Cloud hosting? It’s a buzz-phrase, it’s popular and seems to work – but is that enough justification for you to use it? Cloud hosting has its pros and cons, just like the traditional IT solutions it replaces. Check out the list below to see if it’s the right solution for you.
Actually, What Is Cloud Hosting?
First of all, let’s make sure we all have the same perception of ‘cloud hosting’. The concepts of cloud hosting and computing are not new. You can think of ‘cloud’ as a sort of shorthand to describe a network of computing resources (typically servers). A user connecting to the ‘cloud’ via a terminal, a PC or a mobile device like a smartphone can use the resources in the cloud to store data and run software applications on the servers in the cloud. To mix metaphors a little, the cloud is a black box: as long as you know what you put in and what you get out, you don’t have to worry about how the cloud works inside. Physically however, the computer files and commands you send to the cloud all go to one or more real servers somewhere and connected to the network (very often the Internet) that you too are accessing. The recent development in cloud hosting that people talk about today has come about as more and more service providers have made online computing resources available as services to consumers and enterprises.
What are the Strengths of Cloud Hosting?
Cloud hosting services that are available over Internet often have the following advantages:
Financial Flexibility. You rent a service from someone else rather than investing in your own server. That means you pay lower monthly charges (some cloud hosting is even free), rather than committing a larger amount of capital. In many cases, cloud hosting can be more cost-effective. However, you should always compare the total startup and ongoing costs of all the solutions you are considering (cloud or other) to see what’s best for you.
Universal Access. You can connect to the cloud hosting service anywhere you can connect to the web. With broadband, 3G and Wi-Fi access points, that means just about everywhere.
Reliability and Resilience. Service providers have extensive server networks and can host multiple copies of your data in different locations. If there is a problem with a server in one place, your data can be recovered from another server elsewhere on the network.
Scaling of Resources. For an individual person or company, there is typically no limit to the amount of storage space or power for applications that can be made available. Cloud hosting providers operate very large, networked data centers giving ample room for growth for even the largest customers.
Up to Date Backup and Encryption Software. Cloud hosting services run current versions of software and a number of them also offer ‘strong encryption’, which makes it practically impossible for someone without the encryption key to hack your data. However, see below for more information.
Service Choice and Flexibility. Because you rent a service rather than invest in your own server, you can also move your data from one cloud hosting provider to another if you get another hosting deal you prefer.
Eco-friendly. Cloud resources are also shared between customers (with appropriate security), making total power consumption per customer lower than if each customer had to use its own individual private server.
Is Cloud Hosting the Perfect Solution?
While cloud hosting has a lot to offer, it’s good to be aware of one or two other points as well. Firstly, connections to cloud hosting services usually pass via the public networks, whose speed can be much lower than on internal local networks. If you have a lot of data you want to upload into a cloud hosting service, check to see how long it is likely to take and if you’re happy with that. Secondly, although strong encryption is available, if the cloud hosting provider holds the encryption key, it’s a potential security breach. Some cloud hosting providers are now offering encryption services where only the customer ever has access to the key.
Should You Use It?
That depends on your situation and needs. Some companies compare cloud hosting solutions with local solutions on their sites, and end up still choosing the local solution. On the other hand, small enterprises with personnel in many different locations for example are a prime example of customers who find cloud hosting to be an attractive solution. So start by identifying your requirements for data storage and IT applications. Then compare with solutions available to you, including cloud hosting, to pick the one (or the combination) that satisfies you best overall.