What is a cloud server and how does it work

A cloud server is a service based on cloud technologies, which allows using the provider’s resources. High-performance physical equipment located in the data center is "virtualized" and the user receives the pool of resources necessary for their tasks.

The user can choose and change all the server parameters – the number of CPUs, RAM capacity, disk capacity, their type, GPU cards, etc. Parameters changes are done in the control panel and they do not require stopping the server, because resources are allocated from the available pool. Splitting the capacity of the equipment allows using only the amount of resources needed, thereby reducing its operating costs.

Unlike a physical server or a rented one, a cloud server is provided by a third party. The user interacts only with the virtual part. He may well not know where the provider's equipment is physically located, and how computing tasks are performed.

Cloud vs. VPS/VDS 

There is a common stereotype that the cloud, VPS, VDS mean the same, they just have different names. This is not true. It is important to understand how cloud server differs from VPS/VDS

VDS (Virtual Dedicated Server) and VPS (Virtual Private Server) are the same things: a virtual environment with dedicated CPU time, disk space, and RAM. It is a kind of emulator of a physical computer with the possibility to install OS and various software on it. The entire processing power and RAM is distributed between all users of VPS/VDS. That is, the user gets a familiar server with rigidly fixed parameters, but virtual.

For small workloads, this is fine. But for more complex tasks, it is better to use the cloud because it can be scaled up quickly. And in the case of VPS/VDS, you need to order equipment from the provider again, configure it, etc.

VPS/VDS is the forerunner of modern cloud platforms. Clouds are more flexible and you can use them in different ways.


How does a cloud server work

A cloud server is used for different tasks. It is possible to build on its platform different service models. Providers offer cloud services based on three models:

IaaS – (Infrastructure-as-a-Service). Infrastructure includes computing resources: virtual servers, storage, networks. Users get a kind of virtual computer on which they can install any operating systems, software, applications. The equipment is configured and maintained by the provider. 

PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service). This is a preconfigured ready-made solution for a specific typical task. For example, for databases or machine learning in the cloud. All the tools for the specific task are already available; you just need to configure them to your needs. Access to the operating system and low-level settings is not included.

SaaS (Software-as-a-Service). A user gets a preconfigured software for specific tasks. It can be corporate mail, backup systems, virtual desktops. The use of SaaS allows you to refuse from developing and maintaining your solutions.

Other kinds of services include DRaaS (Disaster-Recovery-as-a-Service), DBaaS (Database-as-a-service) – the solution created for more convenient work with databases; KaaS (Kubernetes-as-a-Service) – a container orchestration service. Virtual cloud server rental services are equally in demand by government companies, businesses, and nonprofit organizations.

Why do you need a cloud server?

Why do companies choose cloud servers rather than physical ones? Because there are many advantages to this solution.

Quick start-up. Business demands speed. Server capacity is no exception. You do not have time for searching, purchasing, hosting, and configuring equipment. It is necessary to have the resources available at once. A cloud server makes it possible. The user can get what he wants in just a minute, because the provider simply redistributes the capacity in the server rack, allocating the necessary resources to his client in a few clicks.

Efficiency. To ensure smooth operation of the IT environment, the server must be redundant so that it can cope with its tasks when the business ramps up. But until then, some of the hardware will be idle, taking up space, requiring time for maintenance. In the cloud, you can reallocate resources instantly. To add a few GB of RAM or remove an unused SSD, create a few new VMs or delete old ones, the user just has to access the control panel. The efficiency of resource management allows you to use your IT infrastructure budget more effectively.

Reliability. The more physical equipment a company has, the more money, effort, and time it takes to maintain it. When one server maintains a dozen virtual cloud servers, managing is becoming easier. To reduce risks, providers have introduced replication and backup systems. For example, virtual servers are stored on two physical servers at once. If something happens to one, the user will not even notice the failure. At the company level, this stability is possible, but it will be very expensive. It is cheaper and easier to use the cloud.

Security. Cloud provider ensures a level of data security suitable for the storage of any sensitive information: accounting, personal data, scientific information and so on. There are solutions tailored specifically to legal requirements for data storage. The provider passed the necessary certifications, received necessary licenses, and therefore is able to pass the inspection of regulatory bodies.

Flexibility. Users can reboot and reinstall the server, create snapshots, upgrade the system, and install/update software. Operation via a terminal is supported. 

So as you see, the cloud platform is not a fashionable trend, but rather a modern, convenient approach to infrastructure organization. Cloud allows you to be more competitive in the market while ensuring the proper level of data protection and high fault tolerance.


How to choose a cloud server 

Besides the VPS/VDS mix-up, which we hope we have dealt with, considering some other important details allows you to choose a cloud service provider and not to make a mistake.

Experience. The longer a provider has been in business, the more trustworthy they are. This is a relatively young but rapidly changing market. If a company has been operating for 10 years and has implemented a lot of different projects, it confirms the quality of its solutions.

Trial period. Most major cloud services companies give test access to their platform. In 1-2 weeks, you can evaluate the basics and see if it is a convenient solution. But full-fledged testing, including load testing, sometimes requires more time. If the provider is cooperative and helps with the preparation and testing, it's a positive sign.

SLA. The cloud provider must necessarily indicate in the contract the SLA on the level of service availability, as well as other types of responsibility. The stronger the conditions, the better for the user. For example, the availability level in Tier III data centers is 99.982%, which means that downtime is not more than 94.40 minutes per year. It would be good if the requirements for the disk system are specified in the contract. It is important to set input/output operations per second (IOPS) parameters. IOPS determines the performance of the server infrastructure.

The quality of technical support. The service can work perfectly, but with poor technical support, it is difficult to use. You need to check how quickly the provider responds to customer questions, how long it takes to perform typical tasks, and whether technicians are able to cope with complex tasks.


Summing up

So, a cloud server is a useful solution for companies looking to grow and successfully compete in the market. Moving to the cloud gives quick access to cheap but reliable production equipment. It is more convenient than organizing your own physical IT infrastructure.

With Cloud4Y, you can create a cloud server in a few clicks. The user gets the resources to solve any issue, from accounting to machine learning. You can evaluate the benefits of a cloud platform, sending an inquiry for free test access, or calling the managers of the company.

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