What are the Benefits of Cloud Web Hosting?
Cloud web hosting is a service offered by tech companies for websites, whereby the businesses servers are hosted ‘in the cloud’ i.e. distributed over a number of different servers, in differing physical locations, connected through the Internet. The benefits of cloud web hosting are numerous but not without difficulties and pitfalls.
Increased Reliability and Security
With cloud hosting, because the hard disk space is distributed across many different physical locations, if one server goes offline the damage to the web service is limited and service can continue relatively unaffected. In contrast, a power shortage or spilt cup of coffee, with physical servers could put them offline for a couple of hours or even days. Cloud web hosting offers the security of unbroken service and the risk of theft or permanent damage to the physical server is greatly reduced, which can prove invaluable. The servers are housed within the provider’s data centers and so benefit from the security afforded to them there. There’s also the added benefit that maintenance becomes the responsibility of the cloud host rather than the business.
Flexibility and Scalability
The resource is available as required and adjusts itself according to the traffic demands or a change in site activity. This means there is never ‘wasted’ hard disk space and the risk of the server crashing, due to a sudden heavy increase in traffic, is almost non-existent. It is not limited to the physical constraints of a single server and the virtual server shrinks and expands almost seamlessly. This flexibility makes cloud web hosting an attractive deal for many small businesses that may be unsure of their server needs during their start-up phase. The flexibility is also ideal for large corporations who cannot afford to face ‘downtime’ for planned maintenance or unforeseen complications. Google, for instance, is the perfect example of a company that uses cloud web hosting effectively. Sites like Google and Facebook simply cannot afford downtime. Imagine if Google crashed? It is no exaggeration to say that the world might genuinely grind to a halt. These massive companies cannot afford that type of loss which makes cloud hosting a very attractive way to manage their servers.
The service is charged as a type of ‘utility’ like water or electricity – you only pay for exactly what you get or need – so you effectively save money on what could have been wasted server capacity. However, simply because it is so appealing, effective and flexible, cloud hosting companies can charge relatively high rates for their service and can price smaller companies out. On top of this, as a connection to the Internet is required, your business would need a large bandwidth just to access its own servers, which in itself can be very costly and the penalties for exceeding it are even worse.
Reliability on the Internet
While cloud web hosting is an attractive ideal; it promotes an increased reliance on the Internet, existing on the premise that our access to the Internet will always be as secure and reliable as it is today. Although we would like to believe this to be the case we can never be sure.
During the Civil War of 2012 in Syria, the government shut down all access to the Internet within the country. Any business relying on a connection to cloud based servers for anything from as simple as an online store catalogue to something as important as their business records and books would have been devastated by the Internet ‘blackout’. If something like this was to happen or access to the Internet was in some way restricted, physical servers might not seem like a bad idea.
This increased reliability on the Internet makes cloud web hosting a relatively unattractive option for businesses in countries where the provision of utilities, such as electricity and Internet via cable, is unreliable. In India, for example, which suffers from almost incessant power outages and breakages in the delivery of Internet, the use of cloud hosting is relatively non-existent.
Because the servers are accessed via the Internet the speed of your connection to the server is based on the speed of your connection to the Internet. Your service provider effectively controls your access to your own servers. While this may not be a problem if you have a solid and reliably fast Internet connection, with a slow connection or one that does not maintain a high speed consistently, you could very well become frustrated with a cloud hosted server.
Subject to American Law
Most cloud based web hosting companies are based in the United States and as such all data stored with the companies on ‘your server’ is subject to American law. This means that your data is effectively at the mercy of whichever federal authority might want to look at it and, because of the “patriot act”; they don’t have to justify looking at it or even let you know that they have done so. While most people have nothing to hide, few would not feel particularly violated or invaded if the data from their business was looked at.
While the positive benefits of hosting your server in the clouds are numerous: from flexibility, to reliability and security as well as a ‘pay as you use’ utility style, it is certainly not without its problems. The questions of over reliance on the Internet, high cost and your important data being at the mercy of a government agency are serious issues. However, as cloud technology develops these problems should become less of an issue, particularly in terms of cost, and the benefits of cloud hosting will probably outweigh the cons.