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There are only two options for the SharePoint 2010 installer: a standalone single-server instance or as part of a farm of servers. A server farm allows you to scale out a SharePoint system, as well as providing redundancy and load balancing.
Once SharePoint 2010 has been installed, a configuration wizard automates the setup process, creating SharePoint's content and configuration databases, as well as an initial site to get users started.
You can create your own SharePoint templates with SharePoint Designer 2010, but the bundled library of site templates gets you started quickly. It can be used to add a self-service option to keep the administrative load to a minimum.