Is the cloud the new end-all-be-all of hosting?
Ever since the cloud trend really took off, sometime between 2008 and 2010, it seems like we’ve been bombarded with nothing but epigrammatic marketing catch-phrases and reminders ’round every corner that “one really ought to host in the cloud in this day and age”. So is it true, what they say? Well, it depends. The cloud can be an excellent tool for organizational purposes – it provides a new, much-needed compartmentalized spin on the traditional hosting methodology. “But wait”, you might say, “VPS (Virtual Private Servers) have been around much longer than the notion of ‘cloud hosting’ and that’s almost its entire purpose”. And that’s true, but it comes at the cost of extreme clumsiness compared to the benefits of the cloud. Resource scaling and a functional management panel were, and remain, clumsy and perhaps even underdeveloped on the more traditional VPS platforms. In that sense, the cloud offers a clever and alluring alternative to Virtual Private Servers, and should, in all but the most niche of circumstances, replace them. However, the comparison among traditional dedicated servers, traditional colocation, and cloud hosting paints a far grayer picture, and it behooves companies to spend some time evaluating their requirements before opting for one out of either traditionalism or modernism.
Cloud instances are brilliant for compartmentalization, but if you imagine them in those terms, that is, as boxes meant to store items, it becomes clear that sometimes a “larger box” is simply not a desirable solution. It is only practical to create cloud instances up to a certain size, before you’re essentially using a larger box to house only a slightly smaller box, and thus wasting the resources that the larger box has to offer. Once your website reaches a certain point (whether in visitor numbers, CPU resources, memory usage, etc.), it becomes more practical to simply lease a dedicated server specifically for that website. Likewise, if you’re a website hosting company hosting a large number of small website clients, it makes more sense to compartmentalize those clients/websites with a hosting panel, like cPanel, rather than creating individual cloud instances for them (and you certainly wouldn’t want to host thousands, or even hundreds of thousands, of clients on one cloud instance). While public cloud platforms may provide for easier or more accessible backup solutions (clicking a button compared to managing a RAID), there’s something to be said for physically, if you will, ensuring that your data is safe: if you are the one configuring the RAID and monitoring for drive failures, etc., it lends for better peace of mind that your backups truly are safe. In the case of private cloud platforms, that RAID management is already a requirement, since you’re responsible for your own cloud implementation, so deploying the cloud simply adds an extra, unnecessary layer to the puzzle.
Cloud hosting is generally also not suited to those who require only very basic “website hosting”. Cloud instances often come with helpful management panels, but those are usually meant to help you manage the instance itself, rather than the operating system, which means that you need to have the required skills to be your own systems administrator. This can be made easier with a hosting panel, but if your goal is simply to host a small website, that’s going to be significant overkill and you’re going to be spending a substantial amount of extra money for something essentially unnecessary.
In the correct scenarios, however, a cloud implementation provides a great many advantages over the traditional hosting formats. If you host a “medium-sized” website and have the skills to manage your own server operating system, hosting in the cloud can make it extremely easy to deploy instances with various operating systems very quickly (imagine two or three buttons instead of ordering a physical server, racking it in a datacenter, going through the operating system install process, and managing the hardware, etc.). The ability to instantly scale is also invaluable in the right scenario: if you find yourself occasionally “swapping” in memory (using all of your available memory and available swap space, such that the machine crashes), you can “up” your amount of available memory with just a single click in most cases, (and likewise the same is true of disk space and CPU cores). Another benefit would be the ability to easily remote console your instance – with dedicated servers or colocation, if your machine goes down, you may be required to physically hook up a monitor and keyboard to it in order to troubleshoot (and though most modern machines have IPMI functionality, it’s often quite cumbersome compared to the remote console functionality inherent to most cloud implementations). A further benefit to hosting in the cloud is price. Since you’re usually charged by the hour, hosting applications that aren’t required to be running 24/7 becomes -extremely- economical. Additionally, you’re only paying for exactly what you use, so there’s really no such thing as wasted resources.
In sum, cloud hosting provides significant benefits in the right use cases, but that doesn’t mean that it’s the “end-all be-all” of hosting. In many cases, it makes more sense to lease dedicated servers or colocate your own physical hardware. If you’re not sure what’s best for your company, ask a hosting provider that you trust for assistance in making the decision. Most large cloud/server hosting companies know that there’s no sense in selling you something that you don’t need, since it almost always creates extra problems and difficulties down the line, so they’ll take care to evaluate your requirements and offer you something that meets them. QuadraNet’s experienced Sales team is well-versed on the advantages of dedicated servers, colocation, and cloud hosting, and will be happy to provide advice if you’re unsure of exactly what your business needs.