What is cloud hosting?
Hosting websites and applications used to be a matter of subscribing to a digital platform provider and essentially renting the use of a single server or computing cluster. Web hosting services have been around as long as the web itself. In the last decade, cloud hosting—where the website or app lives on virtual servers spread throughout the cloud—has become a prominent method of bringing digital assets online.
Google Cloud offers a variety of solutions for hosting websites and applications, including the ability to register and manage a domain, or connect to a global content delivery network to serve content to the users with optimal performance and minimum latency.
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Cloud hosting defined
Cloud hosting is the ability to make applications and websites available on the internet using the cloud. Cloud hosting pools computing resources from a network of virtual and physical servers, allowing for greater scalability and flexibility to quickly make changes. In most cases cloud hosting is also pay-as-you-go which means the teams pay for what they use and don’t have to worry about overprovisioning or underprovisioning resources.
Cloud hosting vs. web hosting
Traditional web hosting is typically done on a single server, which contains all the website’s files and content. A web browser downloads the documents and files when the domain is visited by a user.
Web hosting has four primary types of environments including shared, dedicated, managed, or a virtual private server (VPS). A shared web hosting service is one in which a single server is shared among many different domains connected to the internet. This is the most economical of hosting options, as the different websites share the cost of the server. At the same time, shared hosting limits scalability of individual websites as they are confined to the resources of just one server. This problem is solved with dedicated hosting, where a domain leases one or more servers that are not shared with any other websites or applications, though the client is often responsible for managing the server themselves.
A managed hosting service is similar to a dedicated hosting service, but the hosting provider takes care of all the server maintenance, including security, software and hardware upgrades, and backup services. Managed hosting is beneficial for websites and applications that do not have in-house expertise required to maintain a server.
Cloud hosting and web hosting have several differences. Foremost, in web hosting, if a website needs more resources because of increased demand, the user has to change their service plan to allow for more computing power, thus making scalability an issue. Cloud hosting allows for the content of the site to be spread across multiple virtual servers across different regions, and when demand increases, it is easy to scale. Because of this, cloud hosting is also more robust and reliable than web hosting, while allowing for more flexibility to tune the parameters as needed.
Cloud hosting vs. VPS
A VPS is a virtual, isolated environment that is hosted on a single server. The hosting provider places a hypervisor (virtual layer) on top of the operating system that divides it into separate components. VPS offers more control and customization than shared hosting, though limits resource use to a defined amount on its specific server. VPS is sometimes referred to as the “private cloud.”
VPS hosting has many similarities with cloud hosting as both allow for customization and the hosting provider performs much of the work in maintaining and upgrading hardware. As VPS takes place on a limited number of machines, it does not have the inherent scalability, flexibility, or reliability of cloud hosting. With a global network and ability to offer features like a content delivery network (CDN), cloud hosting also offers better performance and speed than VPS.
How does cloud hosting work?
Cloud hosting works through the process of virtualization. As mentioned above with a virtual private server, a virtual layer is created on the server where content and other data can be stored. Those virtual layers can then be replicated on other servers on the cloud computing network, spread throughout other different regions across the world.
Advantages of cloud hosting
Because cloud hosting does not rely on a single server to store and deliver content, it can be easily scaled to meet the demands of a website or application by spinning up more servers across the cloud network when usage increases.
Cloud hosting allows for the freedom to use the appropriate solution that any situation requires by instantly provisioning the parameters of the virtual machines across the network.
Cloud hosting often works on a pay-as-you-go model, meaning that costs can also be scaled up or down depending on usage. In contrast, web hosting typically works on a monthly or annual flat fee.
Cloud providers provide robust physical and virtual security of servers on their network, protecting website and application data from malicious actors. Cloud hosting security layers include firewalls, identity management and access control, Secure Sockets Layers (SSL) for transmitting data, and more.
Reliability and performance
Because cloud hosting takes advantage of many servers spread across the cloud network, it provides great reliability and uptime. If one server on the network fails, another server can fill in and still provide service. Similarly, cloud hosting provides better performance, with servers in different regions bringing content to users faster.
Why use cloud hosting?
Cloud hosting allows website and applications operators to add or remove resources when necessary. That includes more RAM, storage space, or support services such as security or data storage. Cloud hosting provides reliability and flexibility at a manageable cost. Cloud hosting also provides robust data backup and disaster recovery compared to shared or dedicated hosting on a single server.
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