You would be hard-pressed to find a web hosting company that isn’t touting the benefits of cloud hosting as a major feature, or at the very least offering up cloud-based solutions. Is the hype justified, or is this just more marketing-speak to confuse consumers?
Let’s cut the suspense short. Cloud hosting is the real deal, and it opens up the door so that anybody can have features and conveniences that were only previously available to organizations with huge IT budgets.
Curious about whether or not this is the right type of hosting for you to host your website with? Let’s go over the biggest benefits of cloud hosting, and you’ll be able to figure that out for yourself pretty easily.
The market for cloud hosting has been growing at a rapid pace for over a decade and shows no signs of slowing down. If you're still unsure exactly what we're talking about, check out our What is Cloud Hosting? article for a quick recap.
Before we get into the cloud, let’s talk about hosting in general, and some of the more popular options. Before deciding if the cloud is the right choice, it’s helpful to know what else is out there.
This is the bottom of the barrel when it comes to web hosting. Many sites, sometimes hundreds, are tossed onto the same physical server in one single location. If something happens to that hardware, it’s bad news for everyone. And everyone has to share the resources, meaning everyone suffers. But hey, it's like $3 per month!
This is similar to shared hosting in the sense that many sites reside on the same server, however they’re walled-off from one another and each user will have their own IP addresses to use. Each cluster of sites owned by each user will be allocated their own amount of resources that can't be used by anyone else's websites.
Your site has its own physical server. This is what a VPS is essentially trying to emulate., but instead of just an exclusive partition of a server, you get the whole thing.
The problem with all three of these options, traditionally, is that if something happens to the hardware, you’re in trouble. If you want more resources, you’re still stuck sharing with other people or upgrading to a wildly more expensive dedicated server.
But when you add cloud hosting into the mix, you no longer have to worry about the major pitfalls of traditional hosting. Cloud servers are so customizable that you can get them in the same price range as normal shared hosting, or you can get high-end cloud servers to emulate the performance of a dedicated server.
The following benefits of cloud hosting make it an easy choice...
The major pitfall to other types of hosting, as mentioned above, is that if something happens to the hardware your sites are stored on, it’s bad news. Most decent hosts will keep backups, and be able to transfer your site to another server, but this takes time.
During that time, your site is down, and that’s just bad for business. The cloud offers uptime as close to 100% as possible. You’re never relying on one single server. Your files are redundantly stored across many servers and also have on-site backups as well.
If you’re using a dedicated server to host your site and it becomes compromised, your site is down, hacked, and it’s a catastrophe. If you're using a shared server and it gets hacked (which is common, due to having hundreds of different sites on it), that’s bad news again. With the cloud, however, if your server gets hacked, your site continues to run because it can fall back on any of the other numerous servers in its cloud, including reverting to previous "save points."
Beyond that, when you’re using a reputable cloud hosting platform, you can rest assured that they’ve taken all of the necessary steps for security on the server-side. Of course, it’s still up to you to ensure that you’re using strong passwords and that your software (theme and plugins mainly) are up to date, but you’ll know the backbone of your operation is in good shape.
The flexibility of the cloud is where it really shines. You can easily bundle your whole project up to create backups that can be instantly deployed on another server, which makes it really easy to restore operation if you do run into any issues at any point or want to migrate to another cloud hosting provider. Also, this makes it easy to move the geographic location of your server, too.
Not only is it flexible in terms of operations, but the pricing is flexible too. You’re only paying for exactly what you need to use (give or take a couple of dollars, depending on how your provider prices things out.) Instead of, say, a dedicated server that costs $300 per month, you can deploy a cloud server starting at just $5, so when your site is brand new you don’t have to invest a ton until it’s time to scale up. The resources, and thus costs, can be scaled immediately exactly when you need them. Speaking of which...
To continue from the previous point, it couldn’t be easier to scale up a cloud server. Start small, and as your site grows, it’s usually just a matter of clicking a couple of times and you’ll have more resources allocated to you instantly. With other servers, your site has to physically move from the old server to the new server, which adds in all sorts of compatibility issues if the software versions aren’t the same, not to mention potential downtime due to DNS migration, but with the cloud it’s instant, easy, and requires zero technical knowledge to scale up your server to meet greater traffic demands.
What's nice is if you get a sudden burst of traffic and resource demands, you can immediately be given more sources without your intervention. You'll pay some slight over-usage charges, but your site won't go down. You can't beat that.
Unmanaged cloud hosting requires some degree of technical prowess, even thought most major providers have very detailed and easy-to-follow documentation. They’re less likely to help out with any snags along the way, but you can save a decent chunk of money each month going the unmanaged route. I personally don't recommend it, even if you're capable. The time saving of allowing the hosting company to manage it can't be over-emphasized.
Managed cloud hosting, on the other hand, offers support for just about any problems you’ll run into. Some providers offer full support for software, too, while others only offer partial support. In any case, managed cloud hosting is a perfect choice for someone who wants all of the benefits of the cloud without having to hire their own IT department or to learn the intricacies of server management.
The efficiency, ease of use, scalability and flexibility of cloud hosting, not to mention the reliability, all translate directly into cost and time savings that lead to increased revenue growth of your business.
Not all cloud hosts are created equal, and some will excel in certain areas more than others, but as a general rule of thumb, any cloud host will perform better than a host in the same category that isn’t operating in the cloud. If you’re choosing a host at random, your mileage may vary, but I’ve also put together a list of the very best cloud hosting providers so that you don’t have to just throw darks in the dark.
I have first-hand experience with all of the industry leaders in the world of hosting (and with plenty of not-so-great options, too) so I’m happy to point you in the right direction and help you avoid all of the headaches that I've had to deal with after nearly two decades of building and hosting websites.