Last updated: December 23, 2020
A2 Hosting has been around since 2001, and offers "developer friendly" cloud hosting that allows you to add custom applications and choose your own Linux OS. All of their cloud hosting plans come with 2 TB of data transfer, and SSD storage space ranging from 20 GB to 50 GB. Their Entry plan starts at $5 per month, while their Elite plan costs $15, and you can add on their "Turbo" option for $22 per month for 20x faster speeds.
A2 Hosting has a "Guru Crew" that's available for 24/7 customer support, and if you still aren't satisfied, they offer a 30-day money-back guarantee. If you cancel after 30 days, you'll get a prorated refund for any unused service on your account. All cloud hosting plans come with root access, 1-click software setup with Webuzo, and more.
A2 has an HRANK uptime of 99.835% uptime, and server options in the U.S., Europe, and Singapore. Their name comes from Ann Arbor, MI, where their headquarters are located, and they work with Carbonfund to be 100% carbon neutral. A2 also offers a range of WordPress options, including both shared and managed hosting plans.
Full refund within 30 days, prorated refund anytime
>2 TB Transfer
Pros & Cons of A2 Web Hosting
A2 offers a lot to choose from if you're looking for Linux-based hosting, but they don't offer Windows servers with any of their plans. Storage space is fairly low compared to some providers, and "Turbo" speeds cost extra. But A2's great customer support and developer-friendly tools may make up for any of these shortcomings.
>Great customer support
>No options for Windows servers
What Customers Are Saying
Most reviews highlight the reliable customer support, which is available by phone or live chat. One customer says they "opened a chat session and got a live person within moments." The representative stuck around for 39 minutes to cover "the ins and outs of web hosting," suggesting that no question is too basic for the Guru Crew to handle.
AccuWeb has over 17 years of experience in web hosting, with over 55,000 sites and 15,000 VPS servers under their management. They have a highly responsive support team, with a ticket response time of 11 minutes and chat response time of 7 seconds,
As for hosting, they offer a range of plans, including Windows and Linux hosting, VPS hosting, cloud hosting, and more. Cloud hosting starts at $4.79 per month, and comes with unlimited website hosting and 10 - 50 GB of cloud storage. Plans are tailored for personal websites, small businesses, and enterprise, and they all feature fixed cost public clouds, a free SSL certificate, and 1-click script install options.
Cloud hosting is available at several international hosting locations, including the U.S., U.K., Singapore, Germany, and Australia. Their U.S. data center is located in Denver, with a reliable power grid and 24/7 onsite security for consistent uptime. Most orders can be processed instantly, and come with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
>10 - 50 GB cloud storage
Pros & Cons of AccuWeb Web Hosting
AccuWeb's hosting plans come with a range of features tailored to Linux and Windows systems. With responsive customer support and reliable infrastructure, you can easily scale your website as your traffic grows. However, the lack of monthly billing options and limits on storage and bandwidth may make it less suitable for some users.
>Over 36+ operating systems
>No monthly billing cycle
What Customers Are Saying
Reviews focus on their consistent uptime and 24/7 live customer support. One customer says, "Their response time is well above average and they are always very respectful and knowledgeable." Another says that their infrastructure "is not only cutting-edge but also lightning fast to deliver the fastest loading," in part due to their SSD hardware.
Cloudways presents itself as an ideal hosting platform for less technical users who want to "focus on building great websites, not on web hosting complexities." It starts things off with a slick, user-friendly website promising "simplicity" and a "worry-free experience."
What does that actually mean in practice? In sum, you can host your website on one of five cloud providers, including Amazon AWS, DigitalOcean, and Google Cloud. What sets Cloudways apart is that you don't actually have to create an account with your chosen provider. You can do it all in the Cloudways interface, which manages it all for you.
Plans start at $10 per month depending on which cloud provider you choose, but billing is based on hourly usage, so if you decide to switch plans mid-month, you'll only pay for the resources you use. Cloudways also offers a free trial, and provides free migration services and 24/7/365 customer support to help you get set up.
All plans come with at least 25 GB of storage and 2 TB of bandwidth, as well as a free SSL certificate, automated backups, and a variety of optional add-ons. These include e-commerce integrations that make it easy to set up shop online.
Starting at $10/month
>Bandwidth: 1TB - 5TB
Pros & Cons of Cloudways Web Hosting
While Cloudways takes a lot of the stress out of setting up cloud hosting, it still requires some degree of technical knowledge in order to determine what resources you actually need. As a result, it may not be the most practical option for small business owners who don't have much experience with web hosting.
>Pay as you go plans
>Requires some technical knowledge
What Customers Are Saying
Cloudways users include digital agencies, small businesses, and more. They value the technical features, including "the ability to scale and clone sites ourselves" and "to have lots of servers, from different providers, depending on the need, in one place."
DreamHost offers a wide range of hosting options, including Shared, VPS, Reseller, and more. Their cloud offerings are targeted at developers, and include DreamCompute and DreamObjects, which feature SSD storage and servers you can scale. They also come with full root access so you can manage your server using any OS you choose.
As a well-established company, DreamHost has a lot going for it, including a customized control panel, 24/7 support, and energy-efficient data centers. They're employed-owned, and have shown a commitment to privacy and open source technology. Their reported uptime, though, is only 99.95%, which is lower than many of their competitors.
