The client–server model of computing is a distributed application structure that partitions tasks or workloads between the providers of a resource or service, called servers, and service requesters, called clients. Often clients and servers communicate over a computer network on separate hardware, but both client and server may reside in the same system. A server host runs one or more server programs which share their resources with clients. A client does not share any of its resources, but requests a server’s content or service function. Clients therefore initiate communication sessions with servers which await incoming requests.
Examples of computer applications that use the client–server model are Email, network printing, and the World Wide Web.
The Client-server characteristic describes the relationship of cooperating programs in an application. The server component provides a function or service to one or many clients, which initiate requests for such services.
Servers are classified by the services they provide. For instance, a web server serves web pages and a file server serves computer files. A shared resource may be any of the server computer’s software and electronic components, from programs and data to processors and storage devices. The sharing of resources of a server constitutes a service.
Whether a computer is a client, a server, or both, is determined by the nature of the application that requires the service functions. For example, a single computer can run web server and file server software at the same time to serve different data to clients making different kinds of requests. Client software can also communicate with server software within the same computer. Communication between servers, such as to synchronize data, is sometimes called inter-server or server-to-server communication.