Cloud computing is not a new concept , in fact many major technology companies like Amazon and Google have been using it, and offering cloud based services for years. What is new, however, is the fact that the cloud has become a technology reality for normal web hosting clients like you and me. Cloud computing has moved beyond the “bleeding edge” of technical innovation and has now become mainstream. The biggest reason for the new found mainstream success of the cloud is that the leading technology companies like the Googles and Amazons of the marketplace have tested out the approach, smoothed out the bugs, and stabilized the environments.
So, as someone interested in web hosting, what does cloud hosting offer you? What are the benefits and possible risks associated with going to a cloud based solution?
Understanding the term
First off, let’s define what the “cloud” is. The internet cloud is essentially a hosting solution that is placed out in the network, relying on a third party service provider to host your web application instead of purchasing and maintaining your own web servers. The core piece of these vendor contracts is the Service Level Agreement (SLA). The vendor guarantees a certain amount of uptime, simultaneous users, performance metrics and similar web hosting related items based on your specific needs. The difference in cloud computing over traditional web hosting solutions is that the cloud hosting provider offers contracts and SLAs based on server time. In traditional web hosting scenarios, the client purchases or rents servers from the hosting vendor and then either purchases maintenance or manages their own servers via SSH or other system administration tools. In the cloud, the client is only concerned about the performance, availability, and usage requirements their web site needs. The vendor then hosts the client’s web site or web application in secured, shared, and federated server hosting environment.
Why cloud solution
This cloud solution is extremely scalable and flexible. While servers hosted on the West coast of the US will often cause lag issues with users on the United States East Coast, these issues are not a problem with the cloud. The reason for this is that if you host with Amazon, for instance, the client doesn’t need to be concerned about where geographically their code is hosted because Amazon has data hosting centers all across the United States (and many parts of the world, as well). When your data is hosted in the Amazon cloud, or any other vendor cloud, the clients web code is federated across all of the data centers, providing guaranteed service levels for any visiting web traffic across the United States.
Another major advantage of hosting your web application in the cloud is the elasticity and flexibility available. Because the vendor is hosting the client web application in a federated, shared hosting environment, SLAs can be written on a Pay for Performance basis. This means that the client only pays for the actual usage on the site per month. If you have a slow month in February, you pay only a minimum charge. But if your site activity spikes in March, you don’t have to worry about your site running out of resources or crashing, and you don’t need to negotiate the purchase of more servers as you would in the traditional hosting scenarios. The cloud hosting solution automatically adds more resources as your site traffic increases, automatically scaling up based on your traffic needs. At the end of the month you pay for the additional activity to your site, but if your traffic slows again in June, your hosting bill scales down with it. This is especially useful for retail based sites that experience heavy holiday traffic, but are fairly low traffic sites during the spring and summer time.