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Client/Server Networks

Computer networks are basically of two types – client/server networks and peer-to-peer networks.

A client/server network is a network architecture where any one of the computer or processes on the network can act as either a server or a client. Although the term ‘client/server computing’ can be used to describe can be used to describe a network, it is really more than just that. The term can also be applied to describe software architecture.

The client/server software architecture was originally developed to allow users, through the use of client programs, share access to and interact with database applications, which acted as servers. Today server programs do more than just act as databases but also do some processing of data before it was passed on the client application. The amount of processing that is done various amongst server applications.


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The clients connect to the server applications which could reside on the same computer or another computer via a network using a well defined set of standard application program interfaces.

Some of the popular client/server applications can be found on the Internet and they include email programs, FTP programs and web browsers. Email client such as Microsoft Outlook and Pegasus allow users to download email messages from email servers such as Eudora Internet Mail Server and Microsoft Exchange Server. Internet browsers such as Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, Netscape and Opera operate on the same principles by connecting to the dedicated web servers and download web pages for viewing.

In term of computer networks, a server manages the resources used, as well as their accessibility by other computers on the network. The server should run on an operating system that allows other computers (clients) connect to it. Ideally this should be a network operating system (NOS) such as Windows NT Server, Windows 2000 Server, Linux, Novell Netware and OS/2.

Servers can also run operating systems such as Windows 95 and 98 and can be connected to by computers running the same operating system or even Window NT Server (however this is not recommended). Desktop PCs, minicomputers and some of the newer mainframes can act as servers in the client/server network.

The clients are usually of two types – fat and thin clients. Fat clients (usually PCs) tend to perform the bulk of processing of the data that is stored on the server, while with thin clients the bulk of the processing of the data is done by the server. Thin client-server technology (TCST) has received a lot of attention in healthcare, mainly due to the structure similarity with that of the mainframe architecture.

When compared to the peer-to-peer network, the advantages of the client/server networking are:

  • The servers are designed to handle multiple requests from clients.
  • Resources, security and files are centrally controlled which makes it easier to administer.
  • The network is more scalable as it allows for more users to be added as the network grows, unlike the peer-to-peer networks, which are usually restricted to a certain number of computers.
  • It is easier to implement new technologies with the client/server network.
  • It is possible to access multiple resources using a single client.

Its disadvantages include:

  • If the server goes down, it takes part or the whole network with it.
  • It is more expensive to install.
  • Needs to be maintained by staff with high IT skills.

 

 

QUICK LINKS
International Medical Informatics Association
American Medical Informatics Association
UK Health Informatics Society
Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society


Knowledge Center
Biomedical Informatics
Bioinformatics
Health Informatics
Healthcare Technologies
Software
Hardware
Networks
Hospital Information Systems
Computer Networks Topics
Client/Server Networks
Internet
Intranets and Extranets
Peer-to-Peer Networks
Thin Client Server Technology
Virtual Private Networks
Wireless Technology


Last Updated: 10 August 2006.



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