Cloud hosting plans run from $4.50 per month for a 512 MB RAM server, up to $48 per month for an 8 GB RAM server. All of them come with an 80 GB SSD disk, 100 GB block storage, and free bandwidth. DreamHost offers a 97-day money-back guarantee, but keep in mind that this is only available for shared hosting, not cloud hosting.
$4.50/month to $48/month
97-day refund on shared hosting plans
Pros & Cons of DreamHost Web Hosting
DreamHost is a well-known hosting provider with an easy-to-use dashboard. They also provide unlimited bandwidth on cloud hosting plans. Some features, though, are limited to certain packages. For example, they offer 24/7 customer support, but you can't call them directly, and callbacks are only available for a "nominal monthly fee."
>No customer support phone number
What Customers Are Saying
DreamHost is popular with small businesses and e-commerce websites. Customers say, "The interface is the most user-friendly platform I've worked with," and, "it's been a clean and honest experience. There's no massive marketing stuff all over the place." Users also mention the affordable prices and reliable customer support.
FastComet is another managed cloud hosting provider that aims to take the complexity out of the process. Plans include a free domain transfer, free Cloudflare CDN, daily and weekly backups, and 24/7 customer support. FastComet uses cPanel, an easy-to-use control panel that's used by a variety of hosting providers.
Choose from 11 data centers around the world that are strategically located to help you reach international markets. Pricing plans start at $2.95 per month and run to $5.95 per month for additional SSD space and features. FastComet comes with a 45-day money-back guarantee (or seven-day guarantee for VPS/DS servers) if it isn't right for you.
There are a few upsells during the signup process, such as an SEO audit, but account activation happens quickly and creating or importing your site is straightforward. There are step-by-step tutorials for WordPress, WooCommmerce, OpenCart, and more.
As for speed and reliability, FastComet has a 99.9% uptime commitment and checks the status of its servers every 60 seconds. They also promise to reach out to you if you max out your resource limits, rather than simply suspend your account.
$2.95 - $5.95 per month
>Free domain transfer
Pros & Cons of FastComet Web Hosting
FastComet ranks high for customer support, reliability, features, and more. Don't be fooled by the low introductory prices, though. Your plan will renew at the usual rates, which may be quite a bit higher. Storage and bandwidth limits are lower than other providers, but all of the freebies (CDN, domain transfer) may make up for it.
>11 data centers
>Limited storage and bandwitch
What Customers Are Saying
FastComet users range from bloggers to small business owners. One customer says she was "able to have complete creative control without being overwhelmed with too many questions or options." Others appreciate the responsive customer support.
HostGator claims that your website will be "2X faster" and "4X more scalable" when you switch to its cloud hosting servers. Its built-in dashboard will provide you with straightforward tools to understand your site's speed, usage trends, and more. In short, you won't need a system administrator or any coding know-how in order to manage your site. Keep in mind that its cloud hosting plans are only available for Linux and not for Windows.
HostGator offers three subscription tiers, which range from $4.95 to $9.95 per month, and include unmetered bandwidth and storage. The main difference between them is the amount of memory, which ranges from 2 GB to 6 GB. Additional features, such as automatic site backups and G Suite integrations are available for purchase.
All plans come with 24/7/365 support, and free transfers are available within the first 30 days of signing up for an account. You'll also get a 45-day money-back guarantee and a commitment to 99.9% uptime, among the highest in the industry.
>Unmetered bandwidth and storage
Pros & Cons of HostGator Web Hosting
While HostGator doesn't meter your storage or bandwidth, it isn't technically unlimited. If your site exceeds reasonable usage, you'll be asked to reduce it. This won't be an issue for most individuals or small businesses, though. With its affordable introductory prices and 99.9% uptime, HostGator is well worth a try for its comprehensive features.
>Low introductory rates
>Daily backups cost extra
What Customers Are Saying
Customers call it a "budget-friendly, quick, headache-free hosting solution." In addition, the "WordPress support and installation is easy, and the buy-what-you-need approach makes HostGator one of the most appealing options on the market."
Hostinger is a budget-friendly platform known for its affordable rates, although that does come with a few trade-offs: notably, no phone support, and no options for cloud hosting using Windows. That said, it does offer plenty of features, including 100 GB of storage on its lowest-priced plan, which is more than most other providers offer.
The Cloud Startup plan costs $7.45 per month, and includes 3 GB RAM and 2 CPU cores, as well as a free SSL certificate and unlimited bandwidth. The Cloud Professional plan costs $14.95 and bumps that up to 140 GB SSD storage and 6 GB RAM. There's also the Cloud Global plan, which is $37 per month and is powered by Google Cloud.
Hostinger includes a 1-click app installer, daily backups, and a 99.9% uptime guarantee with all of its plans. You'll also get a 30-day money-back guarantee if you try it out and it isn't what you're looking for. Finally, Hostinger has data centers in six countries, including the U.S., U.K., Singapore, Brazil, and Indonesia for maximum global coverage.
Pros & Cons of Hostinger Web Hosting
Hostinger does a good job of providing all of the basics, with reliable customer support and 99.9% uptime. Users looking for extra help, however, may be disappointed by the lack of customer support via phone or Windows-compatible hosting options.
>Affordable monthly rates
>No phone support
What Customers Are Saying
Hostinger's customers include small business owners, full-stack web developers, and more. Many reviewers cite its low prices, including its "great functionality for the great price" and the "cheap prices, best speed and helpful support."
Hostwinds provides cloud hosting, VPS hosting, dedicated hosting, and more, with an in-depth knowledge base to get you started. A 24/7/365 customer support team is available to help you out every step of the way. They offer three main guarantees: a 30-day money-back guarantee, a 99.9999% uptime guarantee, and a "friendless guarantee." Their plans come with firewall options, block storage volumes, object storage, and more.
