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Virtual servers in the public cloud made simple

Instacloud is a University IT (UIT) service that provisions virtual Linux and Windows servers directly to individual faculty and staff members. You get full admin and root privileges, and can install the applications of your choice, with the benefit of semi-automated configuration and maintenance. It's a cloud-based server without the overhead of managing cloud accounts.

Instacloud servers also cost less than building your own server in your own cloud account, too.

To keep costs low, Instacloud servers are community supported. Users are expected to have sufficient technical knowledge required to perform most day-to-day activities associated with their server and applications. However, if professional assistance is needed, we offer paid support, based on availability, for a per incident fee.

Instacloud may not be compatible for all purposes, and is uniquely different from other UIT services that deliver virtual servers. Check out the information below and set up a free consultation to see if Instacloud is right for your needs, or whether alternative UIT services may be a more suitable fit.


Included with the service

  • Common server software — free and open source applications like Apache, MySQL, and Let’s Encrypt for SSL certificates are pre-installed
  • Security compliance configuration — software components necessary to meet Stanford’s Minimum Security Standards are built-in and preconfigured
  • Automatic patching — updates to the operating system and some third-party applications are automatically applied periodically
  • Automatic reboots — when server reboots are required, they’re scheduled during off-hour, low-use periods (e.g., late night, early morning, weekends)
  • Nightly snapshots — seven nights’ worth of automatic snapshots are retained for rollbacks when needed
  • Stanford fully-qualified domain name — virtual servers have a fixed IP address and a corresponding Stanford domain name of your choice
  • Lower costs — a comparatively lower monthly charge without long-term usage commitments; terminate the subscription at any time without penalty
  • Predictable monthly charges — Stanford accounts (i.e., PTAs) are charged the same flat rate each month, irrespective of the usage; there are no surprise charges
  • Automatic termination (optional) — virtual machines can be automatically shut down and the Instacloud subscription terminated after an extended period of inactivity or at a specific date

Additional detail on Instacloud features is available at Instacloud Service Details.

Optional add-on features (for additional cost)

  • Attached high-performance storage — larger-capacity block storage volumes can function as an additional internal hard drive
  • Monitoring and alerting (coming soon) — cloud-based metrics and a custom dashboard that allow you to inspect performance and resource usage from any web browser
  • Pre-purchased support hours (coming FY22) — a bucket of professional support hours to cover future expenses relating to troubleshooting activities, consultation or administration; includes an ad hoc system snapshot.
  • Automated data backup (coming FY22) — file protection with multiple versions and forever data retention, including automatic cloud backup to another geographic location

Additional detail on Instacloud features is available at Instacloud Service Details.

Designed for

Faculty and staff with a valid university account (i.e., PTA).


  • UIT uses automation to help manage and secure the server; however, the primary responsibilities of system administration lie with the user.
  • Automatic patching and reboots are used to apply security and selected software updates. You must not disable this or other security-related functions. Reboots cannot be scheduled or deferred, though most often occur off hours. There is a risk that patches and updates might introduce incompatibilities; snapshot roll-backs can be requested to temporarily revert the server state. For these reasons, UIT discourages using Instacloud servers for mission-critical work or to host workloads that require uninterrupted processing.
  • When your Instacloud subscription is canceled, the virtual machine will be terminated and all data will be deleted. You must save your data and confirm its integrity ahead of requesting a cancellation of service.

Data security

This service is intended for use with Low and Moderate Risk Data.


Monthly charges
Your organization will be responsible for the monthly cost of the virtual machine, which is a flat monthly recurring charge, with the amount depending on the size and configuration.

Users benefit from the discounts and savings strategies that UIT pursues; the amount will not fluctuate based on network usage, processing or operational hours.

Canceling service
Disuse or stopping (halting) the machine will not cancel the monthly recurring charge. Users are responsible for submitting a Help request to stop the Instacloud service.

Get started

To get started with Instacloud, set up a free consultation.

Get help

Learn more

Last modified February 15, 2022