By John Aaron, Freelance Journalist

Say your business is in line to replace its server hardware – you’ve been operating on some outdated equipment and you’re in need of an upgrade. What’s the first step to take?

Familiarity with desktop computer hardware is a good start. Server hardware shares a lot of the same core components like memory, capacity and CPUs. But the similarities end there – server components are more specialized because they have a more intensive, dedicated function than a typical desktop does.

Servers are generally utilized to manage a network’s resources and provide services to the users in that network. The type of server hardware may depend on the dedicated service that server provides, as some hardware is better suited for certain purposes.

Tower servers, rack servers, blade servers and mainframes each provide different advantages – keep reading for the information to measure which one is best suited for your organization’s day-to-day operations.

Rack Servers

Just as the title implies, rack servers are designed to be mounted in a modular rack design for efficient management and storage. Rack servers are very versatile in their ability to manage different tasks and workloads, and they can maximize utility in one dedicated location.

A major advantage to rack servers is the ease with which server components can be removed if necessary. Some businesses may desire a more modular design for ease of replacement – especially if that business is running a large operation with servers that may become defunct at different times.

Because rack server bays are generally stacked tightly, efficient cooling can be a challenge. A dedicated cooling system is necessary to ensure no functionality is lost from overheating. Rack servers require a fair amount of cabling, which can be an added challenge – especially in smaller spaces.

Blade Servers

Blade servers are chassis-based servers similar to rack servers, but the more stripped-down design allows for even more space efficiency than rack servers, among other key advantages.

These server systems are comprised of individual server “blades”, thin dedicated server boards that each have individual processing power, memory capacity and a simple modular design that allows for easy configurability.

Blade servers offer more processing power and ease of cable management than rack servers, but these advantages come with a larger price tag. If money isn’t a concern so much as efficiency and performance is, then blade servers are a very good option.

Tower Servers

Tower servers are singular computers with the dedicated purpose of a server – they are housed in a standalone upright cabinet, or “tower”, much like the tower of a personal desktop computer.

Towers provide their own unique advantages. Because of the low interior component density, they are easier to cool than rack or blade servers. The encased design allows room for more hardware or drive installation if necessary.

While blade servers and rack servers feature neat, modular rack designs, tower servers are much less space efficient. A set of tower servers will be much heavier and space-consuming than their thinner counterparts. Cable management can be complicated and bulky, and the air cooling from tower fans can be noisy.


A mainframe is a large-scale computer with a sophisticated design and high workload capacity. Mainframes are large machines – about the size of a refrigerator or a stacked washer and dryer. They feature many swappable components, and are highly configurable.

Mainframes are technically separated categorically from normal data center servers, as they generally run on their own unique operating systems and have a far larger performance capacity.

Generally, mainframes are utilized by industries with high data volume and a necessity for reliable and secure computing. Mainframe servers are far more expensive than any other servers, but they are unrivaled in their resiliency and sheer computing power.

Because of their size and complexity, mainframe servers will require consistent upkeep from a dedicated server technician. Such maintenance costs may deter an organization, so it is important to assess the scale of your operations to determine if a mainframe server will be beneficial.

Maintenance & Management Are Key

Server hardware maintenance is a key factor to ensuring an efficient and consistent server system. As was mentioned in this article, some server designs are more modular than others, and are easier to maintenance.

Improperly managed server systems can open up an organization to a host of concerns, ranging from inconvenience and work time delays to outright data security breaches. Server lifespans can also be cut short or left vulnerable by improper cable management or insufficient cooling systems.

An organization should have a plan in place for handling these outdated or damaged assets. If a server cannot be salvaged, e-waste recycling can address data liability concerns and free open space for new assets.

With the proper choice of server and diligent, consistent server management, an organization increases its data efficiency, security and reliability.

About the Author: John Aaron is a freelance journalist and content creator. His blogging expertise is mainly focused on SEO and content marketing, but he is always looking to immerse himself in new topics and areas of interest. John is based out of Southern California, where he lives with his girlfriend and spends his free time playing music.