What Cloud Hosting Really Is

How it works and how to find the right cloud hosting service for you

Cloud hosting is a type of web hosting where a website is hosted on a cloud server, also known as a virtual server. With traditional web hosting, a website sits on one server, known as a dedicated server, in a data center. Cloud hosting is different because data is spread across multiple servers.

Here's a look at what cloud hosting is, how it works, and how to find the right cloud host for your business.

Cloud hosting is sometimes referred to as server on-demand hosting, cloud server hosting, or cluster server hosting.

Cloud hosting concept illustration
MR.Cole_Photographer / Getty Images

How Does Cloud Hosting Work?

With the traditional web-hosting model, your business website and its data reside on one server in a physical data center. When you opt for cloud hosting, your data is spread across multiple connected web servers. Your data can access a cluster of servers in the virtual environment of the cloud seamlessly.

When one server fails, others are there to pick up the slack. If your website sees a boost in traffic and needs more resources, it can access more without downtime, slowing, and other hiccups. If your site sees a lull in traffic, it will access fewer resources.

Opting for a cloud hosting package from a reliable company may cost as little as $10 a month, keep you up and running, and save you untold hassles.

These factors make cloud hosting reliable, scalable, secure, and affordable. It's a popular choice for many businesses, eliminating the need for onsite servers and other hardware, and reducing IT infrastructure costs.

Cloud hosting services aren't limited to hosting websites. These services also host applications, email, and more, and can be used for data storage.

Cloud Hosting vs. Web Hosting

Web hosting services also utilize the cloud. These services help you register your domain name, store your website's files, and offer administrative services. Web hosts provide tools such as databases, programming languages, and web programming frameworks. These hosts also provide security-related items, such as SSL certificates, and site analytics.

A good web hosting plan from a service like Hostgator, GoDaddy, or A2 Hosting may be all your website or organization needs. However, there are limitations. These services usually offer fixed support, so a growing project that needs extra RAM or bandwidth would have no way to allocate more resources. Upgrading to a new plan would mean downtime for your website.

A cloud hosting service, however, spreads its resources across multiple devices, so adding resources is easy and fast. A larger, growing, or more ambitious project would benefit from a good cloud hosting service, as would any service with spikes and dips in traffic.

Many hosting services offer both web hosting and cloud hosting plans.

Cloud Hosting vs. VPS

A Virtual Private Server (VPS) is another popular hosting service you can choose for your website. With VPS, your site is on a server with multiple users, but you have dedicated and private resources. VPS solutions are secure, stable, and inexpensive.

The main difference between VPS and cloud hosting is that cloud hosting comes with no downtime. There's another server to pick up the slack if things get busy or there's a problem with another server.

VPS is a good choice if you're not concerned with reliability. If you are, you may want to consider cloud hosting.

VPS and cloud hosting are not mutually exclusive. Many services offer combination plans, using VPS hosting with a cloud infrastructure.

Examples of Cloud Hosting

Large and small companies use cloud hosting services. For example, Google spreads its resources over hundreds of servers in the cloud, making it reliable and limiting downtime. Google now has its own cloud services division, helping telecommunications, media, retail, software, and more companies modernize their hosting.

Movie-streaming giant Netflix has to meet huge spikes in demand as well as times of lower activity. Cloud hosting gives Netflix the scalability it needs. Similarly, social sites such as Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram rely on cloud hosting to adjust to varying levels of traffic.

Cloud hosting can spur innovation, helping businesses grow to meet changing needs and demands.

It isn't only big companies that use cloud hosting. Most cloud-hosting organizations offer packages that are ideal for small and growing businesses, so they don't have to spend money on servers and other hardware.

Cloud Hosting Providers

The price of cloud hosting has become reasonable for smaller organizations, with a variety of hosting plan options.

The bigger cloud hosting platforms, such as Microsoft Azure, are a good choice for businesses with a lot of data and additional computing needs beyond hosting a website.

For smaller organizations, companies such as Hostgator and A2 Hosting offer web hosting and cloud hosting plans, so you can evaluate what's best for your website hosting needs.

Cloudways is a solution that's somewhere between the big-name hosting solutions and the smaller alternatives. It offers managed cloud hosting from the big names, but it's simple and easy to use.

Making the Move to Cloud Hosting

If you're considering a move to cloud hosting, carefully evaluate your needs, particularly the level of scalability and reliability you envision. Investigate the cloud-hosting options of reputable businesses and make the best choice for your organization.