Enterprise-Level Hosting Used by the Big Players
Everyone’s heard of Google. But not everyone’s heard of the Google Cloud Platform (GCP)—a suite of cloud services including computing, data storage, data analytics, and machine learning.
Google’s first cloud computing service, App Engine, was founded in 2008 and is a platform for developing and hosting web applications in Google’s managed worldwide data centers. Its website is available in 13 languages, including English, German, Spanish, French, Italian, Dutch, Portuguese, Japanese, Chinese (simplified and traditional), and Korean.
GCP’s services are used by the likes of Coca-Cola, Twitter, PayPal, and eBay, but if that doesn’t impress you, maybe knowing that it runs on the same infrastructure as Google Search and YouTube will. But should its client base impress you enough to choose GCP? Do they care enough about the little guy to make your website hosting experience worthwhile?
To find out if it’s right for you, I’ll dig into all the pros and cons, touching on the features, pricing, ease of use, and support that come along with GCP’s packages.
Powerful Cloud Hosting for Enterprise Users
Google Cloud Platform is different from other hosting providers in that it’s dedicated solely to cloud computing, and cloud hosting is a small part of that. Cloud computing is a great choice for businesses that have a growing or fluctuating demand, but it’s definitely going to be overkill if you’re just looking to host a small hobby site with a low level of traffic.
GCP is focused entirely on enterprise-level cloud hosting, so you’re not going to get free beginner-friendly features like website transfers, one-click installers, or website building tools. While it does come with a lot of powerful features, they are tailored toward developers and high-demand websites.
As you’d expect with GCP, its coverage is global. With data centers in 20 locations, including the U.S. (Oregon, Los Angeles, South Carolina, Iowa, Virginia), Canada (Montreal), South America (Brazil), Europe (the Netherlands, London, Belgium, Zurich, Frankfurt, Finland), and the Asia-Pacific region (India, China, Japan, Singapore, and Australia).
Your Data Is Safe
Hosting with a big provider has pros and cons. On one hand, the host can afford to invest in the latest security and compliance controls, but on the other, its size may make it more vulnerable to hackers. I can tell you, though, GCP is up to date with all of the international standards necessary to satisfy the security requirements of its customers, and it’s compliant with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), as well.
Partnerships with Top Companies
GCP not only offers its own services, it also partners with some of the world’s best tech companies to help you “innovate faster, scale smarter, and stay secure.” For instance, its partnership with Salesforce means you can integrate your customer relationship management (CRM) with G Suite and Google Analytics 360 for a seamless workflow.
A Commitment to Open Source
Google and GCP are committed to contributing to the open source community. Kubernetes, TensorFlow, and Android are just a few examples of Google’s internal projects that are open source. It’s nice to know you can pick up and move your app to a different open source cloud rather than being stuck with a particular vendor.
Ease of use
Get Started Easily, for Free
Everything to do with the Google Cloud Platform website is sleek and modern. And while its extensive menus can seem overwhelming, the simplest way to begin is to click Get Started, rather than trying to find a particular service at the outset. After that, the process is similar to setting up a new email address.
Create an Account
When you create an account, you can get started for free, plus you automatically get a $300 credit toward your usage. While you do need to enter payment information, Google explains that you won’t be billed until you’ve given your permission—so you won’t get any unexpected charges on your credit card.
Once you’ve decided to go ahead, select the blue Get started for free button and follow the on-screen prompts—it’s simple, and it’ll only take a minute of your time.
Connect a Domain and Install WordPress
This setup process is simple for GCP’s target audience—enterprise-level clients, likely with a team of developers. However, if you’re a newer website owner, the format and language of the dashboard may make it feel complicated and overwhelming. And if you need support along the way, forget it, unless you’re prepared to pay a premium. You can read more about my experience here.
If you’re prepared to pay a rather high fee, you can have Google expert assistance. This comes in the form of consultancy, technical account management, and a global partner network, as well as training and certifications.
The GCP marketplace offers a range of ready-to-go solutions that can be deployed with just a few clicks. There are the usual candidates, such as WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla, plus some developer-friendly tools like GitLab, Jenkins, and Plesk.
Nobody likes clicking from tab to tab, opening and attempting to integrate numerous apps. GCP comes fully connected with apps you likely already use in your daily lives, such as G Suite, Google Maps, Chrome OS, and many, many more.
You Can’t Do Much Better Than This
Google is known for its reliability, and for good reason. All of Google’s own services run on Google Cloud Platform, so problems with uptime or performance are highly unlikely. When’s the last time you heard that YouTube or Google Search went down?
It offers an excellent 99.99% uptime service-level agreement (SLA), which is clearly documented and offers decent financial compensation in the event of downtime. Of course, all cloud hosting networks have the potential for error. But if reliability, speed, and uptime are high on your list of priorities, you could do a lot worse than GCP.
But if that doesn’t convince you, this might. I ran my own Sucuri page load test. GCP earned a top grade, offering connection speeds of less than 20 milliseconds in most locations.
It fares worst in Tokyo, but GCP is adding more data center locations there soon. It could be a coincidence or Google knows its weaknesses and is investing in improvements.
Only If You Pay
Support from Google Cloud Platform does not come free (unless you want only billing support). If you’d like any kind of tech support, you’re going to need to pay. There are three tiers of plans offering web, phone, and chat support, but the prices range from quite expensive to insanely expensive.
Honestly, these prices are only suitable for enterprises and are a huge deterrent for anyone other than the most serious of businesses. If you can’t afford to pay, there’s a community forum and decent documentation, but that’s about it.
I’d usually test all of the support options, but, without a few hundred or even thousand dollars burning a hole in my pocket, I decided against it. I was able to send an email to sales, but I didn’t get a response to that at all.
Google Cloud Platform offers a 12-month free trial, with $300 credit. Payment is by credit card only and you’ll only be charged for your actual usage, on per-second increments, meaning you only pay for the bandwidth resources that your website actually used.
However, unless you have a degree in computer science, you might struggle to understand how much you’ll be billed. It does provide a cost calculator, but it’s still pretty confusing.
It’s important to keep in mind that GCP isn’t the right host if budget is your primary concern. Instead, choose GCP if your hosting requirements are likely to grow or fluctuate in the future and you need solid infrastructure that scales with your business.
Cancellations & Refunds
Canceling your Google Cloud Platform account requires two easy steps. First, you need to delete your projects. This can be done via the admin; just be sure to back up any data, if you need to. Second, you need to shut down your billing account, which is also easy to do inside the console.
Like most other cloud hosts, GCP bills on a usage basis, so you’re not going to get a refund. That said, as soon as you delete the instance or project, no further charges will be added to your account, and you’ll just need to pay for the resources already used.