What is ‘Cloud Hosting’ compared to shared/dedicated hosting?

by Paul on July 19, 2011

First, if you’re not quite familiar with what web hosting is, check out the Web Hosting article here. Otherwise, in this article I’m going to lay out the basic principles of what ‘Cloud Hosting’ is and then address the question: “Do I need cloud hosting?”

First up, what is ‘Cloud Computing’?

Cloud computing is the principle of spreading your computing over a collection of interconnected machines.

Right now you’re using your desktop or laptop computer to browse the internet.  If it fails, your computing power is gone for good (unless you buy a new one).  Your email program is gone, your photo editing program is gone, your music player is gone… they’re all gone because they were based on a single computer.

With cloud computing you gather together lots of machines into a network and run your software on all of them. This means if one fails, all is not lost – the rest of the computers in the network will pick up the slack.

We don’t need to worry about the complex technical aspects of the cloud – someone else has gone to the trouble of setting this up and all we have to do is use it.

What is ‘Cloud Hosting’? – think resources, not hardware

The traditional way of hosting your website is either with shared web hosting, or using a dedicated machine to host your site.  These have their own merits, but compared to cloud hosting they’re looking a little tired.  Consider the two extremes:

  • Shared web hosting: is sharing resources with many other websites on the principle assumption that not all sites will be resource hungry all of the time . If another site on your server is a hog, your site will suffer – you have no guarantee of resources when you need it.
  • Dedicated server hosting: you pay for the storage capacity and power of a whole server even if you don’t use it. Perhaps some days you get a spike in traffic, but no matter how much you use, you always pay the full price.  If you exceed the resources of this physical server, you have to buy another server to share the load. More cost.

With Cloud Hosting you benefit from the principles of cloud computing in the following way:

  • Dedicated Resources: All resources allocated to you are yours and yours alone – you don’t share it. If you are allocated xMB of RAM, you will always have xMB.
  • Scalable Resources: When you suddenly need more resources, you don’t need to install new hardware, or add another server, or steal them from someone else sharing your server. Instead you simply allocate more to you from the cloud.  Since there are many servers interconnected in your cloud, you can provision whatever you need, whenever you need (and of course, whatever you provision is yours and yours alone).
  • Resilient Resources: Imagine if a whole server in the cloud crashes and burns? Your site will still be running because redundancy is built into the cloud computing model – if one “node” on the network of machines fails, the rest will pick up the slack (compare this with either shared or dedicated server hosting above = disaster)

Cloud Hosting Downsides & Myths

There is the idea that that cloud hosting is the silver bullet of web hosting.  Not quite.  Cloud hosting is much better than a shared and dedicated server, but it has problems:

Myth: “No more website outages!  Cloud computing is super-resilient after-all“.  This isn’t true because of the inherent complexity of the cloud model. The cloud upon which you are hosting your site is a software layer on top of the network of machines. This can fail too and when it does, your website is in trouble. Cloud hosting isn’t new, but with recent developments cloud computing is more accessible and reliable, but not perfect. (yet)

Downside: cost. Cloud computing is great from a cost standpoint because you pay only for what you need/use.  But management of these systems has a technical over-head that gets factored into the costs. You don’t pay a lot more for it, but you do pay.

Myth: cloud computing isn’t secure. This isn’t a remotely plausible generalization – consider each cloud service on their own merit. Some are built securely, others are not. But you cannot lump them all together.  The Achilles heel of cloud computing is that all services that run on the cloud are vulnerable if the core/base operating system is compromised, however.

Downside: stability. As mentioned above, cloud computing and cloud hosting is a growing and maturing platform and therefore subject to crashes that lose client data. Backups must, as with any hosting, be an integral part of the hosting strategy.

Host Like Toast: Managed WordPress Hosting uses Cloud Hosting

All managed WordPress hosting offered by Host Like Toast is cloud hosting based – we believe cloud hosting to be the best and most viable option for business, especially small business in growth stages.

Find our more about our Managed WordPress Hosting: WordPress as a Service offering.

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Do you need an automated CPanel web hosting backup script? There is that and more in the Developer Channel

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