Cloud hosting

Laptop and tablets in a cloud graphic - Cloud hosting.Cloud hosting is a versatile form of web hosting. Cloud hosting is popular because companies can use it for a whole variety of jobs

Many businesses use cloud hosting to publish their websites online. However, it's also well-suited to other tasks, most notably running cloud computing services.

The main attraction of cloud hosting is that it's very flexible. Rather than giving you access to a fixed hosting package each month, cloud hosting scales up and down to fit your requirements.

Cloud hosting: how does it work?

With many hosting services, your data sits on a single server, owned and managed by a web hosting company. But cloud hosting combines lots of servers into one huge hosting platform, sometimes called a 'grid'.

This means that as your website grows, or you need more capacity for your applications, the cloud hosting service simply draws on more of the grid's power. There's no need to upgrade or to buy extra hardware.

As long as your hosting company maintains enough capacity in its cloud hosting grid to service all its customers' needs, you'll have no problems:

  • Cloud hosting scales to fit your needs. Because you're not buying a predefined amount of computing power, cloud hosting grows as you need it - automatically.
  • You can access extra capacity instantly. You don't have to pick up the phone to upgrade your hosting package, or buy a new server. The power is there on tap.
  • It's cost-effective. With most cloud hosting services, you pay a flat fee for the basic service, then are charged extra if you go over it. It's a bit like being on the meter in a taxi.
  • It can be more reliable. In general, cloud hosting is reliable because it's decentralised. Even if part of the grid fails, your website shouldn't go down.

In many ways, cloud hosting combines the best aspects of shared hosting - like ease-of-use and affordability, with much more flexibility. However, it does cost a bit more too - expect to pay a minimum of about £10 a month.

Cloud hosting: what's it good for?

Cloud hosting is easiest to understand if you view it as computing power on tap. It's not just storage space for a website - it's processing power to run applications.

That means cloud hosting most definitely isn't just about websites. You can use it to do almost any job that you could also do with a server on your premises. For instance:

  • Handling fast-growing websites. Use cloud hosting for your website and you shouldn't have to worry about dealing with the demands of extra visitors - the capacity simply expands to cope.
  • Running hosted applications and cloud computing services. From a customer relationship management system to your company intranet or accounting system, you can run almost anything with cloud hosting. You just log in over the internet to use it.
  • Replacing hardware in your business. Cloud hosting can be a central part of your IT infrastructure, if you want it to be. Quite simply, instead of running software on servers in your company, you run it in cloud hosting, and access it over the internet.

You can remotely access and control your cloud hosting over the internet, putting almost anything you like on it. Many cloud hosting services can work in the same way that a network server in your office would - you'll just never run out of room, and you don't have to buy or maintain the hardware.

Cloud hosting: what are the limitations?

Some cloud hosting services aren't really 'true' cloud hosting. They may have limited capacity, require you to set the capacity you need manually, or not operate on a true grid system. It's worth checking these aspects carefully: flexibility is the biggest advantage of cloud hosting, so you'll be missing out if you choose a service lacking in these areas.

It's also important to remember that a cloud hosting grid is shared between many different customers. Obviously, that's part of the reason the service is able to scale up and down so quickly, but it does mean there's a tiny chance that something another customer does could affect the service for you.

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