Cloud computing has been a tech industry buzzword for years now. Most industry buzzwords have a way of fizzling out after a while, but “the cloud” has passed into everyday speech as a routine shorthand for the often-nebulous world of networked software and storage. Used this way, it often comes with a certain amount of hand waving and fuzzy thinking, but you can usually dispel that by remembering that “cloud” is a useful shorthand for “happening on other people’s computers”.
There are gazillions of companies offering different cloud services, in ways that range from the simple to the brain-hurtingly complex. A lot of the modern internet runs on top of Amazon’s datacenters and networks, for example.
At $5-10 a month for a server instance, DigitalOcean offers a nice mix of simplicity and reasonable cost. If you’d like to experiment with running a Linux server on the internet, it’s a great place to start.
Honestly, the process is so easy that you probably don’t need the help, and DO’s own documentation is phenomenal, but if you’re curious about what it takes to get a hosted virtual machine these days, or if you’re new to the process, this should give you a good idea what to expect. It’s never been easier to do this kind of thing.
For my personal web hosting and the like, I’ve been a customer of companies like DreamHost for years, and though they still do great work, lately I’ve been gravitating more and more towards the streamlined, servers-are-cheap-to-create-and-destroy model offered by services like DO. Setting up a real web site this way does take some willingness to get your hands dirty in configuration files and the like, but it also offers a lot in the way of control and flexibility. I’m using it, for example, to host squiggle.city – but more about that later…