Doubtless, you’ve heard of cloud computing and cloud hosting before, but what does it really entail? Despite cloud hosting increasing popularity and utility, many small and medium sized companies and organizations pass cloud computing and hosting by, often on the assumption that it’s too complicated or too expensive. These beliefs are borne of a simple lack of knowledge about cloud hosting. In the following article, we’ll provide you with a full and thorough understanding of what this slightly misleading term means, and why you might want to consider transferring to the cloud.

Cloud hosting

The Flaws of Dedicated Server Model

Before diving into clouding hosting, we’ll briefly consider the flaws of its antecedent: dedicated server hosting. The vast majority of businesses, blogs, and small scale sites continue to rely on single dedicated servers, which is basically akin to leasing one small square of web space and assuming you can trade up as and when it suits. This model is easy to manage, not technically difficult, and often quite cheap. However, this model is subject to certain significant vulnerabilities. In particular, dedicated servers are restrained by their hardware; that is to say, should anything happen to the server physically it can result in significant downtime.

Furthermore, dedicated servers are not nearly as scalable as their cloud cousins. For instance, a regular server customer that experiences a traffic spike will have to pay for extra dedicated resources to handle that spike, for a largely arbitrary period of time or to a limit predetermined by the provider. This can be incredibly wasteful and severely limits the potential for growth for certain types of e-commerce businesses.

What is Cloud Hosting?

Put simply, cloud hosting means that your website isn’t hosted on one single server, but several different servers – the so-called cloud – all of which work together to provide hosting benefits to your website that one single server cannot. Unlike shared or dedicated hosting, which rely on one machine, cloud hosting is reliant on several servers working in tandem as one system. Amongst the many advantages of cloud hosting, perhaps the most important is that websites hosted on clouds are almost guaranteed to never go down. Cloud hosting’s ability to process high traffic or traffic spikes is practically unlimited, because of the nature of the cloud. Even if one server breaks down, the other servers will back up the downed server’s data and there will be no downtime for your site.

Furthermore, Cloud hosting is cost-effective because it benefits from economies of scale. Hundreds of servers working together ensures that data is accessible almost anywhere, no local restrictions. The vast majority of popular online services run on cloud servers. Cloud computing is the backbone of Gmail, Facebook, and a whole host of other popular social media sites and services.The cloud is based on the processing power of virtual servers, based on the extensive networks of physical web servers. With a cloud hosting service, users can use the system according to their requirements, without having to pay extra or ordering additional capacity.

Ways to Migrate

Migrating to the cloud – moving data, applications and other elements from an onsite server to the remote group of servers – can often be a complicated process and one that can be gone about in several different ways. As with any major forms of data transition or application migration, migrating to or between cloud environments is a difficult technical process, but one that is compounded by the nature of the cloud.

First, however, we’ll discuss the processes and considerations involved in cloud migration. Marshalling data that is managed or stored remotely in multiple locations across multiple servers can present a logistical headache. Furthermore, owing to the nature of the cloud, there are certain extra considerations to take into account when migrating to the cloud, such as privacy, data integrity and portability.

As we mentioned earlier, there are a number of ways of migrating a web application to the cloud. Generally speaking, they involve separating and redefining the application or website layers as distinct parts of a whole that can then be scaled independently. Migration often entails the use of a middleware tool to accommodate gaps between the cloud hosting provider’s technologies and the clients. Cloud middleware, such as Adeptia and Jitterbit for instance, function as API integration platforms that work employ a user interface to share data across diverse applications and databases, from ETL to SOA.

Specialized database containers are an excellent way of migrating to the cloud, providing the requisite flexibility, performance, and ease of administration. Large or multiple databases can be broken down into multiple containers, depending on their function and how frequently they’re used. Another important consideration is the architecture of an application or site. If an application has read replicas, it might make sense to allow read-only access on the public-facing servers of the cloud. This means that you can enable quick synchronization of data through read replicas and spread an application across multiple data centres. For more information, check out this handy guide on different ways to migrate.

What to Look For in a Cloud Hosting Provider?

Besides cost, security is a key concern for any webmaster looking for a hosting provider, especially cloud providers. Always ask about how the provider secures their cloud network, they should be transparent and their answers should satisfy you. Any doubts or evasion may be the sign of bigger problems ahead. In 2013, the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) and British Standards Institution (BSI) launched the STAR certification program. Whilst it’s difficult to compare providers, STAR certification is a good starting point.

You should also always make sure that the provider is committed to understanding the nature of your organization and the specific objectives you want to achieve with the cloud. If a provider seeks only to sell their service on the basis of its technical capabilities, you might want to reconsider. Find someone who understands your specific needs; some providers offer managed hosting services, for example, which can be a great option for less technically minded website owners.