Thousands of people around the world are now using cloud servers. I recently tried them and was blown away. If you have not tried them yet here are a few reasons why you should.
Cloud servers are flexible allowing you to experiment and try new things. Most vendors allow you to startup a server and run it for as long as you want. This can be as little as a few minutes or much longer even permanent. I recently heard that Centos Linux version 6 was available and wanted to find out what the changes were and check out all the cool new apps. I logged into the online control panel via my Firefox web browser to one of my cloud accounts, clicked on create new server, selected 256 megs of ram, typed in root password, then waited about 3 minutes for the server to load. Then I logged in via my ssh client(putty) and it was play time. I had the option to upgrade to more CPUs and memory, you can do it in small increments to find out what works best for your web application. A few days later I wanted to test samba on a Debian Linux system. Instead of spending an hour loading Debian from DVD, I simply fired up a cloud server saving about 45 minutes. This time I chose a server with copious amounts of memory since that is what I needed, it was great.
Some vendors are now offering load balancing so you can build a whole server farm using cloud servers. This is especially useful during peak time like a special event or shopping season, it can also be useful in the case of a denial of service attack allowing for more capacity as a counter measure. A multi-server system can scale out to hundreds or even thousands of servers. I have not tried this personally but I hear it works pretty good. I read about an online E-commerce web site that was under a Ddos(distributed denial of service) attack who simply added servers to negate the flood of connections, then the attackers went on to pick on someone else.
Have you ever needed to backup a whole system? You are going to love new cloud based method. You can make snapshots of your server so you have an image of all your data at some point in time. It only takes about 30 minutes to copy all data on a 10GB system. You can also make multiple snapshots and even setup automatic snapshots every 4 hours so you always have a recent backup.
Another cool thing you can do is making your own boot image. I fired up a Linux server, then spent an hour loading applications like MySQL database server, Bind name server, Postfix mail, Cpanel, and Apache web server. I configured it with mod security and some complex rewrite rules. I then saved the image as its own image so I can make clone systems anytime. I can also share my image with the public if I choose.
You can use a cloud server for a few cents per hour. There are many vendors that offer smaller size servers for less than ten cents per hour. I am always firing up various servers, everything from Windows 2008 to Linux and my bill has never been more than per month because I shut them down when not in use and you only have to pay while they are active. There is a small charge for storage if you are saving snapshots or boot images but disk storage is relatively cheap these days. In case you need a more powerful system for web hosting tomcat with a quad core CPU with 16GB of memory will cost you about per hour.
There are many reasons to use cloud based servers. They are flexible, easy to backup using snapshots, and relatively low cost. There is no shortage of cloud vendors. I suggest you surf to your favorite search engine and type in cloud server or cloud hosting where you will find a ton of choices. I don’t think cloud servers will ever replace virtual or dedicated servers but they make an excellent compliment.