Public Cloud Hosting – Everything You Need to Know
Cloud computing is the hot new trend that all the major tech companies seem to be talking about these days. Cloud technology is now being used for a wide variety of purposes, ranging from data storage and analytics to software development, networking and of course hosting. Hosting providers have been putting cloud technology to good use for many years now and although it was somewhat of a niche service at first, that’s definitely no longer the case.
Cloud hosting may seem like a product aimed at corporations and big enterprises, but that’s not necessarily the case. This flexible type of hosting can accommodate individual users and small businesses just as easily as large companies. However, it’s worth noting that this type of hosting does come in two main variants – public cloud hosting and private cloud hosting.
Unless you’re working for a fairly large company, you’re probably not going to be able to get access to a private cloud, which is why this article will focus primarily on public cloud hosting. But before we take a look at the differences between the two, let’s start with some of the basics just to make sure that we’re all on the same page here.
What is Cloud Hosting?
Cloud hosting simply refers to a type of service by which specialized companies deliver computer resources to users over the internet. In this context, “cloud” is more or less just a synonym for internet, though the term can sometimes also be used to refer to the data centers or networks that power the services. Another important feature that differentiates cloud hosting from other types of hosting is the ability to use said computer resources without having to directly manage them.
A cloud’s resources are simultaneously shared between multiple users, which sounds similar to how regular shared web hosting works, but there are some very important differences. Clouds are powered by multiple data centers, each containing large amounts of servers. And since a cloud works like a distributed network, the user has access to resources that come from a wide variety of different sources. With traditional shared hosting, you only get access to resources that come from a single server and you need to share those with several other users.
Public Cloud Hosting vs. Private Cloud Hosting
The two types of cloud services are pretty much identical in the sense that both function like a distributed network where users are able to access server resources over the internet. The main difference between them is that public cloud hosting services are available to everybody while private clouds are only accessible to certain companies, usually the big players.
Multiple smaller companies generally share a public cloud in order to save money but large organizations and corporations almost always have their own private cloud. A lot of the time these private clouds are hosted by the big companies themselves, however, they also have the possibility to rent them from third-party providers. Technically, there’s nothing stopping a group of regular users from renting a private cloud but that almost never happens due to their extremely high costs.
Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud are by far the biggest public cloud platforms on the market and are responsible for hosting the servers of many Fortune 500 companies. Certain small companies and individual users make good use of the three platforms as well, but those tend to gravitate more towards cheaper options. A number of other providers, including Vultr, DigitalOcean, Linode, Dreamhost, and Cloudways also offer public cloud hosting services, often at cheaper prices since they tend to focus on serving the needs of small and medium-sized businesses rather than those of large organizations.
Other Types of Cloud Models
Clouds come in several shapes and sizes, with private and public clouds being the two most well-known varieties. But you’re also likely to hear the terms “hybrid cloud” and “multi-cloud” mentioned a lot in relation to the other two types, especially public clouds.
What are Hybrid Clouds?
Hybrid cloud is a name that is used to describe a combination of private and public clouds that are used in tandem by a particular organization or group of users. This model can be very efficient for certain companies as they can harness the power of public clouds to handle heavy workloads while using their own private cloud for sensitive operations and projects.
What are Multi-Clouds?
The multi-cloud model is a very efficient strategy that involves using any combination of public, private, and hybrid clouds. However, most of the companies who use this strategy tend to stick to working exclusively with a series of public clouds. Due to the high costs associated with using multiple clouds, this model is generally only used by very large enterprises.
Public Cloud Hosting Models
Public cloud hosting services come in many forms but they are usually grouped into one of three different categories. These are:
This first category is composed of services that host various types of software in their public cloud. Instead of purchasing applications, users can simply subscribe to them using the SaaS model and use them over the internet. In addition to cutting down on costs, especially when subscribing to the applications for short periods of time, users also save on the bandwidth and storage space that would be needed to download and install the software.
Virtually any type of software that can be accessed via a browser or app can be considered SaaS, many of which are available for free. Gmail, Slack, and Dropbox are just a handful of examples. Not every SaaS is necessarily hosted on the cloud. But In the context of this article, we’re primarily referring to cloud-based software that users must subscribe to, such as SAP Concur, Salesforce, and Netsuite, albeit a lot of these services do tend to offer free trials as well.
PaaS is a more specialized cloud hosting model where a third-party provider hosts development platforms and tools, and makes them available to users over the internet. For the most part, PaaS is aimed at developers who want to create their own applications but can’t or don’t want to outright buy all the tools needed to develop them, instead preferring to acquire them via a subscription-based system.
A major advantage of PaaS is that developers can freely access many pre-coded application components. This allows them to create new software faster as there’s no need to build everything from scratch. Some of the most well-known examples of PaaS include AWS Elastic Beanstalk, Google App Engine, Heroku, Apache Stratos, and OpenShift, among others.
Just as its name indicates, IaaS is a type of cloud service where the provider gives users access to computing infrastructure components. This includes things like storage, servers, virtual machines, and more. IaaS is essentially what a lot of the public cloud hosting providers you know offer and is obviously a lot more affordable than hosting your own infrastructure.
Hosting aside, IaaS can also be used for things such as testing and development, storing and backing up data, high-performance computing, big data analysis, and more. Many of the companies we mentioned earlier in this article can be considered IaaS, including Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Compute Engine, DigitalOcean, and Linode, to name just a few noteworthy examples.
Main Advantages of Cloud Hosting
Every type of hosting has its own pros and cons but in this case the advantages greatly outweight any potential drawbacks. Here are just some of the most important benefits you can expect:
Cloud hosting is perfect for users who want to start off small and gradually upgrade their hosting in order to accommodate the needs of a growing website or business. Admittedly, other types of hosting also give you that opportunity, however, none can match cloud hosting in terms of scalability. That’s because you can buy a cloud server for just a few bucks per month and add a virtually unlimited amount of extra resources to it over time.
