Application processes run on servers. A single server may run multiple application processes at the same time. These processes wait until a client initiates communication with a request for information or other services.

Each application process running on the server is configured to use a port number, either by default or manually by a system administrator. An individual server cannot have two services assigned to the same port number within the same transport layer services. A host running a web server application and a file transfer application cannot have both configured to use the same port (for example, TCP port 8080). An active server application assigned to a specific port is considered to be open, which means that the transport layer accepts and processes segments addressed to that port. Any incoming client request addressed to the correct socket is accepted and the data is passed to the server application. There can be many simultaneous ports open on a server, one for each active server application. It is common for a server to provide more than one service at the same time, such as a web server and an FTP server.

One way to improve security on a server is to restrict server access to only those ports associated with the services and applications that should be accessible by authorized requestors.

Refer to Figures 1 through 5 to see the typical allocation of source and destination ports in TCP client/server operations.