Cloud hosting or shared hosting?
Pay more, pay less, but which option offers the best for your business
Neal Thoms from Fasthosts talks you through the pros and cons of both options
To have a live website on the internet, you’re going to need web hosting, but of the two most common hosting choices today – cloud hosting and shared hosting – which one is the best for your business? So, what’s the difference? Put simply, cloud hosting is a service that is dedicated to you, while shared hosting means that you have to share the server resources with other users. At first glance, shared hosting would seem to have a major advantage – cost. But the downside is that it may have limitations that become more apparent as time goes by and requirements grow. Think of it like sharing a flat with several other people. You may save money by pooling resources, but sometimes you want the place to yourself. That’s when cloud hosting comes into its own.
With several customers sharing one set of physical hardware, individual users can’t always rely on a guaranteed level of server performance. This might not be an issue for some sites, but when it comes to running intensive, business-critical processes, many users find that shared hosting facilities can cramp their style. Ninety-nine per cent of the time this is fine; but what happens when you’re sharing your space with sites that have a spike in demand at a certain time of day or night, or even at certain times of the week or year? Will your website functionality suffer as a result?
The server only has a finite amount of resources to parcel out, so applications will regularly struggle to get what they need. The end result could be inconsistent performance, slow loading times and a frustrating experience for your customer. If your website is a major source of sales or new business enquiries, this could be a problem. What if you’re the one drawing down more resources than everyone else? Then your host may send you a warning notice or two and ultimately even suspend your account. Another issue might be if you need a dedicated IP address. You might want this if you need to maintain a secure site via an SSL certificate or if you need to access your website via FTP on a regular basis. In both these cases, you’ll want a dedicated server.
Or do you need server root access so that you can edit all the files on your server (including the mission-critical ones), install your own software and applications or change the system configuration? If the answer is yes, then you’ll need access to the server, something you won’t have with shared hosting.
With cloud hosting, every single resource you configure is dedicated to you alone. Cloud hosting companies provide virtualised resources on an on-demand, as-needed basis. Instead of paying upfront for a fixed configuration on a single server, the user can pay as they go for what they actually use. With cloud hosting, the load can also be balanced across a number of different servers, meaning that if an individual server goes down, there is no lost information or downtime for the customer. In this way, cloud hosting can be much more flexible and resilient to the fluctuating demands of business. To think about it another way, cloud hosting can be a kind of ‘dedicated hosting’ option for users who want the increased power of their own server, but don’t want to have to deal with the day-to-day issue of server management – checking the status of the server and apps, monitoring for any new or recurring issues and so on. Cloud hosting also eliminates the need to ever migrate your server in the future when it inevitably reaches end-of-life, a pain all web designers can relate to!
Cloud hosting is a great option for many people, but maybe you still feel it’s too much of a new and untried concept to risk putting your business on? This is simply untrue. While the term ‘cloud hosting’ might be relatively new in the web hosting world, it is built on established and tested technologies like virtualisation, so it is more mature than you might think.
If your business is already heavily invested in the cloud – for example you use Dropbox, Google Drive, Amazon Web Services, Salesforce, Office 365, etc. – then you already know many of the benefits of cloud hosting. Providing you can see a benefit from the additional value that cloud hosting delivers over shared hosting (greater resilience, reliability, scalability, future-proofing, etc.), then the additional cost of cloud hosting may be a no-brainer for you.
Shared hosting would seem to have a major advantage – cost. But the downside is that it may have limitations that become more apparent as time goes by