What is Cloud Hosting?

What is Cloud Hosting

Cloud Hosting is a hosting product that distributes your website data among an entire network of data centers with near infinite resources. Cloud hosting usually charge per use rather than per resource feature. Cloud hosting is provided by the big tech companies like Amazon, Google, Oracle, Microsoft and IBM – but is sometimes resold via traditional hosting brands who bundle customer support.

How Cloud Hosting Works

Usually website files live on a hosting server that is leased by a hosting company. A cloud is an entire network of data centers that host website files in a distributed & decentralized fashion. It gets way more technical than that – but basically it’s just raw server resources for rent based on use rather than renting a part of a server.

Imagine real-world housing for a second. Traditional hosting is like buying a house, townhouse or condominium. You buy it and you can do whatever you want. Cloud hosting is like having access to any house anywhere in the world whenever and wherever – you just have to pay per night for whatever house you use.

The actual cloud is built by the biggest tech companies in the world. There are not that many. Amazon is the biggest. They are closely followed by Google, Microsoft, Oracle, and IBM.

Cloud hosting as a product is also something sold by traditional hosting companies. They usually do not have their own clouds. Instead, they pre-purchase and bundle credits on a big tech cloud.

This product works because none of the big cloud providers give tech support – at all. None. Also, you never really know how much your bill will be. I’ve had a small site on Google’s cloud for over a year. I think it has cost a few dozen dollars – all covered by my sign up credit. But most sites with a few thousand visits per month can run between $10 and $40 per month depending on how big and complex their site is.

What Cloud Hosting Is Used For

Cloud Hosting is used for running websites that need varying resources and want unlimited performance. The only time your site will ever go down is if Google or Amazon go down. That happens – but it’s usually only for minutes and it makes international news.

If you know how many visits you receive, and how efficient your website is – then cloud hosting can be insanely cheap. You can host a site on the cloud directly for pennies. But if you have even a bit of traffic – then your costs will be in the ballpark of traditional hosting…with no real cap.

Moving to the cloud is usually done by website owners who know & find an advantage in managing their website’s performance. You can get very responsive and very reliable websites in the cloud. But there’s also a tradeoff with complexity, overall value, and cost.

I’ve had my most maddening consulting work on 100% cloud hosted websites (I’m looking at you Microsoft Azure) when the client absolutely did not need cloud hosting.

But cloud hosting will also serve a really useful complementary role – especially for storage or mirroring. Some hosts provide cloud credits for automated backups, media storage, and traffic spikes.

What To Look for in Cloud Hosting

Since you are paying for use, shopping for cloud hosting is different in many ways.

You are really looking for –

  • Cloud Setup
  • Customer Support (how much they’ll help with setup)
  • Prices per Projected Use
  • Plan Bonuses (ie, automated backups, etc)

Best Cloud Hosting Providers

I’ve used a few Cloud Hosting providers both for my own projects and for clients. Here’s the main 5 companies that I’ve used & really liked. I receive customer referral fees, but all the data & opinion is based on my professional experience.

Name Best if you want… Features!
SiteGround …great overall value, high resources w/ great customer support. See Features.
HostGator …unlimited bandwidth w/ affordable pricing tiers. See Features.
CloudWays …very high performance w/ great customer support. See Features.
Google …to run your site on the cloud that runs Google. See Features.
Digital Ocean …developer-focused platform w/ fast, global deployment. See Features.

Additionally, using a cloud hosting plan will not automatically solve your website speed issues. I wrote a Beginner’s Guide to Website Speed & Performance here.

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