What is Cloud Hosting and how does it work?
This article was updated on 30th July 2019
If you have ever looked into hosting a website or app you will no-doubt have come across the term cloud hosting. Despite the popularity of the term you may not be familiar with exactly what is different about hosting your website on a cloud-server.
Traditionally a website would have been hosted on a single server in a single datacentre. Whether it was a server that was hosting numerous accounts, or an individual machine dedicated to nothing but hosting your site alone the overall principle is the same. Cloud hosting however is a little different.
Instead of having all of your data on a single machine, cloud hosting spreads the data across a number of different machines, different servers in different places that are all connected together. You manage your data through a “virtual machine” that accesses all the different servers across the “cloud”. The hosting server only exists in a virtual environment – hence the name “cloud”.
The fact that cloud hosting utilises the computing power of any number of machines means that not only do you have vastly more potential than traditional hosting, but it also allows you to access the services that those machines may offer. And this is where things start to get interesting.
But before we jump ahead, let’s take a moment to look at the basics.
Public cloud vs Private cloud
When your hosting account was using a single server, you had the choice of either sharing the machine you used with other accounts – a shared server, or running an individual machine specifically for your site – dedicated server.
With cloud hosting you have a similar choice to make.
You can either have a public cloud – the equivalent of a shared server – where the collection of networked machines hold the data for several sites. The hardware is shared between a number of other virtualised accounts, and so the cost of the resource is shared. Unlike traditional shared hosting however the virtual server’s resources are ring fenced. You do not share disk space, processing power, or anything else with any other account. You simply share the racks in the data centres.
In effect you get all the benefits of shared hosting, with none of the downsides.
Or if public cloud is not what you are looking for it is possible to create a private cloud set-up that does not share its infrastructure with any other accounts or sites. This obviously comes with a higher cost, but offers greater security and control.
Server resources are ringfenced within private clouds meaning that there is no possibility of having to share hardware, and the entire virtualised resource sits behind your own firewall.
The upsides to this are fairly clear to anyone who has ever considered data security important. But it does limit your ability to access some of the more innovative cloud services. We’ll come to those soon.
Cloud vs Single server
So why has the hosting world moved away from dedicated server hosting to cloud technology? It is clearly a more complex and therefore more expensive system to set up, so there must be some major benefits right?
Well yes, now you come to mention it there are some pretty fabulous benefits to using cloud technology instead of a traditional dedicated server:
If your website exists only on one machine in a datacentre somewhere, and that machine goes offline then your site vanishes. If your site is shared between an array of interconnected machines that are all storing the same information and one of them goes offline then the slack is picked up by the others and the site remains online.
If you have any doubts about how much of impact downtime can have on your site – and by default your business then consider that Amazon’s own server’s caused their site to be offline for 13 minutes on Prime Day in 2018, and this is said to have cost them almost $100,000,000 in sales. That is over $120,000 every second.
Because of the underlying infrastructure of your cloud hosting set-up there will be far more in the way of system resources than you ever need to use. Even once these have been shared between all the different accounts on your public cloud set up there will be a vast amount of processing power sitting in reserve for this very purpose. These resources can be scaled easily, whether it is a quick phone call to your hosting company when you know you are expecting extra traffic, through to setting up the hosting architecture to automatically increase in resources based on real time requirements, days like Cyber Monday should not be a concern.
Unlike on dedicated server set-ups where sudden increases in visitors can lead to the whole site going down, with cloud hosting your account can be responsive to demand, and you only pay for what you use.
Cloud hosting is also incredibly versatile. More so now than ever before hosting can be individualised to the specific needs of the customer – you. You don’t have to pick a package from a list, none of which quite fit your requirements. You can have exactly the space, architecture, processing power, OS, and security you need with a cloud set-up.
Perhaps your site uses a relatively small front end but accesses a massive database. Perhaps you need to host large files for download from an otherwise small site. Whatever your individual needs they can be accommodated perfectly on the cloud.
As if you need any more reasons to get on board the cloud server bandwagon then you should also bear in mind that should you choose to manage your own server you can do so from your smartphone. Most cloud server hosting accounts can be managed directly from your mobile instead of having to gain access to the actual data centre itself.
Hyperscale Cloud Hosting
So far we’ve looked at all the reasons cloud hosting is superior to traditional hosting, but that fails to take into consideration some of the biggest and most compelling reasons to use cloud hosting.
