In my earlier article titled What is Web Hosting and Why Do I Need It?, I discussed the basics of web hosting. Today I’m going to dive a little deeper and discuss cloud hosting, the latest technology in web hosting. I’ll explain what it is, what’s different about it, and how it can benefit your website.
The Old Paradigm: Box Hosting
The hosting that most websites run on now is what I call ‘box hosting.’ In this model, website owners rent a server ‘box’ with a fixed amount of resources (like memory) to host their website.
The benefits of box hosting are that it’s relatively cheap and can offer a great degree of control over the hosting environment (depending on the type of server purchased.)
However, box hosting has its drawbacks as well.
1. Limited capacity for visitors
When the volume of visitors to a website exceeds a box host’s capacity, in most cases the website goes down.
This can be a serious issue for popular websites, but can also affect smaller websites that suddenly receive a huge spike in visitors. For example, small companies getting national TV coverage on Dragon’s Den may leave the stage to find their website down. I’ve also seen some local websites, like the QEII Dreamhome Lottery, be overwhelmed after the winners are posted online.
It’s fantastic that they’re getting that kind of attention, but frustrating for visitors who want to access the information.
2. Reduced Reliability
The other problem with box hosting is that there’s only one box. If the box breaks down, it’s over for the site until the problem is repaired. For a mission-critical website, this can spell disaster and lost revenues.
The New Paradigm: Cloud Hosting
Cloud hosting is what our company uses to host websites. It’s an exciting new technology that addresses the issues above in a unique way.
What is Cloud Hosting?
Normally a hosting system is made of many separate ‘boxes’. Each box hosts one website. You can think of it like a house, where each room holds one person:
If a room floods, gets too hot, or the person needs more space for their belongings, there’s not much you can do. You could move the person into another room in the house, or to another house altogether. This is complicated and takes time, during which the person will not have a place to live.
Cloud hosting eliminates this problem by making the rooms flexible. You can compare cloud hosting to a traditional Japanese house where there are no fixed walls. Rooms are created with movable paper screens.
In a Japanese house, if a room gets too hot, or a person needs more space, you can simply reconfigure the walls to let more cool air in or create more space. They are light and easy to move, making it easy and fast to rearrange the living space.
The technology behind cloud hosting is a lot like this. It has systems to detect when problems are present, for example, a website becomes overloaded, or a piece of hardware starts failing. It can then instantly reconfigure the walls to provide the website with more room or move it to an area of the ‘house’ that isn’t experiencing problems.
What Are The Benefits of Cloud Hosting?
Higher visitor capacity, especially for traffic spikes
Websites that experience sudden spikes in traffic are great candidates for cloud hosting. When a traffic spike occurs, the server expands like a rubber band to handle the additional load. Once the spike is over, the server returns to its original size and allows other websites to use the extra resources.
With box hosting, the fate of your website rests in the hands of one piece of equipment. If that equipment fails, so does your website. Cloud hosting greatly reduces this problem by spreading your website over a great number of servers and hardware resources. If one fails, another one can take over without a blip in service.
Is Cloud Hosting Invincible?
Unfortunately, no. Like any new and complex technology, and it is under constant development. So expect changes, improvements, and yes, some growing pains along the way.
And second, it is not invulnerable to natural disaster or massive systems failures. These kinds of things happen, and in fairness, no type of hosting can withstand some of these events. A good example is the recent Amazon Cloud outage that took down NetFlix, Pinterest, and Instagram.
The outage was caused by a massive electrical storm, a failed generator, and some software bugs in the control systems. While the media is quick to label cloud hosting as unreliable due to events like this, it’s very likely that no traditional box hosting facilities would have survived the same situation.
Overall, I’ve found cloud hosting to be much more reliable, maintenance-free and fast than any traditional hosting I’ve used in the past. I’ve seen the tireless techs at RackSpace fix issues that would normally have meant days or weeks of downtime for a traditional box host—all without a single blip in service. That’s why I continue to believe in Cloud Hosting.
Is Cloud Hosting Right For You?
Hopefully this article has given you a better idea of what makes cloud hosting special. Or, maybe it all went over your head—that’s OK too. As a business owner, it’s very important that your website be able to stand up to any troubles which come along. You want visitors to be able to access your site whenever they want, no matter the traffic spikes, or server bugs that come your way. If this sounds like something you’re concerned over, I recommend you take a serious look at cloud hosting for your website.