Cloud hosting is a way of hosting, or storing, a website and its respective data across multiple servers rather than a single server. Cloud hosting usually relies on virtual servers which are based on a network of various physical servers. Virtual servers refer to a web server that shares its computing resources and so they are not dedicated entirely to a specific website or set of websites. In effect, this enables multiple virtual servers to reside on one physical computer.
These virtual and physical servers are not located on-premise, but rather are a feature of cloud computing in that they are accessed via an Internet connection. Cloud hosting allows websites to pull information and resources from several servers, usually located in different data centres in disparate parts of the world, as and when they need them. In this respect, cloud hosting is related to other forms of cloud technology in that businesses are using a service, rather than a product.
Using cloud hosting, website resources are utilised only when necessary, improving server efficiency. Moreover, should there be an issue with one of the servers, another within the cloud hosting network will be able to takeover, limiting the amount of downtime experienced. If websites are experiencing peak traffic, more computing resources from the “cloud” of servers can be allocated to it, helping to alleviate bandwidth issues.
In fact, websites that use cloud hosting can sometimes remain undisrupted even when entire data centres are forced offline. By spreading resources across multiple data centres, companies achieves a much higher level of reliability. Businesses wishing to introduce resource-draining new features will also benefit from the cloud model as upscaling is seamless.
This approach can also prove more cost effective for firms as they only use, and hence pay for, the resources that their website needs. Rather than running a dedicated server operating at half-capacity or less for the majority of the time, cloud hosting promises much greater efficiency.
Cloud hosting usually falls under two categories: Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS). In the former, clients are provided virtualised hardware resources, including server space, IP addresses and bandwidth. Clients are then free to choose whichever software platform they wish to build their website or web application. If customers receive a PaaS package from their cloud hosting provider, however, they will also be given a software framework within which they can build their website. This may include an operating system and development tools.
Cloud hosting contrasts with the single server approach, where a single computer acts as the dedicated server for a website and comes with a set amount of memory, hard disk space and bandwidth, all of which will have limited flexibility.
However, some businesses may still want to use the dedicated server approach. If a website requires a large proportion resources, cloud hosting could actually work out more expensive than a single server. Organisation may also have security concerns when their website resources are spread across many different servers in various data centres, all of which may be working under different security protocols.
With prices surrounding cloud technology falling, the future of cloud hosting looks bright and for businesses that require reliability above all else, it represents a worthwhile investment.