The most basic metric of reliability is “uptime,” which simply measures the raw amount of time that your site is live on the internet. A service that promises 99.99% uptime means that your site will be live for all except for about 3 days out of every year. If you can get to 99.999% uptime you get a site that will be live for all but except for about 8 hours out of every year. Once you hit 99.999% uptime, that will be a good enough promise for all but some of the most high-scale operations.
Of course, there’s additional reliability concerns outside of mere uptime. That would be performance. The performance reliability of a hosting solution is how quickly it can deliver the data to where it needs to go, minus the latency and lag speeds that users experience. A web solution that is reliable isn’t just potentially on your users’ screens, it actually gets there, and gets there reasonably quickly.
Reliability of Hardware
One of the great perks of cloud hosting is the ability to overcome a single server going down. If you’re running hosting services on a shared host or dedicated server platform, a single physical server is the only link between you and the world wide web. If that one physical server tanks, your whole site goes down until the host company can bring your backups online on a different server. Cloud hosting is a bit different. Because the cloud is created from an aggregate of different physical servers, no single physical server is responsible for your site being live. If one server goes down but the cloud still has plenty of resources, then your site stays live.
Of course, there are also some drawbacks to the hardware the cloud hosting offers. For example, while it is true that your website can survive the downing of a single server, it may not survive the downing of a whole room of servers. Remember that your site is still tied to physical servers and that certain losses of power or DDoS attacks are still capable of knocking out your site.
Cloud hosting is famous for instant, dynamic scaling that can really help you move up your resources to handle traffic and move down your resources to handle costs. Scalability, on many cloud hosting providers, allows you to add resources when you expect spikes in web usage and allows you to lose extra weight when you expect to see valleys.
But scalability can also be an asset to the reliability of your website. If your site gets overwhelmed with visitors or adds data that your service plan can’t really cope with, then you’ll lose loading speeds and also may even pick up some downtime. If you have the option to scale up when traffic spikes or data gets added, this improves the reliability of your site. Scaling helps your site remain viable and reliable under dynamic, shifting business conditions.
Security is included in reliability metrics because reliability contains the notion of expectations. When you sign up for a hosting service, there is the expectation that your data will remain your data. If your data is no longer your own data, then the security has failed and the reliability of the hosting is in question.
Cloud hosting is about as secure as any other kind of hosting that you can opt for. Most security experts are aware that the vast majority of security breaches do not occur at the level of hosting providers, but occur at the level of user error. If data is not properly protected, if passwords get out and access gets shaky, things can get compromised. Phishing attempts create a large variety of security issues.
We’ve already talked about scaling, which can positively impact the reliability of your site by offering more resources when you need them. As many companies have found, moving to cloud hosting raises the ceiling on performance reliability, but also increased the variance in performance that is given. When you have your own server infrastructure or are running on a dedicated server in a particular location, you get used to certain latency and performance considerations. Opting to go with a cloud hosting solution, especially a big one, can cause these issues to fluctuate a bit.
While the cloud is ultimately really reliable in its performance, there are different kinds of latency considerations. Some large cloud providers, like AWS, even offer their own CDN (content delivery network) that can store a cache of your site’s critical resources at strategic locations to reduce latency. Using a content delivery network can improve performance reliability.
Backups and Restorations
Depending on the host that you go with, there will be different procedures for backups and restorations. The other piece to the reliability puzzle is restoration. Things can go wrong, and they do go wrong. Websites get chopped up and performance issues make the old version of your site look really promising. The ability to restore backups and do it quickly will be critical to the reliability of your hosting over time. Cloud hosting companies that provide more extensive, frequent backups and easier restoration procedures are more reliable.
The reliability of cloud hosting comes down to the uptime of the hardware, the performance, and the ability to get everything back when it all goes wrong. Most cloud hosting companies provide uptime guarantees which attempt to minimize the risk of downtime through financial kickbacks, and cloud hosting as a solution provides more hardware risk mitigation by spreading the cloud through different physical servers. Performance of cloud hosting is scalable, and CDNs can be tacked on to reduce latency once you have data about your network performance. All in all, cloud hosting is a very reliable way to deliver your data to users.
If you are looking for a reliable cloud hosting provider, take a look at our hosting finder tool.