Cloud hosting is a relatively new approach to web hosting. It allows you to bypass the limitations of traditional hosting, and tap into superior performance and reliability.
Large companies that have complex hosting needs were the first to benefit from these services decades ago. Recent innovations in the field of cloud computing have led to an explosion of cloud hosting services. Many affordable services have come to market, making cloud hosting more accessible than ever.
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What is Cloud Hosting?
Cloud hosting is a type of hosting where several servers work together as though they were one server. There are many advantages to cloud hosting in terms of security, reliability, performance, flexibility, and reduced costs. YouTube, Amazon Web Services, and Gmail are all possible thanks to cloud hosting. To better understand exactly what “the cloud” is, it helps to understand cloud computing first.
What is Cloud Computing?
Cloud computing utilizes remote networks of connected computers or web servers. When you use a cloud service, the processing and power come from this remote network of computers, not your own local machine.
This technology gives small businesses access to the same computing power that enterprises use.
Virtualization is fundamental to cloud computing. It makes it possible to run multiple operating systems on the same server, which means one physical server can be used for many different purposes. Virtualization software ensures that there is no cross-contamination from one virtual server to another.
Clustering uses multiple computers to provide resilience for an application or network. For example, you can have identical clones of your operating system and database on different machines. If a problem occurs with one, another server will pick up the slack without the end user realizing anything is wrong. This makes for a smooth user experience and reduces downtime.
How is Cloud Hosting Different From Traditional Hosting?
As mentioned above, cloud hosting essentially means your site is being stored on multiple servers simultaneously and you access it via the internet. This means if there is physical damage, like a fire, or software damage, like corrupted files, on one server, your data can easily be migrated to other servers.
Cloud hosting is faster, more secure, and allows resources to be deployed quickly if, for example, you have a blog post go viral and get a ton of traffic. It also tends to be much more expensive.
With a traditional host, your site’s data is stored on one physical server, and there is usually one back up elsewhere. Finding and implementing that back up takes time and if that file is corrupted, you are usually out of luck. However, those types of situations are rare and traditional hosting is more affordable and tends to offer more freebies like marketing services, money back guarantees, etc.
There are also multiple types of traditional hosting, including shared, VPS, and dedicated each with varying levels of service, uptime, and costs.
Is Cloud Hosting Good for WordPress Users?
WordPress is one of the most popular content management systems in the world. It is based on PHP and MySQL and requires installation on a web host to function. WordPress is extremely flexible and offers a variety of templates non-developers can use to build beautiful and functional websites.
Because cloud hosting is extremely flexible and secure, it makes a great choice for WordPress users. However, cloud hosting might not be a cost-effective choice for smaller sites.
Is Cloud Hosting Good for Ecommerce Sites?
E-commerce sites have special needs. They rely heavily on their site being accessible, which means a high uptime is a must have. E-commerce sites often store sensitive data about their customers, including financial data, so security is also extremely important.
Security and uptime are two areas where cloud hosting shines, so it makes a great choice for big e-commerce sites. Small sites that only sell a few items may be better served by a more traditional (and affordable) e-commerce host.
Cloud Hosting Benefits
With traditional hosting architecture, your data is stored on one server. With cloud hosting, your data is replicated over several computers in order to improve speed and availability.
With cloud hosting, you can benefit from massive resources, and pay only for what you use. Many services are available on demand without the need for long-term contracts.
Cloud computing allows for the fast and easy allocation of resources in a managed environment. Overselling won’t be a concern as long as everything is correctly maintained by your host.
If anything fails, one of the other computers in the cluster should take over. This redundancy increases reliability and allows some hosts to advertise uptime figures of 100%.
Cloud hosting also gives you the capacity to handle the heavy demands of busy web services or apps. This is essential for businesses that need 24/7 uptime.
The longer the physical distance between a user and the server, the longer it takes to deliver data to the user’s computer. Content delivery networks are a good example of a cloud system that speeds things up. Software in the host’s server detects the location of a user and transmits content from the closest available server.
Flexibility and Scalability
Virtualization makes it easy to better utilize physical hardware assets, so one computer can be sliced up and used for different purposes. And for small to medium-sized organizations that have limited resources, cloud hosting can remove the headache of managing complex infrastructure. You won’t have to manage hardware upgrades, software updates, or licensing issues yourself. All of this is taken care of by your hosting company.
If your cloud hosting plan runs out of space, you should be able to instantly increase resource. Some hosting companies provide a control panel for self-service upgrades and downgrades.
Public vs Private Clouds
If you are shopping for cloud hosting, you will most likely be looking at products that utilize the public cloud. A private cloud is basically the same thing, except it’s not available on the internet. Private clouds are generally used on closed systems used internally by businesses.
Cloud Hosting Costs
Pricing for cloud hosting is flexible, and different hosts offer different ways to measure usage. It’s very important to estimate your costs according to your host’s billing method before you choose a pricing plan.
