a hard drive controller and I/O (input/output) ports for devices, such as keyboards, mice and printers. Some system boards also include additional built-in features such as a graphics adapter, SCSI disk controller or a network interface.

The processor is the central brain of the server. The speed and number of processor in your server has an enormous impact on your server’s ability to support applications. Processors are continually changing and it can be difficult to determine which one is right for your application. You should consider three main features when selecting a processor:
Clock speeds
This is how fast the processor operates, usually measured in gigahertz (GHz). Generally, the faster the better, that is, servers with higher speed deliver better performance. This may translate into the ability to support more simultaneous Outlook® accounts, handle more web requests during peak demand periods or perform faster queries on your customer database. Buying a higher frequency processor improves current system performance but also helps ensure your server is able to handle future demand.
Core count
Core count is the number of physical processors within the processor itself. Today, most server CPUs have two or four cores. Multiple cores enable better multitasking on servers that will run multiple applications. For example, virus scans may run on one core, while data backup is handled by another independent core.

Cache size
Each processor has built-in, high-speed memory located directly on or close to the CPU. Larger cache size reduces the frequency that the CPU needs to retrieve data from the system memory that sits outside of the CPU. For most applications, this improves the responsiveness of the system and provides a better user experience. Typically, CPUs with higher core counts and frequency have larger cache sizes to provide optimal performance.

When you open a file or document, your server needs a place to temporarily keep track of that file. It uses high-speed specialized chips called random access memory or RAM. The actual file is saved to your hard drive once you "save" the file. RAM is designed for fast access as it quickly remembers where the file is stored in your permanent hard drive system.

A general rule of thumb is to add as much RAM as you can — the more RAM available, the more operations your server can handle at the same time, without having to access the hard drives (which are slower than the RAM on the system board).

Storage or hard drive system
Hard drives provide your server with a large library of all the files it can access. Think of it like an ever-expandable file cabinet. The size and type of hard drive systems depend on just how much data you need to store.

Internal storage
Most servers are configured with a very large hard drive much like the one on your desktop. However, server hard drives are specially designed for fast access times and the ability to add multiple hard drives internally.
Eventually, you may need to add more hard drives and attach external hard drive systems.


Redundant Array of Independent Disks (RAID) combines hard drives into one large, logical storage system that writes data across more than one disk for greater reliability. To use a RAID hard drive system, you will need to include a Dell™ PowerEdge™ Raid Controller (PERC) card, which manages the data writing across these disks.
Network controller
The network connection is one of the most important parts of any server. The network controller manages the inputs and traffic from the clients (other computers) in your office.

Power supply
Because a server usually has more devices than a typical desktop computer, it requires a larger power supply (300 watts is typical). If the server houses a large number of hard drives, it may require an even larger power supply.

Then you need to consider which form factor options will fit your needs — tower, rack or blade.
PowerEdge T610 Tower Server Power Supply Unit Detail

When do I need a server?