Home : Technical Terms : Client-Server Model Definition

Client-Server Model

The client-server model describes how a server provides resources and services to one or more clients. Examples of servers include web servers, mail servers, and file servers. Each of these servers provide resources to client devices, such as desktop computers, laptops, tablets, and smartphones. Most servers have a one-to-many relationship with clients, meaning a single server can provide resources to multiple clients at one time.

When a client requests a connection to a server, the server can either accept or reject the connection. If the connection is accepted, the server establishes and maintains a connection with the client over a specific protocol. For example, an email client may request an SMTP connection to a mail server in order to send a message. The SMTP application on the mail server will then request authentication from the client, such as the email address and password. If these credentials match an account on the mail server, the server will send the email to the intended recipient.

Online multiplayer gaming also uses the client-server model. One example is Blizzard's Battle.net service, which hosts online games for World of Warcraft, StarCraft, Overwatch, and others. When players open a Blizzard application, the game client automatically connects to a Battle.net server. Once players log in to Battle.net, they can see who else is online, chat with other players, and play matches with or against other gamers.

While Internet servers typically provide connections to multiple clients at a time, each physical machine can only handle so much traffic. Therefore, popular online services distribute clients across multiple physical servers, using a technique called distributed computing. In most cases, it does not matter which specific machine users are connected to, since the servers all provide the same service.

NOTE: The client-server model may be contrasted to the P2P model, in which clients connect directly to each other. In a P2P connection, there is no central server required, since each machine acts as both a client and a server.

Updated: June 17, 2016

Cite this definition:


TechTerms - The Tech Terms Computer Dictionary

This page contains a technical definition of Client-Server Model. It explains in computing terminology what Client-Server Model means and is one of many technical terms in the TechTerms dictionary.

All definitions on the TechTerms website are written to be technically accurate but also easy to understand. If you find this Client-Server Model definition to be helpful, you can reference it using the citation links above. If you think a term should be updated or added to the TechTerms dictionary, please email TechTerms!

Subscribe to the TechTerms Newsletter to get featured terms and quizzes right in your inbox. You can choose to receive either a daily or weekly email.

Sign up for the free TechTerms Newsletter

How often would you like to receive an email?

You can unsubscribe at any time.
Questions? Please contact us.