Many cloud hosting plans are marketed at a fixed price for a month or a year. This is the best option if you want predictable costs, even if that means paying a little more than you might have with other billing methods.
Pay-as-you-go pricing is just like paying a utility bill for gas or electricity. You only pay for what you use. So even though you have access to a cluster of servers, your usage will determine the bill – not the hardware. If you get a huge spike in traffic, you’ll pay more, but the benefit is that your site will always be available.
The amount you pay will depend on how many of these resources you want as a baseline:
- Processors or cores: Processing power has a large impact on the speed at which your software runs. For a basic WordPress website, you don’t need to go overboard with processor power, but as your site grows, you may need to increase this a little.
- RAM: This will also affect the speed of your site because scripts take up memory as they run. For a small business, a CRM with lots of plugins will need more RAM than a fresh WordPress install.
- Disk space: This is the number of files you can store on your host’s computers. Most small businesses take up little disk space, unless you upload lots of large media files, but bear in mind that your storage allowance will also need to be sufficient for any email mailboxes that you create.
- Bandwidth: Your host may set a hard limit on the amount of data that can be transferred from your server to your visitors. Some hosts will advertise this in gigabytes, while others price by the number of visitors.
- SSD: Most cloud hosts use SSD or solid state drives. These have less moving parts and are more reliable than traditional hard drives, but they also cost more
Choosing the Right Cloud Host: HostGator, SiteGround, Bluehost, & Google Cloud Hosting
In general, cloud hosting offers better security, more storage, faster load times, and peace of mind that your site is well protected and can be easily restored should something happen. However, like all hosts, each company offers varying levels of service and features.
We take a look at the top four most popular cloud hosts below.
HostGator states “HostGator employs a number of security measures to protect our servers and customers’ websites.” They also offer additional security features for an additional cost including CodeGuard and SiteLock.
SiteGround offers several security features, including IP Tables Firewall, email spam filtering, and Free SSL certificates.
Bluehost does not appear to offer any additional security features for cloud hosting members. However, their standard hosting is well rated in the security area.
Google Cloud Hosting offers a huge suite if security and access features including Cloud Identity, Cloud IAM, Cloud Identity-Aware Proxy, Cloud Data Loss Prevention API, and more. For smaller businesses, these features might be overkill.
HostGator offers three cloud hosting plan options starting at $4.95 for an introductory period and going up to $9.95.
SiteGround offers four cloud hosting plans starting at $80 and going up to $240. Alternatively, you can create a custom plan with exactly what you need.
Bluehost offers three-tiered plans starting at just $6.95. But, that is an introductory offer and the price goes up after your first month. However, Bluehost still offers some of the most affordable cloud hosting on the market.
Google Cloud offers a pay-as-you-use a model based on how much data you need to store and how often you need to access it. It is hard to tell if this will end up being cost effective for smaller businesses with low storage needs. They do state they are “up to 60% less.”
HostGator offers unmetered storage and between 2 and 6GB of memory depending upon which plan you choose.
For SiteGround, you choose a plan based on your needs. Memory starts at 4GB and goes up to 10GB and they offer between 40 and 120GB of SSD space.
Bluehost offers tiered plans, and the top two plans offer unmetered storage.
Google Cloud has a “pay for what you use” model. Which means you can scale automatically to store as much data as you need.
For each host, the features will likely vary by plan, but we take a quick overview below.
All HostGator plans offer unmetered storage, bandwidth, and subdomains. Higher plans also offer unlimited domains and a private SSL certificate.
SiteGround boasts daily backups, free CDNs, 24/7 VIP support, and auto-scalability. They are well known for great support, so you can likely bank on that.
The features for Bluehost vary by plan but include a free domain, unlimited websites, unmetered space and bandwidth, free SSL, and up to $200 in marketing offers (This is usually credits for Google AdWords or similar).
Google Cloud features include up to $300 in credits to spend on Google Cloud Platform, the ability to scale automatically, logging, monitoring, and debugging. Most of the features they list are only of interest to coders.
Is Cloud Hosting Right For Your Small Business?
Determining if cloud hosting is right for your small business depends upon a variety of factors including the amount of storage you need, the level of security, your budget, and what additional features you might need. The breakdown above is just a short look at all the factors. We highly recommend reading reviews for each individual host before you make your decision.
Overall, cloud hosts offer better reliability and faster speeds, which are vital for small businesses without IT departments or even full-time developers. And with affordable options, there is a good chance cloud hosting will work for your small business.
Alternatives to Cloud Hosting
Cloud hosting isn’t right for every business. In some cases, having access to a large network of servers is overkill. And cloud hosting price plans can be complicated, particularly if you’re new to web hosting. If you aren’t sure that cloud hosting is right for your business, you could start with a shared hosting plan first. Be sure to pick one that will allow you to easily migrate data to another provider once your site grows.