The above diagram shows you the architectural difference between cloud hosting solution and traditional hosting solutions. Cloud service partitioning of the overall system stack, as outlined above, only started to become generally promoted in 2008-2009. Traditional dedicated servers, shared server hosting accounts, and VPS hosting were offered all over the internet more than full decade before the word ‘cloud’ became the latest buzzword.
This article is a bit different than most every other ‘cloud hosting’ article published so far. How? Well, there has been alot of hype over the past several years about the cloud approach to web hosting. Although cloud hosting is becoming an increasingly popular method of web hosting, there are some disadvantages to that arrangement. As with each kind of hosting, there are pros and usually at least one drawback associated with each type; and each has a significantly different cost.
Hosting a website in a public cloud offers some benefits that we will review below, but there is one very significant drawback – which is an inherent lack of control over security/privacy of a company’s business data. This means that your information could be vulnerable to hackers and unauthorized users. After all you would be storing your ‘private’ business information out there in some unknown rather geographical location in ‘the cloud’. Would you simply trust that?
If you just have a small website, that showcases your company with some simple functionality such a contact form, then a traditional shared hosting account or VPS (Virtual Private Server) is completely adequate; as it has been for a long time. Shared hosting has been the status-quo since the late 1990s’. Regarding software applications and databases that deal with your actual business data: such as your customer lists, their ordering information, your customer’s personal information or credit-card/banking information, you would logically want that information to be kept ‘in-house’ or internal. Your company’s most important data is usually the proprietary software that your company has developed (usually at great expense), or your company’s entire customer database (which is usually tied together with your customer’s personal credit card or banking details). This is something that you would not normally want to have stored in a public cloud. You are also depending on a second party to safeguard that data.
Granted, there is supposedly security software and “high-security” encryption in the cloud, but some organizations, such as the NSA (National Security Agency) have reverse-engineered and have super-powerful supercomputers to hack into and de-crypt virtually any commonly used forms of encryption. This topic has been of general concern over recent years, as cloud service providers have been deeply concerned of losing customers and revenue due to the deep NSA spying capability within America. Business ‘intelligence’ and information is valuable and can be resold to the highest bidder, under the table. It has been reported that cloud hosting providers have lost billions in annual revenue – due to just the the potential threat of a new form of corruption involving the NSA spying infrastructure. Again, this in regards to concerns about general business data and intelligence being copied and perhaps subsequently sold off to the highest bidder.
Unless you are running a enterprise-grade application or extremely high traffic website, then jumping into the cloud based on all the hype is really not that good of an idea, and you really won’t notice any kind of difference. For instance, Hosted VPS (Virtual Private Servers) and Cloud-based VPS’s are functionally the same. Cloud brings in robustness and redundancy; but with more vulnerability to data/privacy invasion.
Another disadvantage of cloud hosting is that the more resources your website uses, the higher your hosting bill will be. Although cloud is usually based on the “pay for what you need” model, it might make it difficult for some people to budget for their site if their hosting bill is not consistent for each billing period.
The number of servers in the cloud also makes cloud hosting slightly more reliable. With dedicated hosting and traditional VPS hosting, your website can be dependent on a single server. If the server fails, your site could go down and you may have to reboot the entire system or rely on a backup. With cloud hosting, there are supposed to be others servers to fall back on; so that your website should not suffer downtime.
The main advantage to cloud hosting is if your website suddenly experiences an enormous increase in traffic, then it could be affected with slow download and upload times, and decreased or painful functionality. Those kind of events are increasing rare though. Today’s shared hosting server have dozens of powerful and fast processing cores, a huge installations of ram, attached to the internet with gigabit or fiber backbone connections. However, cloud servers are clustered to accommodate the extra load by automatically contributing the additional computational power or bandwidth needed – to keep your website served that same as under low-load conditions. Today’s shared hosting servers are usually kept at or below a 60% utilization level. If your website does grow more popular and needs more resources, upgrading to a VPS is a quick and effective solution.
Traditional shared hosting has been around for about 2 decades, and doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon. It is still the most cost effective web hosting and serves the need for 95%+ of websites with high “99.9%“+ reliability. Data privacy is a critical concern for many, and traditional web hosts provide the best security behind their server firewalls; without business data just put out into “the cloud”, similar to placing files into a Dropbox account, or even emailing your critical business information as attachments in Gmail, for that matter. That remains the biggest advantage of traditional hosting over cloud hosting.