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What is a cloud server?

Learn how cloud servers work and how to choose one.

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What is a cloud server?

A simple cloud server definition is cloud servers are virtual (not physical) servers running in a cloud computing environment that can be accessed on demand by unlimited users.

Cloud servers work just like physical servers and they perform similar functions like storing data and running applications. Because cloud services are hosted by third-party providers, they deliver computing resources over a network, most often through the internet.

Cloud servers are created by using virtualization software (known as a hypervisor) to divide physical servers into multiple virtual servers. A hypervisor abstracts the server's processing power and pools them together, creating virtual servers.

How do cloud servers work?

Now that you know what a cloud server is, let's look at how they work. Servers on the cloud function just like traditional servers, but with one key difference—they can be located virtually anywhere since they're accessed remotely. By contrast, traditional or dedicated servers typically are hosted on-site and can only be accessed by users at that location.

Also, unlike dedicated servers, cloud servers allow for the sharing of memory and processing power across linked (virtual) servers. Given their access to server space, cloud servers can be used to power every type of cloud computing delivery model, including Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Software as a Service (SaaS). Cloud data servers also have all the software they need to run built in, so there's no need to worry about upgrades.

What's the difference between a cloud server and a traditional server?

Cloud servers function similarly to traditional servers since they both deliver processing power, applications, and storage. However, since cloud servers are remotely accessed, they're generally more stable and secure than traditional servers.

The primary difference between a cloud server and a traditional server is that a cloud server can be shared among many users over an accessible platform, often through a network such as the internet. A traditional (dedicated) server is only accessed by a given company or entity. While cloud servers perform the same functions as physical servers, cloud servers are hosted and delivered over a network rather than set up and managed on site. Another difference between cloud servers versus physical servers is that cloud servers offers unlimited compute capacity, but physical servers are limited to their existing infrastructure or computing capacity.

When comparing a cloud versus physical server, physical servers are typically more customizable than cloud servers and offer more processing power, extra random access memory, and access to backup power.

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Benefits of cloud servers


There are no limitations to the amount of computing power you have access to and it's easy to upgrade either your memory or space to support more users, making cloud servers a good option for companies experiencing growth.


Servers for cloud computing aren't vulnerable to overloads from too many users and any software problems such as out-of-date programs or inaccurate data edits are isolated from your local environment.

Processing power

Servers for cloud computing are linked together to share computing power for varying workloads, so they can play a key role in building applications, tools, or environments.


Cloud servers provide a reliable, uninterrupted connection and fast access to authorized users.


Working via cloud servers allows people to access the same server from different places, thus enabling a flexible workforce. Plus, cloud servers can accommodate different workloads by quickly scaling to different compute demands.


Cloud servers offer reduced hardware expenses and lower energy costs for enterprises since most providers offer pay-as-you-go pricing, meaning that compute power and resources can be scaled automatically based on demand.

Types of cloud servers

What are cloud server types? And what advantages do they offer?

Just as there are three types of cloud computing (public, private, and hybrid) there are three corresponding types of cloud servers:

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In the public cloud, third-party cloud service providers deliver computing resources, like servers, over the internet. All hardware, software, and supporting infrastructure is owned and managed by the cloud provider.

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In contrast to public cloud servers, private cloud servers are used exclusively by a single business or organization and are often most secure. Servers can be physically located at an on-site datacenter, or a third-party service provider can host a private cloud (server) that's made accessible through a private network.

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Hybrid cloud servers combine both public and private clouds. This allows data and applications to move between public and private clouds, giving businesses greater flexibility, more deployment options, and opportunities to optimize existing infrastructure, security, and compliance.

How to choose a cloud server

Choosing the right cloud computing server depends on the requirements of your organization or business. However, the choice often comes down to a combination of budget, technology configuration, and provider reputation. The most commonly deployed cloud server is in the public cloud where third-party providers own and manage the servers and other infrastructure while customers access on-demand computing services. The private cloud offers hosting of cloud servers privately, so they're not shared with other individuals or organizations, making this option most secure. Before building your own cloud server with a provider, it's usually beneficial to prioritize your needs when choosing from different types of cloud computing options.

Here are the steps to follow when choosing a cloud server:

  1. Determine if you have variable workloads or data-sensitive workloads. Cloud servers are best suited for variable workloads while physical servers are built for data-sensitive workloads.
  2. Categorize your needs based on budget, provider, and technology requirements.
  3. Define your security needs and decide whether you can sustain outages or other functionality problems due to unexpected demand from using a public cloud.
  4. Consider if a hybrid deployment, a mix of cloud and on-site infrastructure, would better meet your needs with access to the best of both worlds.

Frequently asked questions

  • A cloud server is a type of cloud computing service that is typically delivered by third-party providers over a network accessible on demand by multiple users at once.

  • Cloud servers work like traditional servers, but with one key difference—they can be located virtually anywhere since they're accessed remotely. Cloud servers are often virtualized, meaning they're linked by using software called a hypervisor, which creates multiple virtual machines to share computing power.

  • Cloud servers differ from traditional servers because they're shared among many users over an accessible platform, often through a network. Traditional servers can only be accessed by users in the same location as where the server is physically located.

  • Cloud servers offer multiple benefits, including increased flexibility, affordability, scalability, security, reliability, and processing power.

  • There are three main types of cloud servers: public, private, and hybrid.

  • When choosing a cloud server, start by prioritizing your needs based on budget, technology, and provider capabilities or preference. Another important decision is what type of cloud computing provider is best suited for your business: public, private or hybrid.