These are the largest and most powerful of computers. The biggest of these are sometimes called Supercomputers. Mainframes are usually only found in large corporate institutions, research organisations, government ministries and tertiary academic institutions.
They provide centralised processing and storage of data. They are usually used for large database systems such as the accounts of a municipality, patient information at a large hospital or student records at a university.
Because desktop (personal computers) and laptops are relatively cheap, many activities such as word processing, creation of spreadsheets and general office tasks are carried out using these types of computers. This frees the mainframe for processing large databases.
Networking, in which computers are connected together and are able to communicate, allows data to be downloaded from the mainframe to the personal computer or be uploaded from the personal computer to the mainframe. In effect, networking creates one large system comprising all the different computers linked together.
Capacity and speed: Mainframes have the largest capacity in terms of data storage and processing speed. The capacity of a modern mainframe can be hundreds or even thousands of times that of a modern personal computer.
Cost: Mainframes are also the most expensive machines in terms of both initial cost and maintenance. A mainframe can cost millions of Rands.
Typical users: Because the mainframe provides services to all sectors of a large corporation or institution, users can include systems analysts, programmers, database administrators, data capturers, accountants, accounts administrators.