The cloud has transformed how modern businesses think about IT infrastructure and hosting.

But for those new to the cloud, key concepts like cloud servers and cloud hosting may still seem complex.

In this beginner’s guide, we’ll break down the basics of cloud servers and hosting in simple terms to help you understand how they can benefit your organization.

What is a Cloud Server?

A cloud server is a virtual server instance hosted in a cloud computing environment like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud Platform (GCP).

It provides on-demand, pay-as-you-go compute and storage resources.

Cloud servers utilize the same hypervisors and virtualization technology as conventional virtual private servers (VPS) or dedicated servers.

However, cloud servers abstract away the underlying hardware infrastructure and provisioning. Resources like CPU, RAM, and storage can be allocated via software APIs and changed on-demand.

Key attributes of cloud servers include:

  • Flexible, scalable resources independent of hardware
  • Self-service provisioning and automation
  • Pay for what you use pricing model
  • Programmatic control through APIs
  • High availability within cloud data centers

What is Cloud Hosting?

Cloud hosting refers to hosting websites, applications, or services on cloud-based infrastructure rather than traditional on-premise servers. It leverages the advantages of cloud servers described above.

With cloud hosting, resources like storage, networks, and application services are made available on-demand from data centers managed by the cloud provider.

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Hardware procurement, maintenance, and capacity planning is fully handled by the cloud provider.

Your cloud hosted resources can scale up and down dynamically based on usage, providing agility and elasticity.

You only pay for the resources you need. Migrating between cloud data centers as needs evolve is also simplified.

Benefits of Cloud Servers and Cloud Hosting

There are many compelling benefits to using cloud servers and hosted cloud infrastructure versus traditional on-premise models:

Cost Efficiency – No need to purchase hardware upfront. Pay based on hourly usage only. Scale up or down to align with demand.

Agility and Speed – Provision cloud servers in minutes without waiting weeks for hardware. Autoscale capacity dynamically.

Reliability – Cloud platforms offer high redundancy and uptime. Distribute apps globally via data centers.

Productivity – Focus efforts on apps and software rather than hardware management.

Security – Major cloud providers offer robust physical and application security.

Compliance – Many clouds meet important compliance standards like HIPAA, PCI DSS, etc.

Disaster Recovery – Cloud infrastructure across distributed geographic zones minimizes disruption risks.

For most modern businesses, the cloud offers a flexible, affordable, and scalable hosting architecture for websites and applications.

Cloud Server and Hosting Options

There are a few primary approaches to utilizing cloud servers and hosting:

IaaS (Infrastructure-as-a-Service) – This provides raw cloud server resources such as compute, storage, and networking that you manage yourself. Amazon EC2 is a leading IaaS example.

PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service) – This offers a managed application platform such as database or app hosting. You deploy code and services while the provider manages infrastructure. AWS Elastic Beanstalk is a popular PaaS option.

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SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) – With SaaS, you simply use an application hosted in the cloud. Management and infrastructure is completely handled by the provider. Salesforce is a ubiquitous SaaS app.

Managed Cloud Hosting – With managed cloud hosting, a hosting provider sets up and manages cloud server resources on your behalf. This bridges gap between IaaS flexibility and PaaS convenience.

Evaluating these main cloud hosting approaches can help identify the right strategic fit.

Migrating to the Cloud

For organizations with existing on-premise infrastructure, the first step is creating a cloud migration plan. Key aspects include:

  • Assess existing infrastructure and dependencies.
  • Determine ideal hosting architecture and service model.
  • Set timelines, budgets, roles and responsibilities.
  • Prioritize applications and workloads for migration waves.
  • Choose target cloud platform(s). AWS and Azure lead options.
  • Develop security and compliance processes.
  • Identify needed re-architecture or refactoring.
  • Test extensively before cutover.

A well-executed migration plan is key to realizing the benefits of the cloud. For some applications, re-platforming directly into cloud-native architectures like serverless may be better than simply “lifting and shifting”.

Conclusion

I hope this overview gives you a solid understanding of what cloud servers and hosted cloud infrastructure have to offer.

By leveraging the cloud’s flexibility, automation, and global scale, companies can achieve greater business agility and deliver scalable digital experiences.

Cloud servers and hosting provide a modern foundation for growth.