Staff in the IT department of any company, large or small, often need access to lots of computers for relatively short periods of time. Perhaps the software development team are working on a new product that needs to be tested against many different versions of Windows. Maybe the support team are evaluating a new product such as an accounting suite that will potentially be purchased for use in-house, and they need a network of servers and workstations to run it on. Perhaps the help desk is trying to replicate a problem with a Windows domain controller, which requires up a small development network to be set up in an attempt to reproduce the issue.
In all these cases, the requirements are very similar. There's a need for easy access to a quantity of computers, sometimes at very short notice, which will generally be used for a short period of time before being wiped.
Historically, this requirement was often fulfilled by repurposing old desktop PCs that had been outgrown by their users. However, such kit is invariably old and in poor condition, with RAM and hard disk space sometimes needing upgrades before the machines can be used effectively. Alternatively, where companies have adopted a virtual infrastructure for in-house computing, spinning up one or more VMs for test purposes can be quick and easy, but is rarely cost-effective if the workload is borrowing or stealing resources from production systems.
Whenever computers are needed for a relatively short period of time, cloud computing from Alibaba Cloud makes a great deal of sense. If you're already using Alibaba Cloud for production servers and you want to keep the two purposes completely separate for technical, security and budgetary reasons, just create a separate Alibaba Cloud account.
You can spin up a Windows or Linux instance very quickly and pay on a simple monthly subscription. To avoid unexpected costs, you can disable automatic renewal.
When machines are needed for even shorter periods, pay-as-you-go instances are billed by the hour. For example, an ECS cloud server with 2 CPUs, 8GB of RAM and 40GB of disk space running Windows Server 2019 is just US $0.2 per hour. A similar cloud server running Ubuntu is $0.10. You could build a network of 10 Linux PCs in the cloud, run it for up to an hour to perform a particular test, and then shut it down, for a total outlay of $1. Best of all, there's no need to spend half a day dragging 10 dusty old desktop computers out of the cupboard, finding desk space and power sockets for them, installing and patching the operating systems, and then wiping everything after the tests are completed at the end of the day before dragging the machines back into the cupboard again.
When you need a database server for a short-term test, or perhaps as part of a data migration project, be sure to check out Alibaba Cloud ApsaraDB RDS instances. These are fully compatible with leading database technologies such as MySQL, SQL Server, MongoDB and Oracle, but run on a fully managed infrastructure so you don't need to install or manage an underlying OS.
For more information about managing development, test, production and pre-production environments on Alibaba Cloud, see our blog on Managing Software and Site Deployment on Alibaba Cloud.
To find out how easy it is to launch server instances on Alibaba Cloud, see https://www.alibabacloud.com/campaign/in/virtual-machine-in-the-cloud
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