Over the last few years the “Cloud” has been a hot buzzword for technology. We’ve heard about how devices and things in our homes are now part of the Cloud, or able to access the Cloud, or store things in the Cloud… but what does that really mean? And when it comes to a server, is it best to get your site hosted somewhere on a cloud server?
What is the Cloud?
When you hear someone talking about the Cloud, they are possibly referring to a few different, but interconnecting technologies. In simplest terms, “clouds” refer to networks of servers connected across the Internet. They share resources with one another, provide redundancy, and distribute some functions across multiple machines, often in different geographical locations around the world. You should note that although people often say they are doing something on the Cloud, there are actually many different “clouds”, though they may interact in various ways across the Internet.
Some Clouds are built for storage, like the popular Google Drive. Others perform services, like QuickBooks Online, Netflix’s streaming service, or even Yahoo’s email. The main thing these solutions share is that they exist on the Internet, can be accessed by Internet connected devices from any location, and they run across multiple physical machines. This makes them more reliable, speedy, and easy to access. They can also interact with one another, so you could store info in your cloud drive, use that info in a cloud-based application, and then send the results from a cloud email service to another person.
Am I Ready For The Cloud?
Because cloud solutions are so powerful and interconnected, some companies have begun moving their websites from more traditional servers into cloud platforms. That is an exciting trend for all of us, because it means some amazing applications, storage options, and online services will continue to get bigger, faster, and more impressive. However, it is also worth pondering whether a cloud solution is right for your current situation.
Before making a choice, consider these five factors that may impact your move to a cloud server:
Do you have the right technical knowledge
Cloud hosting requires a greater amount of setup, configuration, and maintenance to function properly. Do you have this knowledge? If not, are you willing to hire someone who does to setup and maintain your site?
Is the cost structure beneficial?
Cloud servers charge based on usage, as opposed to shared hosting that charge a simple flat fee. Some cloud pricing models may scale up based on use, but not back down. Prices can vary unpredictably over time. Can you afford a cloud hosting? Will you see enough benefit from a cloud server to make the potential increase in cost worth it? Do you have enough volume to negotiate high-volume discounts with the web hosting provider?
Will migration to the cloud cause outages or delays?
Moving to the Cloud has significant technical challenges. Those challenges could affect your timeline for getting the server online, and early bugs could lead to outages. Not every application that runs smoothly in a shared hosting environment works as well on cloud hosting. Do you have a plan to address these problems, should they arise? How will the affect your timeline and budget?
Why would you need it?
The big motivation when moving to the cloud is usually the instant provisioning and other cloud-specific features. True, cloud platforms can deliver content and run applications that might consume too many resources on shared hosting platforms. But, do you actually have a popular, and resource-intensive mobile application (like a graphics-heavy video game) to host? If you have a straightforward site that loads quickly and runs smoothly on shared hosting, with minimal maintenance or setup, what would you actually gain by moving to cloud hosting?
Who is responsible for managing the cloud?
Unlike shared hosting platforms, many cloud solutions require the site owner to retain responsibility for making sure everything works correctly. There is a risk that you could inherit a problem from the server that you have troubles fixing remotely or without specialized knowledge.
Is Moving to the Cloud Worth It for You?
Cloud computing is an exciting new area of technology, sure to see a great deal of growth over the next few years. However, individuals and organizations that have more advanced needs from a web server (like hosting a popular application) currently have the most reason to move. Shared hosting, on the other hand, provides predictable, affordable billing. It requires much less technical knowledge, so setup and maintenance take very little time. For individuals and organizations with typical websites advertising a product or service, shared hosting provides power, ease of maintenance, and affordability that cloud hosting will not for many years to come.
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