The cloud. It’s everywhere (kind of literally, actually) and everyone’s talking about it. But what the hell is it? The cloud is used to market so many different services and technologies that it’s hard to know what you’re being sold, and unless you know the inside details, chances are you’re just hearing another buzz word. In a hosting context, the cloud generally refers to a distributed network infrastructure that supports remotely hosted websites, applications, content and services.
Done right, hosting in the cloud enables you to intelligently distribute various elements of your websites and services, allowing for greater efficiency and network stability. The dispersed infrastructure of the cloud enables highly flexible load balancing and allocating more resources as needed during traffic spikes and other periods of high-volume bandwidth consumption.
With so many companies advertising cloud hosting services, the hardest part of making the move is simply choosing the right company with which to entrust your data.
While security can be a challenge in the cloud environment, it’s far less of a hurdle in a private cloud, and there are certain security advantages to the cloud model. Any good hosting company already devotes substantial resources to securing its networks, and the distributed nature of the cloud lends itself to relatively easy isolation of exploits and threats, when they do occur.
Another nice facet of cloud hosting is that it’s easy to integrate into your existing hosting solution if you’ve already established a more traditional managed server relationship with your host. For example, Red Apple Media can host your videos in our cloud, giving you all the advantages of true adaptive bit rate streaming without the need to transition away from your current host or break any contracts.
Hosting content separately in the cloud is just one option for integrating cloud hosting into your current solution, as the cloud is also an ideal environment for hosting applications and services. In the cloud model, resources are automatically allocated dynamically based on each incoming request, so a visitor downloading content from California will receive a response from a different server/network resource than a European customer running an application on your site at that same moment.
For as long as you have been using computers, you have probably been hearing how important it is to back up your data regularly. In the cloud environment, data backup is essentially a core function of the cloud structure. Since data must be distributed by disparate elements of the cloud, there is constant synching and caching going on, ensuring that on the rare occasions when data loss does occur, the loss is minimal and the likelihood of data recovery quite good – assuming the host replicates data across multiple hypervisors or server locations.
One of the things that cloud hosting clients like most about this model is that it tends to be a pretty inexpensive way to go. On the hosting provider’s side, the distributed nature of the cloud offers very efficient use of resources, both physical and digital. Storage space is beyond abundant in the cloud, allowing providers to charge very reasonable prices on virtual disk space. Updates and upgrades to the cloud instances are a snap, too, greatly easing the process of making sure that every client is up to date with the latest security patches and fixes.
With so many companies advertising cloud hosting services, the hardest part of making the move is simply choosing the right company with which to entrust your data. Fortunately, the criteria to follow are basically the same as for any other hosting relationship you establish. The company you work with should be reputable, have sufficient resources to support a robust private cloud, a track record of stability, responsive and capable customer service – and of course, they must be adult-friendly, too.
In a way, the cloud concept has been oversold and warrants an eye roll at first mention. But I promise it’s not all hype. Cloud hosting definitely offers some substantial advantages over traditional managed hosting, whether your company is just getting started, or already well established, it’s well worth your time to give it a second look.
Steven Daris is CEO and co-founder of Red Apple Media, a managed hosting, e-commerce and video streaming solutions provider.