As with any other new technology or service that comes on to the market, there is a lot of “buzz” around cloud hosting at the moment. You can search and find companies touting it as a magical solution to all of your problems, with endless sales-talk and marketing aimed at hyping you up to make a purchase. But is it really that great? Who should use cloud hosting, and why? What are the downsides to it?

How Does It Work?

Basically, cloud hosting works by mirroring your website contents over multiple virtual servers. These virtual servers linked together make up “the cloud” as it is often called. Each server in the cloud has everything that it needs in order to run and serve your website up to visitors, and thus avoids having any single point of failure.

In even simpler terms: if one of these virtual servers fails – such as a crash, hardware error, etc. – your website will stay online because it is still available from the mirrored servers. All of this happens seamlessly, without human interaction from yourself or your hosting provider, which tends to help avoid downtime.

Advantages of Cloud Hosting

Stability: As mentioned above, hosting in a cloud environment allows for more stability in your website operation. If one or more of the virtual servers within the cloud go down, your website and data are still available from the others.

Security: Whether you use a public or private cloud (as discussed below), your data is kept safe and isolated from other users on the network. When it comes time to delete data, a disk wiping utility is used – for multiple passes – to make sure that nobody else can recover it. It’s basically like shredding paper documents, or burning them for that matter.

Load balancing: By its very nature, cloud hosting has load balancing and redundancy built in to it. Other websites hosted by the same provider will not negatively affect yours, and your website will not negatively affect theirs. This is in stark contrast to shared hosting, which is notorious for having “neighbors” interfering with your website speed and reliability by using more than their fair share of resources or otherwise compromising your security.

On-demand availability: Let us imagine for a moment that you finally got a video to go viral, or you got retweeted a few thousand times for whatever you posted on Twitter. That’s great, right? But if your website crumbles under the pressure, it will all be for nothing. You can never recapture that same “viral moment” in time. With cloud hosting your website can survive and thrive during this spike in traffic by utilizing resources from other servers in the cluster. It can then go back to normal when that viral traffic inevitably subsides.

Upgrading and Downgrading: If you don’t know how much resources you will need, or your requirements are likely to go up and down a lot, cloud hosting can be a more cost-effective solution than other types. For example, if you run a website with seasonal demand such as a ski resort, you can probably get by with very little resources during the off-season and then pump it up quickly for the snow season.


Of course, with any type of technology there are also some disadvantages. These downsides are usually only noticed by those experienced in hosting and networking in general, whereas most regular users and your visitors would not even realize it.

Disk I/O: The input/output (I/O) of your storage devices can make a big difference in the performance of your website. In fact, this is responsible for more website slowdowns than CPU, memory, or bandwidth. Cloud hosting setups often use cheaper hard disks than what you could install on a dedicated server, for example, but of course it saves you money. This performance hit may be completely unnoticeable to regular users, but for high-end developers it can be a big deal.

Troubleshooting: Because of the way cloud hosting works – utilizing many virtual servers and drawing resources from multiple locations at once – it can become difficult to find out where the problem is when something goes wrong. Again, as with the disk I/O issue, this is usually not a problem for the average website owner. Developers who need to be able to “look inside” the workings of the server and pinpoint complicated peformance issues will often prefer dedicated servers for this reason.

Private, Public, and Hybrid Cloud Hosting

Private: This is the most expensive form of cloud hosting, commonly used by fairly large businesses with the budget to accomodate it. As the name suggests, a private cloud is all yours. You do not share any resources with other users, which means higher levels of security and data safety.

Public: This is the most common, and cheaper, form of cloud hosting. A public cloud utilizes resources that are shared between other users, resulting in a slightly lower level of performance.

Hybrid: A mix of private and public clouds. This can be setup in a variety of ways, with the most common being to use the private cloud to store the more sensitive data, while using a public cloud for other data in order to keep costs down.

Hopefully this short overview of cloud hosting and its different types has given you something to think about while searching out a new home for your website and data. And remember, don’t get drawn in by a sales pitch alone. Do your research and don’t be afraid to ask questions of potential hosting providers.

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