Cloud Server – What is Cloud Server?
A cloud server, also known as a virtual server, is a virtualized compute resource that is accessed remotely over the internet. Instead of purchasing physical hardware, users can provision cloud servers on-demand through a cloud services provider and only pay for the computing resources they actually use. With the cloud model, companies can deploy servers quickly, scale server capacity up and down as needed, and avoid large upfront investments on hardware.
How Cloud Servers Work?
Cloud servers run on virtualized hardware in the provider’s data centers alongside servers supporting other customers. Each cloud server is fully isolated and secure, with dedicated CPU, memory, storage, and networking resources allocated to it. Users access these virtualized compute resources remotely over the internet. Popular cloud server use cases include hosting websites and web apps, running business software, supporting streaming and gaming services, serving as backup solutions, and more.
Key characteristics of cloud servers include:
- Self-Service Provisioning: Users can deploy a server with just a few clicks in a matter of minutes without interacting with IT support. This self-service model allows fast deployment.
- Pay as you Go Billing: Usage of cloud servers is billed by the second or by hour, depending on provider. This pay-go model lets users flexibly scale resource usage up or down.
- Scalability: Cloud server capacity can be scaled dynamically through changing the allocated resources like RAM, CPU cores, and storage. This on-demand scalability provides flexibility.
- High Availability: Cloud providers deploy servers across multiple isolated data centers and availability zones. Advanced failover mechanisms ensure continuous uptime.
Difference Between Cloud Server and Traditional Server
Cloud servers differ from traditional physical servers in a number of key areas:
|Runs on shared, virtualized server hardware managed by provider
|Dedicated physical server box purchased and hosted on premise
|No hardware purchase, only pay for actual usage
|Large upfront investment in purchasing server hardware
|Minimal effort as hardware maintenance is managed by provider
|Considerable time spent maintaining server hardware onsite
|Server resources like RAM and storage can be scaled dynamically
|Scaling limited by fixed hardware components in server box
|Can be provisioned and deployed in minutes
|Procurement and setup of physical server takes weeks or longer
|Spread across multiple redundant data centers
|Single box represents single point of failure
While the cloud model offers significant advantages in agility and cost savings, physical servers may still be preferred when onsite hardware control, data security regulations, or specialized hardware are required.
Pros of Cloud Servers
There are many compelling reasons why companies large and small choose to deploy servers in the cloud:
The pay-as-you-go billing model of cloud servers means sizable cost reductions compared to purchasing physical hardware. There is no large upfront capital expenditure on server equipment. Users pay only for the computing capacity used, and can scale back usage when demand declines to save further.
With cloud servers, once signed up with a provider, users can deploy a new server with the needed compute resources in as little as 60 seconds. This self-service model frees users from long hardware procurement lead times.
Cloud servers allow flexible and near real-time scaling of resources like RAM, CPU cores, and SSD storage to precisely match application demands. With physical servers, scaling capacity would require time consuming hardware upgrades.
Leading cloud providers leverage redundant servers across multiple isolated data centers to offer very high levels of uptime for cloud servers, often reaching 99.99%. Advanced continuity protections exceed what typical organizations could support on premise.
With cloud servers, the provider takes care of all hardware maintenance, OS patches, optimizations, installations, and component swaps. Users avoid considerable operational overhead.
Cons of Cloud Servers
While many decide to shift server infrastructure to the cloud, there are still downsides to the approach that should be considered:
While cloud eliminates large upfront server investments, the monthly costs from consistent server usage can build up over time. Users should routinely optimize cloud resource utilization to minimize expenses.
Organizations become dependent on their cloud vendor to maintain reliable data center operations. An outage at the vendor would impact all cloud servers. Multi-cloud approaches can help mitigate concentration risk.
Accessing applications hosted on cloud servers over the public internet introduces slightly more latency than typical LAN access to on premise servers. For some ultra low-latency applications, an on premise server may work best.
Heavily regulated industries like healthcare and finance may be limited in the ability to use public cloud servers due to strict data security and sovereignty mandates. Private or hybrid cloud options should be explored instead.
Cloud-based virtual servers may lack support for niche hardware features like GPU add-in cards that customized physical servers could accommodate. Workarounds like GPU instances should be evaluated.
Key Features of Cloud Servers
One of the prime advantages of the cloud server model is easy scalability. Cloud servers provide on-demand access to a vast pool of virtualized compute resources. When application performance requirements increase, users can instantly allocate additional RAM, CPU power, and SSD storage to their servers.
Similarly, cloud servers can be scaled down during periods of decreased traffic, minimizing expenses for resources no longer needed. With physical servers, rapidly adjusting capacity levels to match usage patterns would be nearly impossible.
Users have extensive flexibility with cloud server deployments. Need massive parallel compute power for a short-term project? Spin up a high CPU instance, use it, then terminate it when finished. Have sporadic traffic spikes? Automatically scale server capacity up/down based on demand. Cloud servers provide more options to tailor usage to workflow needs.
Users also have flexibility in choice of underlying hardware components, operating systems, and installed applications when provisioning cloud servers. This allows matching server configurations directly to the target workload.
The ability to only pay for the actual cloud server usage required, down to the minute, instead of purchasing perpetual hardware translates into sizable cost reductions. Eliminating large capital expenditures to procure physical servers and reducing overall compute resource waste means organizations can redirect budgets to other priorities.
Studies show that cloud servers can provide over 30% better economics compared to traditional servers. These cost efficiencies will only improve as cloud providers leverage economies of immense scale.
Leading cloud providers offer very compelling reliability levels given massive investments in resilient data center infrastructure. Redundant power, cooling, networking – alongside advanced server failover mechanisms – mean cloud server uptimes can exceed 99.99%.
Such highly resilient platform architectures would be financially prohibitive for a single company to replicate on their own. Cloud reliably keeps mission critical workloads running through outages.
While some assume on-premise servers under direct control may be more secure, leading cloud providers implement cutting-edge protections like encrypted data transit/storage, robust access controls and micro-segmentation, automated threat analysis, and hardened hypervisor layers that customers typically struggle matching. Compliance with stringent security standards like FedRAMP, HIPAA demonstrate how enterprise cloud safeguards data. Users avoid considerable effort attempting to self-manage advanced security.
Once provisioned, cloud servers can be conveniently accessed 24/7 from anywhere simply via the internet. Software like remote desktop protocols and SSH facilitate connecting in to administer servers from any laptop or mobile device. This accessibility improves user productivity.
Building remote access capabilities to on-premise servers would require deploying a VPN or similar solution. Cloud servers simplify secure remote server management – users just need internet connectivity.
For a large range of computing workloads from web apps to analytics systems, cloud servers represent the future. The automation, scalability, resilience, and cost efficiencies of cloud servers will continue convincing more enterprises to shift server infrastructure out of private data centers into the cloud computer virus.
While factors like data sovereignty or niche hardware needs may mandate keeping some workloads on physical severs, the majority of servers will inevitably run in cloud environments as capabilities mature. Organizations should pro-actively evaluate cloud migration plans to prepare for the approaching reality of primarily cloud-hosted IT infrastructure.
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