Cloud host­ing or shared host­ing?

Pay more, pay less, but which op­tion of­fers the best for your busi­ness

Web Designer - - Contents - Neal Thoms Con­tent Ed­i­tor

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

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