You run a business, so you know a bit about cloud hosting, but you need more to make an informed decision as to whether and how to proceed. Read on.
What is cloud hosting?
At its most basic cloud hosting uses two hard disks to store and serve your website. The disks could be in different cabinets in the same data centre, or they could be half a world apart.
The main advantage of choosing a cloud hosting contract is that you can add and subtract resources one month at a time. Having flexible resources means you can add them in November if your company sells Christmas trees and then remove them again in January, so you only pay for two months of high-level resources rather than the twelve you would pay with a traditional VPS contract.
Who needs cloud hosting?
You need cloud hosting if your hosting demands vary a lot over the year.
If you expect your company’s hosting requirements to increase over the coming months, then cloud hosting is one option to consider. Perhaps you are launching an app that will place heavy demands on your web servers and are hoping it will go viral. Cloud hosting means you can log on and increase your server resources instantly if your server looks like crashing under the load.
What are your cloud hosting options?
Support – Where is it based and is it 24/7? If it isn’t local to you or is email only, look elsewhere. The minimum to insist on is 24/7 chat support, and that support staff are in-country rather than off-shore. You will need to talk to support at some point, so make sure you are happy in this area before even looking at anything else.
Hard disk type – Solid state disks (SSDs) or conventional spinning disks. Most cloud services use SSDs because are 400 x faster than traditional disks. You are paying for a premium service, so are entitled to expect a fast web server.
Number of CPUs – The more you have, the more you pay, but the better your site can cope with heavy loads
Type of CPUs – Some hosts use Intel chips, others don’t specify. Is there an unjustified bias in favour of the biggest name? Speed and reliability are the only factors that should matter.
Processor speed – Newer chips run faster. End of story.
Bandwidth – You pay more the more you have. Larger sites with more users need more bandwidth. Start small and scale up when you need to.
Hourly/Monthly contracts – Yes, you can find cloud hosts who will let you buy 60 minutes’ worth of extra resources. Is your business so volatile it will need hourly control of your hosting?
The number of disk multiples – The more you have, the more reliable your website will be but at a price.
Dedicated setups – Do you need dedicated drives, CPU, and RAM? Possibly not initially, but the option would be excellent to have if you ever need it.
Scalability – The whole point of cloud hosting is scalability, so insist on monthly contracts.
Root admin access – You might need this if you want to run your own software, but otherwise, it is an added complication many businesses can do without.
Server locations – For the fastest web user experience you need servers located close to your clients. You could have servers in North America, China, Germany, and Australia, but it would cost more. You can even pay for a Canadian server for one month if you are launching there.
Control panel – If you are familiar with a control panel such as cPanel then look for a cloud host that offers that
Operating systems (OS) – Do you want the ability to switch between Ubuntu, Windows, and FreeBSD? If not then don’t worry about it. OS choice is something only techies worry about.
How do you choose a cloud host?
Most hosting companies offer a cloud option, so, if you are happy with your current hosting, start by talking to them.
Decide which of the above options you require and start your search.
However, without someone to guide you are likely to come unstuck, which is where this independent review of hundreds of cloud hosting plans will come in useful. This Entrepreneur.com article is also essential reading for any business owner looking to upgrade their hosting.
The Short Version
Your business needs will change as you grow, and web hosting is one of those that must change as your website gets so many users that it falls down three times a week.
Not everyone needs cloud hosting, but if you do, then you need fog lights to make your way through the confusion of vague and imprecise terms used by different hosting companies.
Look for independent advice and never under-estimate the importance of a highly-rated local support from a host.