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Usenet Server

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What Is A Usenet Server

My goal in this brief text is to describe what a Usenet server is and the basics of how one works. Those of you who already participate in Usenet may have never given a thought to how the underlying system of this useful part of the Internet works. If you have never participated in Usenet before, then perhaps my description will spark your curiosity enough for you to give it a try.

Essentially, a Usenet server is a file server. Its hardware is very similar to something you might find in your company’s server room. It is basically a very fast computer with lots of memory and tons of storage space. The main difference between a Usenet server and a typical file server is the type of data being served and the software they run to perform their respective tasks.

A Usenet server runs a specific software package that allows it to function as a Usenet server. Using a dedicated protocol or networking language called NNTP (Network News Transfer Protocol) a Usenet server collects and stores Usenet articles that have been sent to it from other Usenet servers that it shares information with (this is called peering). NNTP also provides a means for these articles to be read by Usenet clients (end users) and to be forwarded onto its upstream peers.

Articles On Usenet Servers

The sum total of the hundreds of thousands of articles that a Usenet server has locally stored is called its spool. As you can imagine when you have all of this data stored you need a logical and efficient way to keep track of it. Just as your local library has a card catalog to help you locate specifics books in the masses of available works that are available there, a Usenet server keeps track of its articles by means of an index file. When a new article comes in or is posted directly by a client, the Usenet server first makes a note in its index file so that it can quickly locate that article again in the future. This index file tells the server exactly where to look to retrieve that specific article.

Articles that are indexed on a Usenet server are available to be read by any clients who have access to it through use of a newsreader program. Think of a newsreader as a web browser for Usenet. These articles may also be sent upstream to other Usenet servers that wish to make them available to their clients. As I mentioned earlier, a Usenet server must have lots of drive space to store all of the articles they receive. Because of physical and monetary constraints the amount of space available for storing articles on a Usenet server is limited. When a server comes close to reaching its capacity it makes room for new articles by deleting some of its oldest articles. This process is called expiring. Once an article has expired it is no longer available to be read and the reference to that article is erased from the servers index file. As you can imagine, it is beneficial for a Usenet server to retain articles for as long as possible.

If you have never participated in Usenet before you might be asking yourself, where do I begin? Many larger ISPs offer their customers limited Usenet access using a server that they maintain themselves or to a server operated by another company that the ISP pays for access to. This is a good place for a Usenet beginner to start. It is also useful to note that many computers come with a newsreader per-installed. If yours didn’t there are several free packages available for download on shareware sites throughout the Internet. Once you have enjoyed Usenet for a while you might begin to notice that the server that your ISP offers is not the very good.

Choosing Right Usenet Provider

It may be slow, have a short retention period or may simply not have all the articles you are looking for. When you reach this point you can then upgrade to a dedicated Usenet provider. These companies’ sole purpose is to offer you a quality Usenet service. Because Usenet is all they do, their servers are typically far superior to those offered directly by an ISP. Such dedicated Usenet providers offer a variety of affordable subscription packages which offer services for basic as well as for very advanced Usenet customers.

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