Since your cloud instance is only a small part of a much larger network, there are very few limitations in terms of how many resources you can add. The best part is that the process is generally instant, which allows you to increase the storage, RAM or CPU power of your cloud server without having to wait for server restarts or any other sort of delay.
And, even better, many cloud hosting companies provide servers that automatically scale to your needs. This feature is particularly useful in case of a traffic spike. While a regular shared server is likely to be slowed down or even crash due to an unexpected surge in traffic, a cloud hosting service can be set to automatically add more resources to compensate for the surge. Similarly, the cloud server can also be scaled down, either manually or automatically, when the server is no longer under heavy load.
After reading the previous section I’m sure you’re wondering about the pricing system. After all, adding server resources on the fly sounds like it could get pretty expensive, especially if you’re trusting your hosting service to do it for you. Well, it may surprise you to learn that public cloud hosting is actually pretty cheap all things considered. This is because of the flexible pricing model used by most of the companies that offer this type of service.
Instead of paying for a set amount of resources or an entire server (like in the case of dedicated servers), you only have to pay for the resources you’re actually using. In many ways, this system is similar to the ones used by phone or internet companies. And in order to make things even more flexible, cloud hosting services often allow you to either pay per month or per hour for the resources you’re using.
We noted in our SSD vs HDD article that there are many factors that contribute to a server’s reliability. The storage type being just one of them. Luckily, you don’t have to worry about that with a cloud server because they almost always use solid-state drives. But the real reason cloud servers are so reliable has to do more with the network itself than any individual server that’s part of it.
When you have hundreds of servers to draw resources from, it’s very unlikely that you’ll ever have to deal with downtime. In case one the servers happens to malfunction, you can continue to rely on all the other servers. And since resources can be allocated instantly by your hosting service, you probably won’t even notice that something went wrong. Of course, you will run into problems if the entire network goes down but that scenario is highly implausible.
Tired of having to pick between a limited number of hosting plans? So are we, but that’s not something you’ll have to worry about any longer if you sign up with one of cloud hosting services that offer customizable packages. Unfortunately, that useful feature isn’t available everywhere just yet but there are quite a few good options to choose from. Katamera, Hostwinds, and A2 Hosting are just a few examples of companies that let you customize your cloud server and won’t charge you an arm and a leg for that privilege.
So what aspects of your server can you customize? If you sign up with the right hosting provider, pretty much everything. This includes system resources such as storage, RAM, and CPU power along with the operating system. In many cases you can also choose the location of your cloud server and, of course, you can also select from a wide variety of applications and content management systems, which will be automatically installed on your server as soon as you deploy it.
Main Drawbacks of Public Cloud Hosting
Even though public cloud hosting has a lot more pros than cons, this type of service does come with a couple of potential drawbacks that you should keep in mind before you sign up. Here are some of the most important ones:
The fact that you can freely manage the resources of a public cloud without having to also manage the infrastructure yourself is a double-edged sword. On one hand, this system allows you to run a cloud server with little to no technical knowledge. On the other hand, if you need full control over your server you may want to go with something like dedicated hosting or VPS because that feature isn’t very common with public cloud hosting services.
Just to be clear, by ‘full control’ we mean unmanaged hosting and root access. The reason why you don’t get those options here is the same reason you don’t get them with traditional shared hosting. Given the large amount of users that share the network, it stands to reason that a public cloud hosting provider can’t put too much power into the hands of a single user.
Too Much Dependency
Knowing that you can rely on your hosting service is always a good thing but what happens when you start relying on it too much? Doing so could cause certain problems, more often for companies but sometimes for individual users as well. Utilizing the cloud for everything – including storage, applications, and virtual machines – means having less control over the technologies you’re using. Relying entirely on third-party companies to fuel your day-to-day operations is always risky and public cloud hosting is no exception.
Public cloud hosting is still a relatively new technology so it should come as no surprise that there aren’t that many people who could be considered experts in this field. Among other things, this means the quality of technical support can vary greatly from company to company. Needless to say, major players like Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure aren’t known for struggling with this problem but many smaller companies do find it challenging to find enough public cloud hosting experts to meet the needs of their customers.
While cloud hosting services are generally considered to be very secure, there are always certain risks to consider whenever you’re keeping sensitive data on a public cloud. Moreover, it’s often impossible to demand a public cloud hosting provider to enforce the same security policies used internally by certain organizations. The same can also be said about certain compliance policies. Needless to say, all of this tends to only apply to organizations that must adhere to strict regulations and isn’t a major concern for regular users.
Public cloud hosting was primarily designed as a reliable solution for big businesses that have needs which greatly surpass the capabilities of traditional hosting providers. I think we can all agree that it would be impossible for a regular provider to support juggernauts like Netflix, Facebook, or LinkedIn. But luckily they don’t have to because equally massive corporations like Amazon, Google, and Microsoft have risen up to the challenge by creating sprawling public clouds that can meet the needs of any company regardless of its size.
In the case of small businesses, upgrading to a public cloud is not necessarily a good idea unless the business can take full advantage of the power of the cloud. Otherwise, it might be better to simply stick with a regular shared hosting service or virtual private server because these options tend to be cheaper compared to public cloud hosting.
But what if you’re a regular user simply looking for a service that can reliably host your website? Services like AWS or Microsoft Azure are generally not a good pick in that case. Not just because of their price but also because they are known to be fairly difficult to use if you’re not tech-savvy. Instead, we recommend looking into some of the services found on our list of cheap cloud hosting providers. Most of the services found there are very user-friendly in addition to being extremely affordable.