How does cloud computing work?

Cloud computing is possible because of a technology called virtualization. Virtualization allows for the creation of a simulated, digital-only “virtual” computer that behaves as if it were a physical computer with its own hardware. The technical term for such a computer is virtual machine. When properly implemented, virtual machines on the same host machine are sandboxed from one another, so they do not interact with each other at all, and the files and applications from one virtual machine are not visible to the other virtual machines even though they are on the same physical machine.

Virtual machines also make more efficient use of the hardware hosting them. By running many virtual machines at once, one server becomes many servers, and a data center becomes a whole host of data centers, able to serve many organizations. Thus, cloud providers can offer the use of their servers to far more customers at once than they would be able to otherwise, and they can do so at a low cost.

Even if individual servers go down, cloud servers in general should be always online and always available. Cloud vendors generally back up their services on multiple machines and across multiple regions.

Users access cloud services either through a browser or through an app, connecting to the cloud over the Internet — that is, through many interconnected networks — regardless of what device they are using.

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