Cloud Hosting: Hype Or Reality?
“Cloud” is a marketer’s dream buzzword; they’ll tag it to just about anything to get you to buy into it. Hosting companies in particular like to advertise cloud hosting; it seems to be a redundant, affordable, and scalable hosting alternative to cloud hosting traditional hosting solutions.
So is it?
In a word: yes. Cloud hosting can be a very economical solution to traditional hosting solutions, especially if your company plans to grow aggressively in the next few years. Using the cloud adds redundancy while still not being too expensive, and acts and functions just like any regular server you might employ while having the tools in place to scale easily and affordably.
As an example, we can look at Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud. Amazon’s EC2 is a very affordable and scalable system for hosting your servers. Amazon’s Cloud is priced per hour; you’re billed only the amount of time you use the server. Let’s assume that you use a Large Instance (virtual dual-core, 8 GB of RAM) 100% of the time with 2TB of data in and out. This will price to about $744 a month; an equivalent package from Rackspace, including bandwidth and hardware specs, costs $769 a month; you are saving $25 a month just by using Amazon.
The cost savings, however, aren’t the only benefit to a cloud: cloud services are equipped with load balancers, automatic scaling, and other tools to help you scale easily. Many of these hosting solutions have scripts and automatic alerts to bring new instances online as you need them, or to allocate new virtual nodes as required. These measures are generally very easy to implement and save a great deal of planning and hassle; instead of looking ahead and requisitioning servers you may not end up needing, you don’t waste any time or space on the rack. Additionally, cloud servers you never have to use more than you need: instances or nodes can be turned off or on depending upon usage and need.
That said, however, cloud hosting is not a magical panacea or cure-all, and it is true that it’s not 100% foolproof. The recent massive outage of Amazon’s EC cluster in Virginia is evidence of this, as the failure created some latency and connectivity issues for several hours. The outage happened overnight and most systems were responsive and fully operational by morning, but it is a fact of computing that these sorts of downtimes happen. Cloud hosting can in theory be more resilient than regular hosting, but it is subject to outages just like the rest of the IT world and you can’t ever guarantee 100% uptime.
In spite of this, however, I can’t help but recommend cloud hosting. It’s cheaper, amazingly scalable, and as reliable as many hosting companies out there; for those looking to switch up their hosting packages, I would encourage you to give cloud hosting an honest look and not just dismiss this one as a corporate buzzword!