Pricing for cloud servers is a little hard to navigate, because they display prices by the hour, rather than breaking them down into easy-to-understand monthly tiers. Still, they allow you to choose your own billing cycle (hourly through triennially) and even accept less common payment options like Bitcoin.
Hostwinds has been around since 2010 and is headquartered in Seattle. They operate three data centers — in Seattle, Dallas and Amsterdam — all under 24/7 security.
$4.49 - $22.49 per month
>Server Types: Shared, Cloud, VPS, Dedicated, Business, Reseller
Pros & Cons of Hostwinds Web Hosting
With flexible payment options and 10 different cloud hosting tiers, Hostwinds gives you plenty of options to choose from. However, it's important to read the fine print. Backups aren't included and the refund period is only 48 hours for plans that are under a year. Still, if you know what you want, Hostwinds offers a solid product for the price.
>Multiple server locations
>Storage and bandwidth limits
What Customers Are Saying
Many reviews speak highly of the customer support team, saying, "I love how available Hostwinds' front line tech support people are for quick questions." Others found it easy to get started saying, "Setup was quick and they did site migration in just a couple hours."
InMotion is a comprehensive web hosting company with options for WordPress hosting, Cloud VPS hosting, dedicated servers, and more. Prices start at $5 per month for 1 GM RAM, 25 GB of SSD storage, and 1 TB of bandwidth, and max out at $160 per month for 640 GB of storage and 7 TB of bandwidth.
InMotion allows you to choose your preferred operating system, install Java, Ruby, and other programming languages, and host apps and email all within a single platform. All plans come with a free domain, unlimited email accounts, and 24/7 support.
A detailed knowledge base with product guides and tutorials will help you get started, and there's a 90-day money-back guarantee in case you change your mind.
$5 - $160 per month
>Server Types: Shared, Cloud VPS, WordPress, Dedicated
Pros & Cons of InMotion hosting Web Hosting
InMotion's cloud hosting options aren't as broad as some of its competitors, so you'll be limited to Cloud VPS plans if you choose them as your provider. But InMotion has many things going for it, including unlimited email accounts and free SSL certificates for your site. They also have a user-friendly interface and helpful customer support.
>Unlimited email accounts
>No Windows servers
What Customers Are Saying
One customer spoke highly of the customer support they received saying, "I am, once again, absolutely blown away and impressed by your customer service, specifically technical support chat." Another found the InMotion interface easy to work with saying, "I'm tech-inept, and when I did this through another hosting service four years ago, the process was much more confusing and frustrating, and took me a long time."
InterServer offers shared servers, dedicated servers, cloud VPS, and more. In addition to a 30-day guarantee, it also has a price lock guarantee that promises that the "rates you sign up for are guaranteed for the lifetime of the package." This stands out from other providers who offer low introductory rates, but high renewal rates.
The money-back guarantee doesn't apply to cloud VPS hosting, but since you're billed month-to-month, you can cancel anytime you want. You also have the option of paying annually for a 10% discount. All virtual private servers are fully managed and can support Debian, Centos, Ubuntu, Windows, and more. InterServer's data centers are in Los Angeles and New Jersey, and have 24/7 security and backup generators.
All plans come with unlimited storage and transfer, unlimited emails and domains, free website migration, and over 450 cloud apps. You'll also get access to a website builder, online tutorials, and 24/7 customer support by phone, live chat, or ticket system. Plus, InterServer promises "ultra-fast" speeds and 99.9% uptime.
None for cloud VPS plans
>Unlimited storage and transfer
Pros & Cons of InterServer Web Hosting
InterServer's price lock guarantee is a refreshing change compared to hosting providers that raise their prices after your introductory period expires. But InterServer doesn't offer true cloud hosting, just cloud VPS, and only has U.S.-based data centers. Some plans come with unlimited storage and transfer and free migration to sweeten the deal.
>Price lock guarantee
>No international data centers
What Customers Are Saying
One customer values the balance of cost and features saying, "InterServer was unsurpassed in price, amount of space, and number of email accounts." Another user mentions a customer service/technical support team "that actually seems to care about what I need."
IONOS offers pay-as-you-use cloud hosting that's calculated by the minute. That means there's no minimum contract length, and you can cancel at any time. Interactive invoices allow you to view costs in your preferred format and track your usage over time.
Plans max out at $5 per month for Cloud Server XS, with 512 MB RAM and 30 GB SSD storage, and $8 per month for Cloud Server S, with 1 GB RAM and 40 GB storage. All come with unlimited traffic, with additional memory and storage available for $7.20 per month for 100 GB. Backups are also available for $0.65 per GB per month.
IONOS supports Linux and Windows operating systems, as well as Obsidian and Plesk Onyx. You can choose from multiple data centers in the U.S., the U.K., or Europe, all of which have been certified to meet ISO 27001 security standards.
Finally, all plans include 24/7 customer support and access to an in-depth startup guide and knowledge base. IONOS claims an uptime of 99.99%.
$5 - 8 per month
>Server Types: Shared, Cloud, VPS, Dedicated, WordPress
Pros & Cons of 1&1 IONOS Web Hosting
IONOS offers both Windows and Linux servers, which can be hard to find among cloud hosting providers. It has a range of options for businesses of all sizes, with transparent billing policies, although it's worth noting that backups and storage cost extra.
