In What is this "Linux", anyhow? we briefly covered a number of options for getting access to a GNU/Linux environment. In this guide, we'll discuss one easy option for experimenting with a small server in the cloud.
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.
In DigitalOcean terminology, individual servers are called "droplets", and managed by way of a web interface.