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What is Cloud Hosting?

The 'cloud' is a loose term for a diverse set of products and services.

Cloud hosting solutions vary greatly. Even if they appear the same `on the outside', they're not. Each has a unique combination of underlying infrastructure, features, interfaces and layers. That said, they can be organized into three general categories, each defined by the architecture of the solution. And that all-important architecture determines or influences the level of control, flexibility and transparency each solution delivers.

Cloud 1.0 Solutions

The Cloud 1 type of platform is a Software as a Service (SaaS) model. Each customer's application has code running on a background server, creating a virtual individual server which may be hosting solutions such as web, database, compute engine, customer relationship management (CRM) or eCommerce.

Essentially, each customer is running their applications on a server shared with other customers of the hosting provider. This means that data input, output and processing become co-mingled with other customers' data during operations and transactions.

Advantages

  • Very inexpensive - venture capitalists tend to endorse this cloud model so that money can be spent on software and apps and other corporate expenses
  • A highly-controlled environment, so they tend to support prefab plug-ins that are easy to implement, even if they are inflexible.

Disadvantages

  • Limited or no flexibility in app development, since the highly-controlled environment compels customers to write towards a very specific API. Differentiating one's app from a competitor's app becomes difficult, if not impossible.
  • The customer is at the mercy of the server's design or engine which is hidden from them. Developers and architects cannot see inside their cloud, making it difficult and inefficient to work with in terms of scaling, projecting costs, optimising the environment and securing their data. Developers have to continually write and rewrite code to optimize their environment for what is an unclear cloud environment.
  • The co-mingling of data with that of other customers poses many security and performance risks.

Cloud 2.0 Solutions

This type of public cloud differs hugely from Cloud 1.0 solutions, in that virtualized instances of servers run across a massive underlying hardware environment and tap into an almost limitless reservoir of raw computing power.

Customers create their own virtual instances for websites, databases, security applications and so on, as required. The computing resources are dispersed and absorbed across the hosting provider's entire cloud environment but each customer's data inputs, outputs and processing are kept entirely separate from those of other customers.

Advantages

  • Better security because every customer is running independently.
  • Better performance because customers manage their own instances and resources.
  • Limitless scalability because the addition of new virtual servers is not limited by the rigid limitation of physical servers as in Cloud 1.0 offerings.
  • Encourages and permits a more collaborative approach between administrators, architects and developers to create a smarter, more efficient scaling environment.

Disadvantages

  • With greater flexibility and control, customers need to make choices about their use of cloud resources to get the most out of them.

While not a real negative, many perceive Cloud 2.0 solutions as being less secure, as with Cloud 1.0 solutions. But this is an incorrect assumption, since the hardware foundation of this type of cloud typically has security embedded within it, rather than running over it.

Private Cloud Solutions

Private clouds are Cloud 2.0 solutions running on a customer's dedicated hardware. Like any cloud, they differ according to each provider's infrastructure and hardware.

Advantages

  • Customers have greater flexibility and control over how they administer their environment.
  • There is often an opportunity for customers to have more input into the choice of hardware underlying their private cloud.

Disadvantages

  • In comparison to public clouds, the cost of a private cloud is prohibitively high for many businesses because of the dedicated hardware required.
  • Infinite scaling is more difficult to realise, as the virtualization of servers is still tied to the finite server resources allocated to a private cloud. More servers and hardware need to be purchased whenever the underlying hardware nears capacity.