>Linux and Windows servers
>Backups and storage cost extra
What Customers Are Saying
Customers praise the "easy registration and great price." Others report that "the servers are always up and tech support is available 24/7," and that the "documentation is very good so if you do have a question, you can easily find the answers."
Liquid Web offers fully managed hosting options, and promises "99.999% uptime" and access to their Most Helpful Humans in Hosting® support team. You can choose from cloud hosting plans or cloud VPS hosting depending on your needs.
Liquid Web is focused on web professionals, with built-in tools for WordPress, custom websites, and more. You can create a preview link to send to your clients as well as a customized dashboard where they can see their usage statistics.
Cloud Sites starts at $150 per month, although a coupon code will get you your first three months for $51 per month. Your plan includes unlimited websites and domains, 50 GB of SSD storage, 1 TB of bandwidth, and free CloudFlare CDN. You can get additional storage for $2 per GB and additional bandwidth for $0.15 per GB.
These plans are designed for small businesses, SaaS app developers, and agencies that develop high traffic websites. They also offer Managed Cloud Servers for larger businesses that want a scalable option for public cloud hosting.
>Server Types: Dedicated, Cloud, Managed, VPN, Resellers
Pros & Cons of Liquid Web Web Hosting
With rates starting at $150 per month after a three-month introductory discount, Liquid Web's standard packages are higher than other providers. But their comprehensive tools for hosting and managing high-traffic websites makes them worth a look for professional web developers, small businesses, and enterprise clients.
>Unlimited websites and domains
>High monthly rates
What Customers Are Saying
Customers speak highly of their "friendly service, timely assistance, and quality hosting!" They also praise its "high-end performance," and the fact that "the service encompasses fully-managed server solutions that do not compromise with security and functionality."
Scala Hosting offers shared web hosting, WordPress hosting, managed cloud hosting, and more. They also have a handy guide to help you determine which type of hosting is best for your site. Their plans come with a 30-day money-back guarantee, as well as 24/7 fully managed support.
Scala Hosting has been in business for over 11 years, and hosts over 700,000 websites in over 120 countries. They use the SPanel control panel to provide an "all-in-one" user interface at lower prices than cPanel. You'll also get free migration, daily backups, and free "snapshots," which can help you restore your server to an earlier state.
Cloud hosting plans include Start, Advanced, Business, and Enterprise. The Start plan comes with 2 GB Ram and 20 GB SSD storage, with the Enterprise plan maxing out at 8 GB RAM and 80 GB storage. You can also create your own Cloud VPS package by setting your own RAM and storage parameters and choosing a data center location, with billing cycles ranging from monthly to triennially.
>24/7 fully managed support
Pros & Cons of Scala Web Hosting
Scala Hosting doesn't skimp on features, with remote backups and snapshots included with all plans rather than for an additional fee. The option to build your own package is also a nice touch, as is the option to choose the more affordable SPanel over cPanel, although data center locations are limited to Dallas, Texas, and Sofia, Bulgaria.
>SPanel instead of cPanel
>Only 2 data centers
What Customers Are Saying
Several customers complimented their "affordable pricing and excellent support." They also appreciated the alternative control panel saying, "SPanel is very similar to cPanel but it's free," as well as it being "much more smooth and comfortable than I ever expected."
SiteGround has moved away from VPS hosting to focus on cloud hosting. It offers a fully managed service on a Linux-based system. Each account has its own dedicated RAM and CPU resources, and you can add more at any time, or set up the auto-scale option in case your traffic suddenly spikes.
SiteGround supports WordPress and WooCommerce, and offers an unlimited number of free SSL certificates and a free Cloudflare CDN. You also get automatic backups that are stored for up to seven days, as well as up to five additional manual backups. Other tools allow you to add collaborators, transfer websites to your clients, and more, making it a great option for web developers and resellers.
The Entry plan costs $80/month and comes with 40 GB of SSD storage space, while the Business plan costs $120/month and comes with 60 GB of storage. Both options include 5 TB of data transfer. You can also design a custom cloud yourself by adjusting each of these parameters to suit your website's needs.
>Server Types: Shared, WordPress, WooCommerce, Cloud
Pros & Cons of SiteGround Web Hosting
There isn't that much difference between the Entry and Business plans, both of which max out at 5 TB of data transfer and include limited storage space. Still, the option to create a customized plan makes up for it, as does the offer of a free Cloudflare CDN, unlimited free SSL certificates, and automatic daily backups.
>Unlimited SSL certificates
>No VPS servers
What Customers Are Saying
SiteGround's customers include web professionals and WordPress developers. Some of them single out the "special tools they've developed in-house for WordPress users," and recommend it "if you are a developer on a budget but still want advanced features."
What Is Cloud Hosting?
The cloud is an IT buzzword that means many different things. Depending on the context, it can mean remote storage, services or syncing. In terms of web hosting, cloud hosting means a more modern, more flexible approach to servers.
Before we define cloud hosting, note that different hosts have their own definitions of the term. We'll look at the two most common benefits: elasticity and reliability.
Before the Cloud
Before the cloud, website hosting meant renting a chunk of server space from a single physical device. Some types of hosting still operate within that boundary. For example, if you rented an entire server, you could choose the configuration of the server, within the limits of the device.
