Cloud hosting benefits can often be hard to grasp, even for the most technical among us. Understanding all the terminology like virtualization and parallel processing can make your head spin.
While I don’t want to patronize any readers by comparing cloud hosting benefits to something wishy-washy, I’ll try tell it like it is.
Cloud Hosting Basics
First, we should get the term ‘cloud’ out of the way. It conjures the image of an amorphous blob that has no real boundaries.
‘The cloud’ is just a set of computer servers networked together in a different way than they were before. It is a new method of utilizing server and network hardware with the help of software.
Servers usually operate like lone soldiers, crunching data without the help of other servers.
In a different type of network to cloud hosting, those lone soldiers could be lined up with each other to share the workload. This form of load balancing is done with physical equipment that sits between the servers, telling them what to do, like a Captain.
If one server has too much work to do, it could pass the workload to another server. This passing back and forth doesn’t scale very well technically and economically, and data crunching has a diminishing return on investment.
Benefits Of Cloud Hosting
Instead of having a couple of servers hand the workload off to each other, what cloud hosting does differently is distribute the work across dozens (if not thousands) of servers. While this description sounds similar to load balancing using hardware, in fact the balancing act is taken care of by software.
This software is what is known as the virtualization layer. It is installed on each physical server like an operating system would be, however this software digs it’s claws far deeper into the server’s CPU and RAM than an operating system.
The virtualization layer is the captain that controls the server hardware and distributes workload between other captains and servers.
What this allows is a distribution of work, a distribution of data (and duplication of data in many cases) and a much higher tolerance to faults.
Advantage #1. Fault Tolerance
In the old days when your server’s harddrive crashed, your website would be offline until a new drive can be installed and the data recovered. Quite often, this took days and that’s only when backups were actually available.
New cloud hosting technology allows for any server in the network to die and all other servers just pick up the slack. The load is balanced and the data recovered automatically from network drives or other servers. In most cases, website visitors wouldn’t know a server in your network died.
Advantage #2. Flexibility
In the old days, if you needed more harddrive capacity or RAM or CPU power, you’d need to replace server components or get a whole new server. Not anymore with cloud hosting technology.
Due to the way virtualization can split up and distribute work, it does this by segmenting off RAM and CPU specifically for your website or dedicated portion of the cloud hosting network.
That means, you can simply tell the virtualization layer to allocate more resources for you. You don’t need to upgrade any components. The software allocates it to you in a matter of seconds.
Advantage #3. Better Use Of Resources
In the old days, for most of the time, your server would have some harddrive space left over, unused RAM and low CPU usage. You’ve paid for these resources, so why are they being left to waste?
Cloud hosting’s flexibility allows for the most efficient use of all server’s resources. This saves datacentres and server owners a lot of money by getting the most out of their hardware.
When the network becomes too busy, just add another server to lighten the load. This achieves greater economies of scale.
Advantage #4. Back Ups and Disaster Recovery
We touched on this before. If your server dies, all your data dies along with it – if you have no backups.
Always backup your data! If you use WordPress, I recommend BackupBuddy to email the database to you and save the full installation in the cloud.
When disaster strikes – and it inevitably does – the cloud can save you in many ways.
Data is distributed through out the cloud hosting network, across NAS (Network Array Storage) drives, so if something goes wrong, your data is still *somewhere*.
Saving your website to the cloud is also a good idea to ensure you are covered even if your house burns down along with your laptop and USB backups.
Advantage #5. Apps In The Cloud
So far we’ve talking about cloud hosting benefits from a hardware perspective, but there are also huge advantages for the end user being able to use software running in the cloud.
Data hungry applications can be run on cloud hosting networks to deliver results much faster than they would running the same application on a local PC.
Not only would this save users from downloading huge programs, or setting their CPU’s on fire from data processing, but it also allows for applications to be accessed from any computer, anywhere in the world.
Apps in the cloud are usually accessed through a web browser like Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome or Safari and lots more have native apps on smartphones.
Advantage #6. Reduced Cost To End Users
Due to the better use of resources and distribution of workload and data, the end result for companies deploying cloud hosting networks is a reduction in overall costs at larger scale.
This reduction in operating costs are usually passed on to customers, who benefit greatly for receiving cheaper cloud web hosting, higher resource allocations and more peace of mind in cases of disaster recovery.