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How Does a Cloud Server Work?

Cloud servers are the quickest, easiest, and most cost-effective way to deploy application hosting infrastructure. With the ServerMania Cloud, you select the server you want, choose an operating system, and click a button. A few seconds later, the cloud server is running and ready to host your software.

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The cloud experience is intuitive and user-friendly, but, as you might imagine, users only see the tip of the iceberg. Behind the simple, secure, and reliable cloud service is a complex array of hardware and software.

In this article, we’re going take a closer look at what a cloud server is and take a peek behind the curtain to help you understand what happens when you launch a new server on our cloud platform.

What is a Cloud Server?

A cloud server is a virtual machine running on a cloud hosting platform. Each cloud server is a software construct created using features of the host operating system and virtualization software called a hypervisor. As a cloud hosting customer, you don’t have to manage the underlying physical machine, its software, or the hypervisor; that’s taken care of by the hosting provider.

To the server’s user, a cloud server behaves just like a physical—or bare metal—server. It has memory, storage, and processors. It runs a Linux or Microsoft Windows operating system and all of the software found on those platforms. And it is, for the most part, managed via SSH or RDP, just like a physical Linux or Windows server.

But, because it is a virtual machine, a cloud server has properties that a physical server does not. The resources available to a cloud server can be modified in seconds from a cloud control panel—to increase or decrease memory or storage, for example. Cloud servers can be launched in seconds and discarded just as quickly.

Cloud servers are ones and zeroes, not silicon and wire, so they can be deployed according to templates written in code, migrated between physical servers, and duplicated. Unlike physical servers, cloud servers are controlled through APIs and software, allowing users to manage their servers as easily in code as in the control panel.

How Do Cloud Servers and Cloud Platforms Work?

The two fundamental components that support a cloud hosting platform are the physical server and the hypervisor.

  • The physical server — A powerful computer housed in a remote data center, essentially identical to the machines used in dedicated server hosting. The physical server has an operating system, the host OS, which might be a variant on a standard OS or a specialized operating system purpose-built for hosting cloud platforms. A cloud platform typically uses many physical servers, joined together by the cloud management layer into a unified pool of resources.
  • The hypervisor — Software that runs on the physical server and divides its resources between numerous virtual machines while mediating communication between the VMs and the underlying hardware. The hypervisor simulates multiple cloud servers and ensures that it’s impossible for users to “break out” of their cloud server to access data stored on other cloud servers or the host machine.

Together, these would allow you to run virtual machines, but a user-friendly and reliable Infrastructure as a Service cloud platform needs additional cloud management software, the most important of which is orchestration software.

Orchestration software automates tasks such as provisioning cloud servers, managing network connections, resizing virtual machines and storage, and a host of other functions that transform a collection of servers into a true cloud platform. Orchestration software makes it possible for users to click a button in a web app and have a fully functional cloud server at their disposal seconds later.

Cloud management software handles other essential aspects of the cloud too. It is responsible for cloud server failover. When a physical server fails or runs into resource limitations, the management software can immediately migrate it to a different server. Other tasks handled by management software include backups, security and access management, billing, and the interface you use to control your cloud servers.

We built the ServerMania Cloud on the world-class OnApp cloud management platform and our own server and data center infrastructure. Together they provide an incredibly reliable, cost-effective, and secure cloud hosting solution.

Cloud Server vs. Dedicated Servers

Cloud servers and dedicated servers are complementary technologies; for many scenarios, a cloud server is the right choice, including those where you might in the past have chosen a dedicated server.

The benefits of choosing a cloud server include:

  • On-demand resources — Cloud servers are deployed instantly and can be taken down just as quickly.
  • Post-payment — Cloud users pay only for the resources their server consumes, for which they are billed at the end of each month. In contrast, dedicated servers are paid for up-front.
  • Elasticity — Cloud servers can grow and shrink depending on real-world needs.
  • Automation — Cloud servers can be deployed automatically according to predetermined templates, significantly reducing configuration and management time.

However, dedicated servers have a role to play. They are the ideal choice for workloads that call for high-performance number-crunching and other scenarios where performance is prioritized over scalability and cost. Dedicated servers remain the most potent single-server hosting platform available.

For most other scenarios, a cloud server is the most cost-effective, scalable, and easy-to-manage hosting option. Cloud servers are ideal for CMS and ecommerce hosting, application hosting, data storage, email hosting, and many other common hosting scenarios.

Click here to learn more and to deploy your first ServerMania cloud server.

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