Cloud hosting allows you to:
- Break free of server confines such as device limitations
- Create virtual servers - Combine the resources of a cluster of machines, rather than just one
- Handle traffic spikes - Increase resources on the fly, due to hosting plans scaling up to meet demand
- Increased reliability - Copies of the site can be placed in more than one place, with a second node ready to take over if the primary node fails
- Better uptime - Some hosts offering cloud hosting advertise much better uptime guarantees - 100 percent, in some cases.
Different hosts provide this redundancy in different ways; some will place the site on multiple storage devices, while some will use multiple virtual servers.
Additionally, clouds are often spread across different physical locations for extra protection against "Acts of God." Some hosts use load balancing technology to make sure the virtual data center can cope with demand as it increases and decreases.
What Exactly Is the Cloud?
The word "cloud" is a huge buzzword these days. And many people have questioned what the cloud even is. Does it exist somewhere physical? Is it just this magical place where all of our data is held to free up space on our devices?
The terminology of the cloud is often a very confusing factor to those new to the subject. We break it down for you in layman terms, for easy understanding.
Well, the cloud isn't one place hanging up in the air above our heads like a lot of us like to imagine. Instead, it is a physical space where data is stored. In short, the cloud is a network of servers. Items stored in the cloud reside on multiple physical servers which could be located almost anywhere in the world.
What Is a Cloud Server?
A cloud server is a server that is used for cloud computing. Instead of existing as an actual physical server, a cloud server is a virtual server that runs in a cloud computing environment. It is built, hosted, and provisioned virtually. Data stored on a cloud server doesn't exist on one physical server as is the case with dedicated servers. Instead, this data may be spread and copied across a network of servers.
A visual representation of multiple, interconnected cloud servers.
Cloud vs Shared Hosting
This differs from a shared server in many ways.
When you host a website on a shared server, your website is housed on one physical server along with other users. You share the server's resources, like disk space and bandwidth, with these other customers of your hosting company.
This also means that your usage may affect the performance of other people's hosting services that share the server with you and vice versa.
With cloud hosting, hosting providers can offer you pre-allocated and dedicated resources amounts. This is because your services aren't limited to the resources that one server can provide.
And since your website isn't hosted in just one physical place, you don't have to share resources with anyone else. This is what gives cloud-hosted servers their sheer power.
|Shared Server||Prone to issues, due to shared environment||Website runs on a physical server with other users||Fixed resources|
|Cloud Server||Close to fault-resistant, due to malleable environment||Website runs in a dedicated environment in a cloud computing environment||Flexible resources|
Don't Forget Reliability
Another difference between shared servers and cloud servers is reliability. Since the cloud links several sources of resources together, it is almost entirely fault-resistant.
Data is distributed over various physical locations, so a problem at one location is unlikely to affect files stored in the cloud. Usually, your data exists as mirrored copies over at least three different locations.
Don't Confuse Cloud Servers with VPSs
Some people think that a cloud server and a virtual machine are the same things. But a cloud server is different from a virtual machine.
A virtual machine is a computer image that behaves like a computer but is not a physical computer. Sounds confusing? It's actually much simpler than it seems.
A virtual machine is just like a computer inside a computer. It typically runs on a physical computer, much like a computer program. It isolates programs and software to this virtual machine instead of allowing it to escape to the actual computer.
What Is Cloud Computing?
Cloud hosting is not the same thing as cloud computing. Essentially, cloud hosting is a form of cloud computing. The definition of cloud computing is basically the storage and accessing of programs or data over the internet. It uses a network of remote servers rather than local servers or your own personal computer.
For example, you engage in cloud computing when you store photos or documents on Google Drive, or even when you send e-mails. When you're storing, managing, or processing data using the internet rather than on your device alone, you are participating in cloud computing. Online cloud storage is becoming more and more popular as people are enjoying the accessibility it provides to them.
5 Cloud Computing Benefits for Businesses
The benefits of cloud computing are numerous. For individuals using computers for basic, personal tasks, cloud computing can free up their device storage. It also makes our files accessible from multiple different devices rather than just one. For example, cloud computing lets you check your e-mail from your phone, tablet, laptop, or a work computer. Your e-mails are delivered to the e-mail clients on whichever device you view them on rather than existing in just one physical space.
A brief demonstration of the webmail interface, using Roundcube via Siteground.
For businesses, cloud computing can certainly eliminate a lot of hassle, boasting a vast number of benefits:
- Cost Reduction
- Resources and Storage
- Disaster Recovery
It reduces IT costs and gives them much more flexibility with what they can do with their data. Businesses using cloud hosting don't have to have physical servers or hardware that needs to be upgraded or repaired.
This also reduces costs from energy consumption and additional staff needed to take care of physical hardware. And, should something go wrong, companies don't have to fix the problems themselves. Third-party cloud providers will take care of repairs and server upkeep.
Resources and Storage
Cloud computing also allows businesses to only pay for the resources they need.
They can easily scale their storage and operational needs up and down as their business expands or lulls.
Aside from hosting, business use cloud computing to ramp up efficiency in the workplace. Cloud services allow employees and teams to work together collaboratively.
This makes work easier since team members don't have to constantly send updated files around or struggle to make sure everyone is up to date and informed of changes.
Cloud computing allows many people to work on one project from different locations. Using cloud computing, everyone working on their project can have access to the same files.
They can actively edit and update things in one place that everyone can see. This also allows employees to work from various locations instead of needing to be in the office.
As a result, cloud computing has made it possible for freelancers and remote employees to work just as efficiently as in-house employees.
Cloud computing helps thousands of businesses save time and money, in order to receive appropriate coverage for disaster recovery.
This would normally be unaffordable for smaller companies.
