Cloud hosting utilises a network of virtual and physical servers to host applications and websites. These cloud resources offer much greater flexibility and scalability than traditional hosting options, where a single physical server is used. In this post, we're going to talk about everything to do with cloud hosting; including what it is, how it works, the pros and cons of cloud hosting, and some frequently asked questions.

What is cloud hosting?

Cloud hosting makes websites and applications accessible via the internet using a network of virtual and physical server infrastructure. Instead of being hosted in a single physical server, cloud hosting solutions are generally offered by cloud providers, who will oversee the setup, security, and maintenance of the servers. Typically, both computing and storage resources are spread across a wide network of virtual machines (VMs).

Learn more: What is a cloud server?

How does cloud hosting work?

Cloud Hosting works using technologies like virtualisation to split a physical server into multiple VMs (virtual machines). These are then aptly named Cloud servers. These servers then connect to a single network for hosting a website, database, or other business use. Due to the interconnected nature of cloud structures, Cloud Hosting is also known as cluster server hosting.

Furthermore, Cloud Hosting relies on servers housed in data centres located worldwide, with an emphasis on high-speed communication between them to ensure reliability. When a user accesses a website or application hosted on their cloud, their request is directed to the infrastructure of the Cloud Hosting provider. Load balancers play a crucial role in this process by distributing incoming traffic across multiple servers to prevent overloading and ensure optimal performance. They’re also responsible for monitoring server loads by re-routing requests to the least busy server, effectively optimising resource utilisation.

What alternatives are there to cloud hosting?

1. Shared hosting

This is the most economical type of hosting. Shared hosting allows multiple websites to use a single server, including, but not limited to the resources used to run the server such as storage, CPU, RAM and more. The disadvantage of shared hosting, compared to cloud hosting, is due to the shared nature of the server. If one site experiences a surge in traffic, all other sites on the server can experience downtime.

2. Dedicated hosting

Dedicated hosting is one of the most advanced web hosting options on the market. One user with exclusive access to a physical server on a managed or unmanaged basis. Since these servers are exclusively allocated to you or your business, you won't encounter the "noisy neighbour" effect and can benefit from a single-tenant server that ensures optimal performance for your website (or multiple websites). Dedicated hosting is considerably more expensive than cloud hosting though, so it’s advised to compare the two offerings and their suitability for the stage your business or project is at.

Learn more: Dedicated servers vs Cloud servers.

3. Virtual private servers

A happy medium between shared hosting and dedicated hosting. A VPS (virtual private server) is a single server that uses virtualisation technology to provide you with dedicated resources on a server shared between users. When discussing VPS vs Cloud Hosting, both have their advantages, in the sense that they’re both scalable. However, VPS hosting assigns a fixed amount of resources, and if your project surpasses this limit before you can upgrade, you may encounter performance problems. On the other hand, Cloud Hosting effortlessly manages unexpected spikes in resource needs.

Learn more: What is a VPS?

The benefits of cloud hosting

The main benefits of using cloud hosting solutions include:

1. Scalability

With Cloud Hosting, you have full flexibility to upgrade or downgrade your hosting plan’s bandwidth, storage or computing power depending on demand. This includes modifying the allocation of computing resources such as CPU, memory, storage, and bandwidth. This allows websites and applications to manage unexpected increases in traffic or resource needs without any drop in performance.

2. High availability

Cloud Hosting entails multiple servers, so if one of them fails, the others can fill in and make sure your website is always online. This works by automatically transferring workloads to other accessible servers or data centres, ultimately minimising server downtime and uninterrupted access to websites. This in turn can save your business from losing customers!

3. Traffic load balancing

When your website has a spike in traffic, cloud technology allows it to spread the load across the server to maintain site performance. Essentially, traffic load balancing on Cloud Hosting serves as a traffic manager to guide incoming requests, depending on server performance, ongoing workload, and network usage. By distributing the traffic across numerous servers, load balancing assists in upholding a steady standard of service even during periods of high demand.

4. Security

As all your data is stored in a cloud, it’s generally less prone to disasters and physical malfunctions because it’s in a virtual environment. Even if the worst does happen, you’ll have multiple cloud backups which allow you to instantly recover data. The level of security can vary between public and private clouds, so you’ll need to do your research into public cloud providers or have the resource to configure your private cloud with up-to-date security protocols.

5. No expertise required

You don’t need any technical expertise as most Cloud Hosting providers will take care of all the technical maintenance of the server. This is because infrastructure, provisions, and resource management is taken care of by the cloud provider, which is great for those who need to focus on business critical tasks.

6. Additional features

You’ll have a bunch of other resources in the virtual environment to support your project, including a built-in control panel that allows you to easily see all the data you need in one place.

The disadvantages of cloud hosting

1. Costs

For some businesses, the costs of Cloud Hosting could outweigh the benefits, especially if they don’t need some of the key features such as instant recovery of data. While there are upgrades you can make to storage, there is a limit, and they do come with additional costs.

If you know you have a predictable traffic volume and steady resources, you may benefit from dedicated hosting or a VPS as a cost-efficient solution. This is because they don’t operate on a pay-as-you-go price model like some cloud hosting providers do.

2. Access issues

If you or your provider loses access to the internet for whatever reason, while your data won’t be lost, you won’t be able to access your information until it returns.

3. Limited control

Cloud hosting functions within a shared infrastructure, resulting in reduced control over the underlying hardware and software configurations. This means certain customisation options may be limited, posing difficulties in tailoring the hosting environment to suit your needs. This is especially true if you opt for public cloud hosting, but also private cloud hosting where you may not have the necessary skills to configure it yourself and have to rely on dedicated IT personnel.

4. Potential downtime

While Cloud Hosting is robust with minimal downtime, it does after all, rely on the internet for access. So if you have no connection, you won’t be able to access your Cloud Hosting services and your customers may not be able to visit your websites either. This can be a disadvantage in comparison to say dedicated servers which are physical servers that can be accessed with or without an internet connection.

Who is cloud hosting for?

Cloud hosting is hugely diverse, your ability to choose your own specifications means that it can be both very cheap or very expensive depending on how much you scale it. For example, cloud servers could be used to host a giant ecommerce site, or to host your own co-op Minecraft world.  But that’s the beauty of it, you can tailor it to your exact needs.

For those small businesses who would have previously been limited to shared hosting plans, cloud hosting offers an opportunity to integrate innovative cloud technology, unlimited scalability, and constant access to apps and data. For larger companies, cloud hosting can be more than enough to run all the features you need for your businesses, such as IT infrastructure, industrial networking and software development.

Now that you know how Cloud Hosting works, its pros and cons, and how it compares to other server types, we hope it’s helped you make an informed decision on which hosting solution to pick for your business or project. Need to utilise cloud computing for your business? Contact Fasthosts to hear more about our server options.