We’re used to seeing the word ‘cloud’ stuck in front of basically every technological term out there. And while tech-savvy individuals have a decent grasp of what ‘the cloud’ is, the same can’t be said for all its potential applications. This includes  Cloud hosting.

In comparing cloud hosting vs shared hosting, it’s important to stress the benefits of a cloud-based solution against more traditional methods, and how next-generation cloud platforms are really in a league of their own.

So what is cloud hosting?

When we talk about cloud hosting at Fasthosts, we’re talking about web hosting built on our CloudNX platform.

On CloudNX, cloud hosting takes the form of managed stacks. These are bundles of pre-configured software that can be used to run a wide range of web applications. If you want you can instead launch a pre-installed CMS application, which is simply a stack with WordPress, Drupal, or Joomla pre-installed on top.

Both managed stacks and applications could be considered cloud hosting, since they provide a web hosting environment on a cloud platform – they draw computing power from a pool of dynamically allocated resources across a large network of physical components, not a fixed set of hardware.

What about cloud servers?

While cloud servers can also be considered a form of web hosting in the wider sense, on CloudNX we differentiate cloud hosting (stacks and apps) from Root Servers.

With a Root Server, you get a whole server with its own operating system and full root access. Of course, this is on a cloud platform, so a Root Server is a virtual machine rather than a physical one. But it still comes with all the flexibility and performance you’d get from a physical box.

The difference between shared hosting and cloud hosting

Shared hosting is a web hosting solution where each customer receives a portion of server hardware to run their website or application. When it comes to shared hosting vs cloud hosting, shared hosting is often the most cost-effective way to get a project online – the service provider houses multiple customers on a single web server, resulting in lower costs overall.

While shared hosting can be perfect as a low-cost platform for less demanding projects, it certainly has its limits. With several customers sharing one set of physical hardware, individual users can’t rely on a guaranteed level of server performance.

This might not be an issue for sites and applications with minimal requirements or low visitor numbers, but when it comes to running intensive, business-critical processes, many users find that shared hosting isn’t up to snuff.

Why is shared hosting vs cloud hosting a touchy subject?

Why isn't shared hosting suitable for intensive applications? In a word, contention. The full power of the hardware will always be pulled in several directions at once, with different websites and applications in constant competition for processing power.

Imagine one customer on a shared platform gets a sudden spike in traffic. Luckily, other websites on the same server are quiet, so some resources can be allocated to cope with the extra visitors. But what happens when several websites are popular at once?

How does shared hosting manage high traffic volume?

A shared server only has a finite amount of resources to share out, so will struggle with intensive applications. The end result is inconsistent performance, slow loading times and a shoddy experience for the end-user. If your website is a major source of leads or sales, this can be a serious shortcoming.

Even with high contention, shared hosting can still use sophisticated technology to provide decent performance, at least for sites with low or medium requirements. But still, demanding sites will never get reliable, consistently high performance on anything other than a dedicated platform.

Cloud servers and cloud hosting: always dedicated on CloudNX

'Cloud hosting', 'cloud servers', and 'shared hosting' are useful definitions, but there’s still room for misconceptions. One of these is the idea that cloud hosting – when it doesn’t involve complete servers – offers performance comparable to a normal shared hosting solution. With CloudNX, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Whether on a Root Server, a Managed Stack or an Application project, every single resource you configure in the CloudNX control panel is dedicated to you alone. Processors, RAM and SSD storage provide guaranteed performance on CloudNX hosting, exactly the same way they do on complete servers.

This means your WordPress blog or Drupal site can run with the same high level of performance you’d get from a dedicated server. If you're expecting higher visitor numbers, it’s a simple case of configuring increased server resources. The only difference is the lack of root server access, and the additional managed service provided by Fasthosts.

Where does the ‘managed’ bit come in?

On managed stacks and applications, CloudNX provides a managed service for the underlying platform. This means that while you’re in full control of your web server, databases and scripting, the platform is automatically maintained for you, with regular software updates and security patches.

Do root servers offer automatic maintenance?

Root servers, are virtual machines that provide the customer with complete control and nearly unlimited customisation options – you’ll need to apply updates and patches yourself. However, unlike managed stacks, automatic maintenance isn't possible.

But on managed stacks and applications, Fasthosts takes care of the operating system and server admin. So if you don’t have the time or expertise to manage the platform yourself, you can still benefit from a powerful cloud platform, safe in the knowledge that your software is always up to date and secure.

Cloud hosting vs shared hosting: are there any similarities?

In a way, the managed element of cloud hosting makes it more like shared hosting, even if it can ultimately offer far more in terms of performance.

With server hardware divided between multiple users, a shared platform is basically managed by definition, since root access for one customer would obviously interfere with their co-tenants. The provider also needs to ensure that the underlying platform is kept secure and up to date, since individual customers don’t have the ability to modify it themselves.

You could think of managed stacks and applications as offering a more ‘hosting-like’ experience, in that no server admin is required.

Like a shared platform, the cloud allows everything to be managed from one central control panel. It also offers the flexibility to manage files via SFTP, install and update applications (e.g. WordPress), manage databases and DNS, and manipulate source code.

Shard hosting vs cloud hosting: what is the fundamental difference?

The big difference between the two is that, unlike shared hosting, CloudNX hosting offers fully dedicated resources that can be scaled on demand for guaranteed performance. It's sort of a ‘dedicated hosting’ option for users who want the increased power of their own server, but don’t want to deal with server management.

We’ve created this table as a quick guide to the differences between cloud servers, cloud hosting and shared hosting:

Hopefully, this exploration of ‘cloud hosting vs shared hosting’ has cleared up some misconceptions. If you’re still unsure about the best way to meet your web hosting needs, we’ll be happy to advise you by phone, live chat or email - just get in touch. Or discover even more about the cloud over on our blog.