Common Cloud Computing Services
There are numerous cloud computing services. These range from applications like Dropbox and Google Drive, to cloud hosting environments for websites and applications.
Cloud service providers make cloud computing accessible to anyone, not just developers.
They often charge a monthly or yearly subscription for people to use their resources. And, you can usually opt to pay more for additional storage space or increased flexibility.
The best cloud services are the ones that allow for storage and file sharing. These kinds of services give you easy access to your data no matter where you are in the world.
Access important documents from any computer. Find your photos to share with people from someone else's computer. Play your own music on another person's phone. As is clear, these cloud services have a multitude of recreational as well as work-related uses.
Many cloud services are actually free up to certain usage limits. These free accounts may put limits on the amount of storage you can use or the size of files you can upload. Some services also offer a time-based free trial when you start out. Some of these free cloud service options have been mentioned already such as Google Drive and Dropbox. Others include MEGA, pCloud, MediaFire, and OneDrive.
IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS
Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) are three different models of cloud computing.
The most basic form, IaaS, provides the basic building blocks necessary for cloud services. These are the computing resources that are made available by servers. For example, disk space and bandwidth. IaaS providers give their customers cloud servers and a way to access these via a dashboard or API.
Familiarise yourself with the differences between IaaS, PaaS, and Saas - understanding of different cloud computing models will help you in your ventures as a webmaster.
PaaS is the next step up from IaaS. PaaS provides a platform that people use to develop and deploy software on. Users of PaaS will receive a full hosting environment complete with server software as well as the resources made available by the infrastructure. This is typically what you get from basic web hosting providers.
Finally, SaaS is fully-functioning and ready-to-go software. People are able to access SaaS directly from their web browsers. This is the form of cloud computing that most internet users will be familiar with. With SaaS, third-party services take care of everything from the server resources to the management and deployment of software.
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Understanding the Differences
Cloud Security: Public vs Private
As the cloud becomes part of our relationships with tech companies, it increasingly hits the headlines around the world. High-profile security breaches have made some businesses nervous about adopting cloud computing, and research is being done to determine just how secure the cloud is.
However, most of these reports relate to cloud storage, where encryption is more of a concern. If you host your website in the cloud, your host will simply ask that you follow normal security practices, such as using unique passwords and keeping scripts up to date. The fact that your website is hosted in the cloud won't change security best practice.
The one caveat is that most sites are hosted in public clouds. The host deploys security that stops any customer intruding into the others' sites or servers, and most sites will run perfectly securely in this environment. For absolute best security, a private cloud is a better option, but this is naturally a much more expensive service.
What is Private Cloud Storage?
Private cloud architecture resides inside an organization's own data center. As a result, private clouds are dedicated to just one organization rather than serving multiple companies as public clouds do.
Private cloud computing is typically used by companies that need full control over their hosting environments. They want the added customizability of owning their own infrastructure. This is best for businesses that have unpredictable computing needs.
What is Public Cloud Computing?
Public cloud services take all of the management tasks off of your hands. People using this form of cloud computing aren't responsible for any management of their hosting environment. Instead, the host provider's data center is the host's responsibility. They merely provide you with the resources and take care of everything else.
Private cloud storage can give organizations the most security for their data. This is because their resources aren't shared with any other organizations.
On the other hand, a hybrid cloud model is a cloud computing environment that combines both public and private cloud services. So, what would this look like in an organization and why would businesses opt for this?
Companies can use private cloud storage to host sensitive data and public cloud solutions for less-critical resources. This works well for workloads that are highly dynamic. Meaning, work that is unpredictable and may sometimes require higher-security or various computing needs. For example, businesses may prefer the security of a private cloud environment, but enjoy the flexibility of adding resources from a public cloud solution when their resource requirements suddenly increase.
Want more info? See our chapter on cloud computing in our Ultimate Guide to Web Hosting.
Cloud Hosting vs VPS Hosting
Many hosting customers outgrow shared hosting, and the next natural step is a Virtual Private Server (VPS) or cloud hosting package. In truth, cloud hosting and VPS hosting are very similar:
- Both use visualization at the core of their service
- Both isolate customers' virtual servers so that they don't impede each others' service.
The Main Pros of the cloud
- Access to a pool of resources, rather than just one machine
- Virtual servers can be quickly (sometimes instantly) scaled up and down
- Uptime may be better.
If you're not sure which service to choose, speak to your ideal host about your individual needs before locking yourself into a long-term hosting plan.
Cloud VPS Resources via WhoIsHostingThis
Cloud hosting and VPS hosting are very similar. Though, many people mistakenly think that the terms can be used interchangeably. In fact, there are some inherent differences between the two.
Cloud hosting, as we know, achieves its functionality by spreading resources across multiple shared machines. But, these resources are dedicated to you as if you own your own server.
On the other hand, a VPS provides you with your own partitioned server. This means you get your own portion of an actual server with your own allocated resources. So, it's easy to see that in both cases, users' resources are isolated so that they don't impact other users on the same servers.
Cloud Hosting vs Dedicated Servers
Many hosting companies offer both VPS and cloud hosting options. Others only provide one or the other. A lot of companies also have dedicated servers that can provide higher control to users.
Dedicated servers differ from both cloud hosting and VPS hosting options. When you purchase a dedicated server, you are purchasing the use of this entire server. This differs from a VPS where you are simply allocated specific resources across multiple shared servers. The resources of dedicated servers are entirely isolated to one single hosting customer.
