There’s a lot of talk around cloud computing. It will have thousands of useful applications in the future, but I’m interested in one in particular: cloud hosting.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a great deal of straightforward information on cloud hosting. So, this article will attempt to clear up some of the big questions: What, exactly, is cloud hosting? Why should I use it? Is it better than a dedicated server?
In a nutshell, cloud hosting is a flexible, powerful and (sometimes) more cost-effective for website owners.
If you’re experiencing, or expecting, high volumes of web traffic, cloud hosting could be for you. If you want a web host that will grow with your site and mould around you in terms of traffic, resources and cost, cloud hosting is almost certainly for you.
So, let’s start with the basics:
What is cloud hosting?
The easiest way to describe cloud hosting is to imagine hundreds of computer servers in the sky.
With cloud hosting, your website data and resources are shared out between them. If one server goes down, for instance, you’ll simply switch to another one, seamlessly.
If you get a sudden spike of traffic, more cloud servers will pop up to take the strain. If your traffic dies down, the servers will disappear again.
It’s flexible, mouldable and responsive to your needs.
It’s a step up from traditional ‘shared hosting’ which places all your data on just one server. With shared hosting, you’re also sharing that server with hundreds of other websites, all fighting for the same resources and space.
When your website is big enough to outgrow shared hosting, a cloud option gives you more resources and more flexibility.
But, what about ‘dedicated hosting’?
Dedicated hosting gives you a server all to yourself, which is an ideal solution for some sites. But it can also be too much. Imagine a farmer with 1000 acres of land and only 20 sheep. He’s paying for land he’s not using. That’s what dedicated hosting is like if you run a small-medium sized website.
Bottom line: cloud hosting bridges the gap between shared and dedicated hosting. It offers flexible resources that are exactly what you need at any given moment.
So, now we know what cloud hosting is, but why should you get it?
Compared to a shared server, cloud hosting delivers much faster speeds. With a shared host, you’re fighting with other websites for processing power. If one site gets a ton of traffic, it’s going to slow yours down.
With cloud hosting, your site always adapts and uses a server with plenty of space and resources. The result? Guaranteed speed, all the time. At Bitcatcha, you can perform a DNS speed test of various servers, and cloud hosts beat shared hosts almost every time.
The single best thing about cloud hosting is the ability to scale. Let’s say your website is seasonal – like a skiing website. You get 100,000 visitors a month during the winter, but only 25,000 during the summer.
With cloud hosting, your server space will grow or shrink according to your needs. If your web traffic begins to increase rapidly, your resources expand to cope with the demand. Simple.
If you’re on a shared host, however, those 100,000 visitors would probably crash your server. You’d have to keep upgrading every time you wanted more resources. With cloud hosting, those resources are there waiting, if you need them.
You only pay for what you use
At this point, you might be thinking, okay, these resources are great, but how much is it going to cost me?
Well, cloud hosting is a little more expensive than shared hosting. However, you only pay for what you use. If you get a huge spike of traffic and use more resources, you’ll pay for that. But if you have quiet months where you hardly use any, you’ll only pay for what you use.
That can be quite cost effective compared to dedicated hosting, where you’re paying for the entire server space, even if you never use it all.
Your website should (almost) never crash
Cloud servers are designed to be flexible. If one server overloads and crashes, there’s always another to take the strain. Unless the entire system goes down, your website will always find another server to run on. That means almost guaranteed uptime, even if your site (or someone else’s on the system) is flooded with traffic.
Excellent data backup and recovery
Backing up data on the cloud has now become essential. Most cloud hosts will automatically store backups, allowing you to restore your site to a previous moment in time, if the worst happens.
Because the information is stored on multiple different servers, it is less likely to be wiped out and lost forever.
Cloud hosts are customizable
Simply put, cloud hosts are flexible and customizable. They mould to fit your needs. If you need extra tools, they’re there when you need them, and you pay-as-you-go.
On the other hand, dedicated hosts might have tons of additional features you don’t need or use. Yet, you’re paying for them anyway.
Are there any downsides?
Of course, cloud hosts aren’t perfect. If you’re operating at full capacity and eating up tons of resources all the time, a dedicated host may be a better option.
There’s also a small concern about security with cloud hosting. As with anything stored on the cloud, it is arguably more susceptible to hacking and attack. With multiple servers exchanging data, there are simply more points of entry. Having said that, you can lock down your cloud security. Read our cloud security strategy to find out more.
Having said that, cloud hosting is well worth considering. For those who value scalability, flexibility and cost-effectiveness, cloud hosting may offer a useful stepping stone before embracing a fully dedicated server.
As cloud computing grows, expect more and more hosts to offer cloud services, and we may see the price come down too. If you have any questions or thoughts on cloud hosting, please do let me know in the comment section below!