Storing, receiving, and sending data through the cloud has become common practice in recent years.
On top of that, its usage shows no sign of slowing down.
In fact, the experts over at Cisco reckon 95% of all global data traffic will pass through the cloud by 2021. That’s just over 20 zettabytes, or 20 trillion gigabytes — in other words, one heck of a lot of data.
But rather than remaining in the domain of email attachments and Google Docs, much of this phenomenal growth is coming from a relatively new and rapidly growing concept: cloud hosting.
What does that mean, exactly?
Let’s find out.
What Is Cloud Hosting?
Cloud hosting is an innovative method of online website and data storage that has become increasingly popular in recent years. Essentially, rather than retaining information on a single dedicated server, cloud hosting spreads the workload and data out over a large number of servers within a massive predefined network.
More often than not, these servers are dispersed all around the world, rather than being concentrated in a single physical location.
Having such a decentralized system comes with many benefits. Just ask the folks over at Google: they’ve been taking advantage of this technology for years.
What’s so Great About Cloud Hosting, Then?
Lots, actually. Let’s go through the benefits one by one.
Traditional servers are based in a single physical location, which renders them vulnerable to all sorts of issues.
Did the power cut out? Well, your entire business just went offline. Sure, your backup generator could kick in and save the day, but that isn’t likely to happen in the event of a severe natural disaster.
Other issues that could cause a physical server to go down are hardware and software failures, or inadequate maintenance by your on-site personnel.
With cloud hosting, however, a partition draws the necessary resources — such as processing power and disk space — from a huge number of virtual servers throughout the globe. If one server fails for whatever reason, another will simply step in to take its place.
Unless we come face-to-face with some sort of global Armageddon event, your cloud-hosted business will remain staunchly online.
Ultimately, this extra layer of reliability results in greater simplicity for the end user. With a focus on customer support and an easy-to-use interface, Cloudways, a user favorite, is an example of a service that keeps simplicity at the forefront of their design.
Somewhat similar to the concept of pay-per-view on cable television, most cloud hosting providers only charge clients for the resources they use.
Say you have a business that receives crazy amounts of traffic between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Wednesday, but very little for the rest of the week.
With a traditional physical server, you would need to purchase sufficient infrastructure for the peak period, which would then sit idly for much of the week.
With a cloud hosting service, however, a whole bunch of other computers on the network will jump in to lend a helping hand during these busier hours, before heading off to work elsewhere when they’re no longer needed.
This is what makes cloud hosting such a cost-effective and appealing option for many, particularly web developers who may only need the service to test out their applications for short bursts.
The ability of a cloud hosting service to adopt this pay-per-use model comes down to the system’s automatic scalability function.
Say a website receives an unprecedented spike in traffic, perhaps due to an adorable viral video of a kitten or an uber-popular midnight sale.
A physical server could buckle under the pressure and go offline, costing the business dearly. A virtual server, on the other hand, would simply enlist more help from other machines in the cloud to effectively handle the load. Certain providers even provide this resource boost automatically, so you don’t need to be constantly monitoring your website traffic to see when you need to adjust the scale.
Another great advantage of scalability is being able to seamlessly upgrade your infrastructure.
On a physical server, a customer would need to periodically purchase more hard disk space or extra processing power as their website grows. With cloud hosting, the virtual server simply draws more from the cloud as needed.
Lower set-up costs
If opting for a dedicated physical server, a business would have to come up with a considerable amount of capital up front to purchase the necessary infrastructure.
With cloud hosting, the infrastructure is already there. You simply hire it each month from an established vendor.
Similar to Adobe Creative Cloud, you’re purchasing a low-cost subscription that allows you to use the cloud-based infrastructure for the entire length of the plan — rather than purchasing a physical copy of the software for a much higher upfront cost.
Therefore, the initial investment of cloud-based hosting is much lower than purchasing your own server.
Do you work with sensitive data? Then you’re probably thinking, “I don’t want my secrets spread all over random computers throughout the world.”
You needn’t worry, though. Cloud hosting is actually remarkably secure.
The underlying servers that constitute a cloud hosting network are housed in data centers that have their own stringent security protocols in place. Furthermore, the isolated environment such a setup entails makes it harder for others to access your information.
Nevertheless, organizations with extreme security requirements should consider a private cloud hosting service, which adds an almost impenetrable extra layer of security.
So What’s the Catch?
If cloud hosting is so great, then why isn’t the whole world using it?
Like any technology, cloud hosting does have its limitations.
Initial setup costs are lower, but the recurring monthly payments do add up and they may be higher in the long run. This is often due to the fact that some cloud hosting providers prefer to charge for upscaling in large increments.
The company also loses independent control over the server and may run into trouble with compatibility issues for their applications. This could be problematic for some, but not all businesses.
Plus, transferring data from a physical to a virtual server can also be time-consuming and present security risks, as Ivailio Nikolov of SiteGround explained to Forbes.
Is Cloud Hosting Worth It for Me?
Every business has unique requirements.
At this stage, however, cloud hosting is more effective for medium and large-sized businesses whose desire for speed and stability outweighs the possibly higher monthly expenditure.
For example, an e-commerce venture with over 100 staff might be an ideal candidate for cloud hosting, whereas a family dental practice may find it more cost-effective to use a physical server.
Nevertheless, as advances in technology continue to drive prices down, it won’t be long until almost all businesses (at least 95%, according to Cisco) take their digital operations up into the clouds.
In the meantime, it’s crucial to not only determine if cloud hosting is suitable for you, but also to work out which is the right cloud hosting service for you.
Website Planet can help business owners decide on the best website hosting service for their specific requirements through a platform that features genuine customer feedback and ratings for hundreds of different vendors.