Dedicated Server Resources via WhoIsHostingThis
Dedicated servers are a popular choice for large operations, for obvious reasons.
As a result, it's clear to see that dedicated servers result in the most control you can possibly have over a remote hosting environment. Since you own the entire server, you can configure your hosting environment however you want. Dedicated servers will also allow for the optimal levels of performance. And, since you're the only one using the server, users can enjoy the highest levels of security.
In contrast, VPS and cloud hosting is a lot cheaper than dedicated servers. With VPS plans coming out on top as the most budget-friendly option for people who just need more power than shared hosting allows them.
How to Look for a Cloud Hosting Provider.
Most medium-sized businesses will benefit from cloud hosting. Cheap shared hosting plans will be sufficient to meet the demands of personal websites and small business ventures. Typically, businesses move to the cloud when they out-grow the hosting environments of shared web hosting.
When looking for a cloud hosting provider, you want to make sure of a couple things. First, you want to know about the company's data centers and infrastructure:
- Do they use the super-fast power of SSD cloud hosting?
- Where are their servers located?
- Are these locations secured to your expectations?
You can often find answers to these questions on the websites of hosting companies.
Note: Though, sometimes companies won't disclose any information about the locations of their servers or the details of their infrastructure. This usually means that they rent or own servers in another company's data center rather than owning their own.
SSD drives are much faster than traditional hard drives. So, ideally, you would choose a hosting provider that uses SSD disks in the servers. SSD stands for solid state drive. This means that there are no moving parts on the hard drive. As a result, the speed of the server is not dependent on how fast the disk can rotate as is the case with traditional hard drives.
Traditional hard drives may be called SATA or SAS. So, when you're looking at different hosts, watch out for these specifications. Typically, if a hosting provider has SSD-based hosting, they will advertise this quite openly because of the massive boost in speed you can receive from these.
You'll also want to know what kind of security features are in place to protect your data. Since cloud hosting puts your data alongside other user's data, the security risks are much higher than with dedicated servers. And, your information is distributed among multiple servers, unlike with shared hosting where it stays on just one server.
Security is much different than when running your business on a private cloud network. In-house server infrastructure means that your company can be sure that the servers are safe from outside threats.
With cloud hosting servers, you have to trust your cloud service provider to keep them secure. For this reason, you may be more comfortable hosting with a provider that owns their own datacenter. This means that they will have tight control over the security of the facility. And, they often list all of the security features they have in place such as 24/7 staffed facilities and security cameras monitoring.
As with any hosting plan, you'll want to pay attention to the resources you'll get as well. Some hosting companies will claim that you can get unlimited disk space and bandwidth with their cloud hosting plans. Bluehost is one such company that offers this. But beware, these resources are only unlimited under normal website use. Customers storing large files or using the hosting account for file transfer may exceed the use limits of the hosting plan.
Hostgator offer in-house comparison of their services, including Cloud Hosting.
This is why I like to see clearly-defined resource limits, such as on the cloud plans from HostGator. This way, you know the exact amount of disk space and bandwidth you have at your disposal. Cloud hosting allows you to scale up your resources easily when you experience visitor spikes or higher performance demands anyway.
User-Friendly Control Panel
When searching for a host, many people will want to consider the user-friendliness of the control panel. People using cloud hosting aren't always developers. In fact, people who have a lot of technical knowledge tend to prefer VPS plans for higher control over their hosting environment.
As a result, it's important that the control panel from the hosting provider is intuitive to use. Many hosts use a customized version of cPanel for this. You'll need to use the control panel to view your resource usage and scale your allowances when you need more or less.
It's important to be able to do this so your website can receive the power it needs. But also, so you aren't paying for unused resources when you don't need them.
When hosting in the cloud, it's easy to find much higher uptime guarantees than for shared web hosting. This is because of the multiple mirrored copies of your data that are spread across various servers. If one server goes down, it's unlikely that your website will experience downtime since the copies will keep it running.
Be sure to try and get some compensation, should there be downtime issues with your host. No harm in trying!
Make sure your hosting provider has an uptime guarantee to ensure that you can expect consistent uptime. Many will give you some kind of compensation if you experience significant downtime as well.
Free Cloud Hosting
There are a few companies that offer some form of free cloud hosting. These are Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform, and Microsoft Azure. These three companies provide both PaaS and IaaS cloud computing models. Most hosting companies provide their customers with PaaS solutions.
AWS is one of the most popular hosting options for developers because they give their customers full control through an IaaS model. With AWS's free tier, their users get a full 12 months to use their services.
Amazon Web Services Cloud Hosting has a free 12 month tier.
Google Cloud Platform also has a free tier. This lets developers build, test, and deploy applications. Their infrastructure is highly-scalable as cloud hosting should be. Their free trial is also available for 12 months or up until you've used a certain amount of credit.
Microsoft Azure is another popular option for free cloud hosting. They have both IaaS and PaaS models for their cloud computing services. This gives you options for managed and unmanaged services.
Though, businesses who want fully-managed cloud hosting will have to pay for a hosting plan. There are many great options out there to choose from. Some of the most common and familiar web hosts that offer managed cloud hosting are SiteGround, HostGator, Bluehost, and LiquidWeb. Hosts such as these will usually provide a money-back guarantee for at least 30 days. This is great because it lets you try out their services before committing fully.
Looking for a great deal on cloud hosting?
SiteGround — rated #1 by our readers — is known for its excellent customer support. You can currently save big on their plans. Use this discount link to get the deal.