Their infrastructure is on such a huge scale that they tend to be referred to as Hyperscale cloud rather than just cloud. And all three of these platforms can offer so much more than just secure, scalable, global hosting.
As well as bespoke virtual machines they all offer a vast array of artificial intelligence based services and machine learning platforms to enhance the service you offer to your customers. These are integrated through a simple API call and integrate perfectly with the rest of your cloud requirements.
Take Amazon’s Polly, turning text into lifelike speech, or Rekognition, their facial recognition and analysis service.
Take Microsoft Azure’s Emotion recognition in photos, or their real time language translation service that listens to voices and outputs an audio translation at the same time.
Take Google’s Big Query, and Datalab – providing truly global levels of data analysis and insights to inform your digital presence.
All three of the big players are constantly innovating and transforming what is possible with the cloud, and making that available to you, the customer. These cloud platforms are not about a commodity service, where the hyperscale providers are in a race to the bottom on price. There is a race, but it’s very much one of features and technology. The most innovative services, and the most complete range of features is likely to be the winner in the long run.
So whether the future of your business is in artificial intelligence, machine learning, realistic machine based communication, or simply data analysis there is a cloud service out there that can revolutionise your business.
Managed Cloud Hosting
However as these cloud platforms become more and more innovative, as AI and machine learning develop to even higher levels of complexity, many companies are left wondering where to begin. The fact that it is now perfectly feasible to use the same cloud services to manage your online presence as you do to run your business might simply working, but it certainly complicates the decision making process, the migration, and the management and maintenance itself.
What used to be a discussion between a digital agency and their client about where to host a website or application is often now a company-wide digital transformation project involving many specialist partners.
This is why the hyperscale cloud providers are using a series of Managed Service Providers (MSPs) –expert and service-led infrastructure companies who focus entirely on designing and delivering bespoke hosting solutions on hyperscale cloud platforms that fit the individual needs of their clients – companies like Wirehive.
A MSP can work with you all the way through your journey to the cloud. From understanding the business challenges you need to solve with technology, selecting the right hyperscale cloud to use in your organisation, and also architecting, deploying and managing the set up they recommend.
At Wirehive we not only offer this on our own fully managed public cloud, but we also act as a partner to provide consultancy, design and in-life management on all three of the hyperscale clouds.
Green Cloud Hosting
More and more in the modern world companies are looking to reduce the impact they have on the world around them. All three of the hyperscale cloud providers take sustainability very seriously indeed. I’m not going to go into any great detail here, but suffice it to say that if sustainability is important to you then you won’t go far wrong with any of the big three.
Amazon Web Services
World Vision International is a global charity that provides aid to the poorest communities around the world.
They knew they needed to move away from their old hosting platform and wanted a solution that was both robust and truly scalable according to need. They also wanted to integrate their online systems with the business systems they used form day to day.
We designed and created a solution on AWS that allowed them to meet their strategic targets in terms of cost, timing and flexibility.
Rufus Leonard is one of the most innovative and successful digital agencies in the UK. They were already heavily commited to working in the Microsoft stack, but knew there was more in the way of innovation than they were able to deliver by themselves.
Together with Wirehive they have fully commited to Managed Microsoft Azure hosting, and have developed new ways of working that not only allow them to provide a better service to their clients, but also a better working environment for their own staff.
Google Cloud Platform
When Hoppy came to us they already had a great website that had been built for them by an agency on Google Cloud Platform. They were happy with this and didn't want to change, but weren't in a position to support the site themselves.
Wirehive took over the management of their GCP hosting and provided 24/7 support for them.
Wirehive Public Cloud
Karndean Flooring already had a large Sitecore based site, but knew that their hosting architecture was not set up to make the best use of the features that were available. They were also concerned about site speed, DDoS protection, and the ability to increase their hosting in response to increased activity.
Wirehive migrated them to our own Managed Public Cloud platform meeting all of their needs, and exceeding their agreed 99.9% uptime requirement.
Here at Wirehive we truly are completely agnostic when it comes to technology. We know cloud is the solution to almost every technological business challenge, but we aren’t tied to any one specific platform.
Because of this we will always recommend the best solution for the specific case, whatever that happens to be.
If you'd like to talk to one of our managed cloud hosting experts about how we might be able to help you get the most from your hosting why not give us a call?