Cloud Server Complete Guide : Basics and Benefits
The term cloud is often used anonymously with the internet, but the two are not the same. Following is an in-depth discussion on the cloud server, its benefits and challenges, and how it differs from a traditional server.
What Is a Cloud Server?
A cloud server, sometimes known as a virtual server or a private server, is a virtual compute server hosted on the internet and can be remotely accessed by users over the network. Like a traditional physical server in a data center, a cloud server provides computational and storage functions that support the same operating systems and applications and retains similar performance features.
Server virtualisation has rapidly taken over today's technological landscape, giving rise to the ever-growing popularity of cloud computing. Cloud servers have now become an integral part of cloud technology powering all types of cloud computing delivery models, including software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), and infrastructure as a service (IaaS).
What Are the Working Principles and Features of Cloud Servers?
Cloud servers make use of the virtualization principle and act like computers with their operating systems. A physical host allocates resources, but each server acts independently.
The servers are deployed through a management software called a hypervisor. Sometimes the word “hypervisor” refers to the host platform. A hypervisor is responsible for abstracting the combined resources of the servers and pooling them together to create virtual servers. These automated virtual resources are then deployed over the cloud for different organizations.
This cloud technology is an example of infrastructure as a service (IaaS). Typically, a third-party provider manages the hardware for organizations that employ IaaS. They also provide resources on demand via a public cloud. Users have the luxury of using a shared cloud server for seasonal workloads and then scaling up or down as the need arises.
Sometimes a client business requires a dedicated server for specific use cases and storage requirements. In such a scenario, the cloud provider can easily configure a cloud server into a dedicated server in a bare-metal setup.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Cloud Servers?
It is up to an organization to choose the cloud server setup that best favors its workload requirements and specific application needs. In any case, by opting for a cloud server, the organization can incur the following benefits:
Your third-party cloud provider can easily set up the cloud environment in a matter of minutes. You will not have to worry about any part of the process, starting from installation to maintenance and the necessary tasks that typically accompany a physical server.
Public clouds not only globalize workloads but do it more efficiently. Although traditional centralized data centers also allow admin access to workloads globally, there is often the problem of network latency and other disruptions drastically reducing the performance of organizations. A cloud server can duplicate instances of your organization’s workload in various regions across the globe ensuring a speedier and more reliable global access.
In contrast to a centralized physical server, the pay-as-you-go pricing model of third-party cloud server providers makes the cloud a more cost-effective alternative for data computation and storage. This is because you only pay for active workloads, saving costs on functions that are infrequently running or have stopped altogether. Sometimes, however, the long-term or full-time costs of a cloud server’s functionalities can exceed those of owning a physical server. You must review a full breakdown of cloud computing costs to avoid any hidden expenses.
Flexibility and Scalability
Unlike a physical server, you can use a cloud server to manage temporary or seasonal workloads. You can also use the cloud to manage workloads that need to be scaled up or down depending on the demand.
While cloud computing comes with massive gains, there are also particular challenges that organizations should note.
Regulation and Governance
Sometimes the regulatory standards and corporate governance deny organizations access to cloud servers in certain parts of the globe. There can be a number of reasons for such restrictions.
Defense organizations often apply stringent controls when it comes to data security. Similarly, social media platforms are subject to increased scrutiny with conditions of keeping certain types of user data on-premises.
Such critical organizations have to abide by regulatory controls failing which they can face heavy penalties. Compliance is achieved more easily if all the data is maintained in-house.
Opting for cloud servers requires companies to ensure that their service providers meet all the data security standards mandated by law.
The Noisy Neighbor Issue
The admin does not retain direct control over the physical location of the cloud servers. This is because public cloud servers are multi-tenant environments, and it is possible for a VM to be affected by the excessive workloads and network demands that other cloud servers have to deal with. In the cloud vocabulary, it is called the “noisy neighbor” issue. One way to counter this kind of problem is using a dedicated server by the admin.
It is not uncommon for cloud servers to experience an unprecedented service outage. Disruptions like these can result from a fault within the provider’s environment or network. Because of this, it might be best to keep the mission-critical systems off the public cloud and preferably within a local data center. Remember, not only are such disruptions outside of the admin’s control, but the latter also does not have a say regarding the provider’s cloud infrastructure.
Difference between Cloud and Conventional Servers
Following are some of the differences between cloud and traditional on-premises servers:
Conventional servers offer greater control over hardware functionalities compared to cloud servers which third-party service providers often manage.
Hardware installation and upgrade costs are borne by the organization in the case of conventional servers, while they may be fully or partially outsourced in the case of cloud servers.
Cloud servers rely on cloud providers for their cybersecurity requirements, while conventional servers require an in-house cybersecurity team to install firewalls and other hardware/software for cybersecurity. For many firms, keeping a fully trained IT security team isn’t financially feasible.
Connectivity issues can be resolved much more easily when it comes to conventional servers. In contrast, cloud servers are placed on the internet, which can create complex IP networking issues.
In the case of cloud servers, the payment method is subscription or usage-based, while conventional servers are often based on perpetual or license-based subscription models.
Regarding financial accounting, expenses on cloud servers are more of operating costs (OPEX), while in the case of conventional servers, the cost of hardware comes under (CAPEX). CapEx is a fixed cost with quantifiable depreciation values, making long-term financial forecasting easier.