Pros and Cons of Cloud Hosting
Despite some industry predictions, cloud hosting hasn't made shared hosting obsolete. There are some situations when shared hosting still trumps the cloud. It's cheaper, for a start. And different hosts offer different types of cloud hosting; this in itself is a point of caution because comparing cloud hosting is difficult.
- Many hosts only charge for the capacity you use, so it's cheaper for some sites
- You can often clone, deploy and remove servers in an instant
- Your site will never be restricted by the spec of a physical machine
- Businesses don't need to have an on-site hardware, reducing expenses
- Cloud hosting is extremely scalable, and companies only have to pay for the resources they want
- For organizations, employees can connect to the network from anywhere in the world using any device rather than being restricted to in-house machines
- Data-losses are reduced from having redundant copies and regular back-ups
- Third-parties can give you uptime guarantees.
- In some cases, the price jump from shared to cloud hosting is vast
- You can't always control where in the world your site is being served from
- You may lose some of the control you'd enjoy with a traditional server, since the hosting provider may place each server instance on their own cloud platform, removing some of the access dedicated and VPS customers enjoy
- Third-party cloud services may have access to the data that is hosted on them
- Users won't be able to access data if their internet goes down
- No physical control over the server or it's security.
Other features in Hosting Types
Cloud Frequently Asked Questions
- What is cloud computing?
Cloud computing is a way of pooling computing resources together and treating a large group of computers as if they were a single computer.
A cloud computing environment might have hundred or thousands of individual computers networked together and then run one or many virtual machines on of that cluster of computers.
- What is "the cloud?"
The cloud (with a definite article, as if there were only one) is a marketing buzzword that is more or less meaningless.
Cloud computing is a way of dealing with massive amounts of computing resources, but there isn't one "cloud" where all the cloud computing happens.
- Is the internet the cloud?
No. The internet is a bunch of individual machines that can communicate with each other, but they act independently.
A cloud is a bunch of machines that act as the foundation for one or more virtual machines.
- How much does cloud hosting cost?
When it comes to pricing, cloud hosting is something of a middle ground between the most expensive option, dedicated hosting, and the cheapest option, shared hosting. This often makes it a viable choice for small- or medium-sized businesses that need more resources than shared serving provides, but don't necessarily have the budget for a dedicated server. The exact price of your cloud hosting will vary based on the company and the plan you choose, but typically, pricing for cloud hosting ranges from $5-$250 per month.
- Are there many clouds?
Yes. Lots of companies and individuals are engaging in some form of cloud computing.
- Can I have my own cloud?
Yes. OpenStack is a software application that allows you to build your own cloud. If you have a collection of networked computers, you could run OpenStack on them and create your own cloud.
- What do people mean when they say "The Cloud"?
Typically "The Cloud" refers to running applications that are not centralized. For example, Google Drive is a cloud application. Where is your data? In Google's cloud, not on a specific server.
- Since it is decentralized, are cloud-based services bad?
No. Cloud computing allows computer resources to be more efficiently managed.
Files are no longer limited by the size of individual disk drives. Multiple computers can work together on a difficult computing problem. Bandwidth is available for unexpected traffic spikes.
Cloud computing isn't always the best solution to a computing problem, but it is a very powerful tool that allows us to better utilize our computing resources.
- What are the benefits of cloud computing?
Cloud computing is inherently scalable. The virtual machine on which any specific application is running is drawing computer resources from a large pool of resources — far greater than that of any specific computer.
If activity spikes suddenly, more resources are readily available. If there is a growth trend, more computers can be added to make the cloud larger. This makes resource provisioning much more convenient.
Additionally, cloud computing can be more reliable because the failure of one piece of hardware doesn't necessarily take down the whole cluster.
- What are the disadvantages of cloud computing?
There can be security issues, since each layer of abstraction between application users and actual hardware might be run by a different organization and there is no real guarantee that service providers at the lowest level won't spy, steal data, or shut down.
There can also be problems related to the number of abstraction layers, which can slow down performance as compared with running apps on bare metal.
- Is there anything misleading about the name "cloud computing"?
As a metaphor, "cloud" is a problematic way of describing what is going on. A more accurate analogy might be "pooled resource computing."
The nomenclature matters because it affects how people think about cloud infrastructure. People tend to think about it as some ethereal, nebulous entity in the distance which they can upload data to and play their music from, but that's not actually what's happening.
Instead, we are talking about millions of real, actual computers sitting in buildings in real locations.
That file you uploaded to Dropbox isn't in the sky. It's one or more disk drives in one or more datacenters somewhere.
These resources cost money, take up space, use energy. Imagining them as a cloud helps ignore this reality. That makes it easy to ignore concerns about security, privacy, legality, and environmental impact.
- What is cloud hosting?
This depends on the company and the specific plan. Usually, it means that the hosting company is pooling resources from a large number of servers, which it may or may not own, and then running a bunch of virtual machines on top of that cluster.
If you get a VPS account, your VPS is probably one of those virtual machines. Shared hosting plans are grouped together, running on one of those virtual machines.
- Are most web hosts using some type of cloud hosting architecture?
Yes. Even if they don't advertise it as such, or they give it a different name ("grid" and "cluster" are both popular), cloud computing has become fairly standard for hosting companies because of the benefits of scaling and reliability.
Web hosting companies that specifically play up the idea of "cloud hosting" might be trying to highlight these benefits to you. Or they might just be using a popular buzzword.
It's important to look past the headline and read what services are actually being provided by any hosting companies you are interested in.