Up until recently, individual servers in single data centers hosted the average website. If you were a reasonably large company then you might have bought your own. You would also have an IT team whose job is to look after and maintain it. One website or many could be held on a server. It didn’t matter, the principle is exactly the same.
Not so with cloud hosting, however.
Rather than having all your data on a single machine, the cloud hosting provider distributes your website data across several servers in different locations as well as making backups to different servers. The biggy, however, is that all the servers link together into one network.
You, as the customer, don’t see all this. The servers are merrily working away behind the scenes, doing what servers do. All you are aware of is that you have one website in one place. This clever piece of misdirection is brought to you by a ‘virtual server’. This accesses all the parts of your data and brings it all together. Because your data exists in a ‘virtual environment’ it is termed as being ‘in the cloud’.
Cloud hosting, because it uses the combined resources of many different physical servers, allows websites to access many more resources than would be available on traditional hosting servers. This is where the concept blossoms and becomes so much better than traditional hosting.
Traditional hosting vs The cloud
You probably know that traditional hosting involved either using a dedicated server (your own server) or a shared server (shared with other websites), depending on your requirements.
If so, then it probably won’t come as a surprise when I say that you have a similar choice with cloud hosting too. The ‘public cloud’ is equivalent to a shared server, while a ‘private cloud’ corresponds to a dedicated server. Simple, isn’t it?
Public vs private cloud
So, a public cloud holds many websites within its network. In effect, each website has its own virtual server environment. Each virtual environment shares the hardware and maintenance costs, but they are completely cut off from the rest so they don’t share resources.
You can probably see that this has all the benefits of shared hosting without the downsides.
On the other hand, a private cloud account doesn’t share any hardware with other accounts at all. In this case, it’s not the resources that are ring fenced, it’s the hardware and infrastructure, and it has its own firewall too. This is far more expensive than the public cloud but offers better security and allows the owner to have complete control. If you’ve had experience with other types of hosting and the problems with security that sometimes occur, you can see the great advantages that come with having a private cloud.
Advantages of the cloud
You’ve probably realized by now that the cloud gives you some pretty amazing benefits, even more so than a dedicated server. However, the traditional dedicated server setup is so much simpler than a cloud and consequently so much cheaper. So why is the cloud so popular?
Imagine for a moment that your traditionally hosted website is on a dedicated server somewhere, chugging along quite happily. Suddenly, the server goes offline. It may just be temporary or it may be something serious and the server goes offline for good. Either way, your website goes offline too. No prizes for guessing in which situation you’ve lost your entire website!
Yes, the website backup files will be somewhere, but you’d be surprised how many providers back up files in the same physical server as the original!
If your website experiences downtime, even for a few minutes, you may have lost many millions of dollars in sales. Not good!
If however, many servers in different parts of the world share your files and backups using cloud hosting, you won’t have these problems. One server goes down, then another just takes its place. Simple!
Because of the way the cloud network infrastructure is set up, there will be many more resources available than your website could ever use. Whether you need a huge database and greater bandwidth with more RAM or something else entirely, your needs will be accommodated. Perhaps you don’t need many resources for 11 months of the year, but in the 12th month, demand goes through the roof. The system automatically adjusts the number of resources available to suit demand. What’s even better is that most cloud packages come with a ‘Pay as You Use’ contract. This means that you only pay for what you use and when you use it. How good is that?
Hyperscale cloud hosting
A chat about cloud hosting wouldn’t be complete without touching on ‘Hyperscale’. In fact, this is one of the main reasons why the cloud is so popular.
Have you ever heard of Google, Amazon, and Microsoft? I’ll bet you have.
Well, the majority of global cloud servers belong to these three giants. In fact, their resources are so huge that they’re known as ‘hyperscale’.
Not only do these companies offer cloud hosting, they also offer Artificial Intelligence (AI) resources to run in parallel with the hosting. This isn’t just the normal AI that’s now common in our homes, Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri, Google Assistant. What I’m talking about are the AI services and machine learning platforms that’ll enhance your customers’ experience. AI Chatbots are just one application. These are an improvement on the previous generation as they’re able to respond intelligently to awkward and difficult questions and analyze the conversations for marketing purposes.
All three giants are constantly innovating their clouds and passing this on to you, their customers.
Managed cloud hosting
I can hear you muttering to yourself that you wouldn’t know where to start. I can fully sympathize with this. The cloud hosting packages, machine learning, AI and all the rest will fly over the heads of most normal people. Not everyone has a skilled IT team, chomping at the bit, waiting to set up their own private cloud. In fact, it’s a good probability that most IT guys wouldn’t know where to start either.
This is where Managed Cloud Hosting comes into its own. The big hyperscale cloud providers realize that only specialists know how to set up their customers’ packages and provide tech support. So they’ve set up a network of Managed Service Providers (MSP) whose remit is solely to design, set up and deliver custom made cloud hosting solutions that fit the customers’ requirements.
MSPs work with their customers and hold their hands throughout the journey. They’ll highlight your company’s IT problems and organize various technological innovations to suit. They’ll design your solution, advise which is the best hyperscale cloud for your organization, and set up the system. In addition, they’ll work on a consultancy basis to manage the package, change it as your company’s requirements change and upgrade the system as more innovations become available.
Remember that cloud hosting packages are completely customizable and therefore you only pay for the resources and services you use. Whether you want cloud storage or cloud hosting, you should be able to choose exactly what you want and ensure the security is top-notch too.
If you take the plunge and decide you want to use one of the big three hyperscale providers, get in touch with an MSP to find out what’s available. Remember that the MSP mustn’t be tied to just one of the hyperscale providers. Otherwise, you may not receive completely unbiased advice. There are plenty of them out there. So, do some research, make sure they’re completely independent, and get it done.
Don’t be tempted into using the cloud if all you want is a basic website with relatively low and predictable traffic, and you don’t sell online. If this scenario sounds familiar then the chances are that all you need is a good shared hosting package.
If on the other hand, you need great security, handle personal and financial details, have high, unpredictable traffic and expect to increase your sales in the near future, then go for a cloud-based hosting package. Whichever type you choose should be the result of good business decisions, using an independent specialist consultant if necessary.