There are rackmount servers, blade servers, storage that acts like a server, PCs that do server things, and servers that look like PCs. Basically, servers can be a bit confusing, but today let’s focus on an easy one: Tower Servers, a server inside of a PC-like chassis.
What is the difference between servers and PCs?
In order to understand why someone might want to use a tower server, you should know the difference between servers and PCs.
To generalize, data on a server is meant to be accessed from multiple locations on a local or wide network. This means that if your parents kept their family photos on a home server, you would be able to access those photos remotely if connected to their network. They could also give you special permission to access it from your own home.
A PC can do essentially the same thing, but likely doesn’t have the hardware capabilities, storage, throughput or processing power to do this on a large scale and be available 24/7 with no downtime.
So, tower servers are servers that look like PCs, but are more capable of distributing data on a larger scale. This leads to the next question – Who would want that?
Who would prefer using a tower server?
To preface, a majority of the time tower servers are built to be rack mounted as well. This means when someone purchases a tower server, they might not be intending to keep it on a desk in the long term.
That’s what the real benefit is – putting it on a desk. If you opt to get a rackmount server, you also have to purchase a rack to put it in. There are accessories that turn rackmount servers into tower servers, but are compatible with a limited U height.
So if you want to place a server by itself in an upright position, tower servers are intended to do exactly that. They also are designed to look nice while standing up, unlike improvised rack-to-tower setups.
A rackmount server would be more tempting to someone who either has additional IT hardware that is rack mounted or if they would like to combine power from multiple servers. Rackmount servers are stacked on top of each other in a rack, which makes it easier to connect them together and take advantage of a more powerful network.
Are tower servers as powerful as rackmount servers?
Tower servers can be specced to have the same components as any rackmount server. The most powerful tower servers are much larger than their PC counterparts as they can fit multiple processors, more RAM sticks, more hard drives, have more powerful fans and of course, a large motherboard to support all of these things.
On the other hand, not being in a rack means they are less likely to be connected to other servers. When they are alone, they are unable to take advantage of applications that can delegate different tasks to different servers.
What is the difference between a tower server and PC?
A tower server is simply a server inside of a PC-like chassis.
Here are some ways in which PCs and tower servers are different:
- Servers tend to have hot-swappable drives. This means that while tower servers look like PCs, there might be a hidden compartment for inserting and removing drives.
- Servers often use more expensive, longer lasting parts. They may or may not be more powerful depending on what type of software is being benchmarked.
- Servers use redundant power supplies and hard drives. If one or the other fails, there will be backups to ensure no downtime.
- You may find less I/O on a tower server, meaning connections like HDMI and USB. As a trade-off, they might have more ethernet ports for networking needs.
And ways they are similar:
- If you find an old tower server and are wondering if you can use it as a personal computer, the answer is yes. They can run Windows, Linux, and even Mac OS. (if you try hard enough)
- They both can play video games, run word processors or anything that you would on a typical computer.
At the end of the day, servers shine when they are distributing and protecting data. They also are great for 24/7 computing like running AI software, trading bots, or performing scientific research.