What is cloud hosting?
Cloud hosting is a new and modern way of hosting websites and applications. Instead of using a single server, cloud hosting uses a network of connected cloud servers.
By hosting your website or application in the cloud you get a ton of benefits and often comes with additional features on top of the hosting itself.
The name “cloud hosting” comes from the fact that the servers used for hosting are purely virtual and do not exist in the same way as traditional physical servers.
So how exactly does it work? And what are the benefits of cloud hosting?
Table of content
How does cloud hosting work?
With traditional hosting, your website is hosted on a single physical server (either shared or private). This is a simple setup and is often quite inexpensive as well.
But what happens if the server goes down?
Or what happens if your marketing campaign is a huge success and your server doesn’t have enough resources to handle all of the website traffic?
Cloud hosting can help you solve these problems, and more!
Instead of having your website hosted on a single server, it’ll instead be hosted on a network of connected cloud servers. Behind the scenes, there are still a bunch of physical servers running, but the main difference is the architecture.
With cloud hosting there’s an extra layer added on top of the physical servers in the form of virtual servers (also known as virtual machines, or VMs).
These virtual machines aren’t just taking CPU and resources from a single physical machine, but are instead being powered by multiple different machines.
So why is this smart? And why has it become so popular?
Let’s start by looking at the two situations we mentioned earlier.
What happens when a server goes down?
If you’re on a traditional hosting setup it’s (unfortunately) quite simple: Unless you have a multi-server setup with redundancy and/or load balancing your website will go down. That’s not great.
If you were on a cloud hosting setup instead, that would not be the case. Even if a single server goes down, your virtual server still has other physical servers which can take resources from. So while it might temporarily cause your website to be slightly slower, you won’t go down completely.
This reliability is one of the key benefits of cloud hosting and one we’ll explain in more detail further down on this page.
What happens if your server doesn’t have enough resources to handle all of the website traffic?
No matter what type of hosting setup you have, you will have an allocated amount of resources available to you. The difference is, that the physical servers in a cloud setup are all connected. If your website suddenly needs more resources than what is available to it, you’ll be able to quickly add more by increasing the number of physical servers connected to your virtual machine.
This can happen very fast and can thus be done on the fly when you’re experiencing traffic spikes. And the beauty of it? When your website traffic goes back to normal, you can scale down again so you’re not stuck paying for server resources you don’t use.
In some cases, like with Umbraco Cloud, you can also choose to move from shared cloud hosting to dedicated cloud hosting on-demand, if you want to be sure your website has enough resources.
Those were 2 of the great benefits of cloud hosting - let’s have a look at a few more, shall we?
1. Reliability in performance
What happens if you’re using traditional hosting and the physical server goes down? Well, then your website goes down with it. In that case, your server will work as a single point of failure, where everything goes down if it goes down.
With cloud hosting, you avoid this issue, since your website is running on multiple physical servers instead. So if one of them goes down for any reason, there are other servers ready to pick up the slack.
While you can avoid this issue with traditional hosting by having a redundant server ready if your live server fails, it’s often an extra service you’ll have to pay extra for with your hosting provider.
2. Scalability when needed
Do you have a big Black Friday sale coming up and expect your website traffic to increase by 100x on that single day? Then it’s crucial your server can handle it; otherwise, you might very well lose out on a lot of revenue.
With traditional server hosting there’s usually a hard cap to how many resources you have available since it all relies on a single physical server and its computing resources. If you’re maxing out the resources it’s usually a complicated process to get more allocated since it’d require upgrading the server or adding an additional server to the mix in a load-balanced setup.
If you’re on cloud hosting, scaling becomes much simpler, as the network of physical servers is already connected to power the virtual server your website is running on.
And since it’s in the cloud, and thus completely virtual, it’s a more straightforward process to add additional resources to a server that is using all of its resources.
Ultimately you get much better scalability and can react to traffic spikes swiftly to ensure that you don’t lose out on valuable business.
3. Flexibility in your setup
Most hosting providers do their best to have server solutions that fit most use cases in terms of all the technical specifications (memory, storage, processing power, etc.).
But what if that doesn’t fit your hosting needs? Then you might just be stuck trying to fit a square peg in a round hole, where you end up overpaying because you have one requirement that pushes you up to a much bigger solution that is necessary for your other needs.
As you’ve probably guessed already, that’s not necessarily the case with cloud hosting. Having your solution run on a virtual server means that it’s much easier to build one that fits your requirements; without having to think of the limitations of building a physical server.
4. Pricing is more flexible
For traditional hosting, you pay a monthly rate that is set in stone. And if you want to be ready for the Black Friday traffic spike you’ll also have to be on a server that can handle that - even if your normal traffic is much lower. This means you’ll end up overpaying for most of the year just to be sure your server can handle the traffic spikes that might occur a few times a year.
Oh, and do you want server redundancy? Then you’ll have to pay for that as well, so it’s ready if your live server goes down.
With cloud hosting, you’re much more flexible. Due to the scalability and flexibility built into a cloud hosting setup you’re much better equipped for traffic spikes and server redundancy.
The best part is that you’ll often be on a pay-as-you-go pricing plan, where you only pay for the resources you use.
Combined this gives you a better price during normal times, while still allowing you to have flexibility when needed.
5. Security in the cloud
We’ve already mentioned one of the security benefits of cloud hosting: a physical server is no longer a single point of failure. So if a physical server is ever hacked your website won’t go down. Instead, it’ll be taken out of the server pool and let other servers take over, so your website can keep running with the same resources available.
This is also a huge benefit for you when it comes to server maintenance as it allows the hosting provider to run maintenance on one server at a time without causing websites to go offline.
With traditional hosting you’ll typically have 2 layers of security:
- Security measures to keep the data center from being hacked
- Security measures to keep the physical server from being hacked
With cloud hosting, you get an additional layer of security with security measures to keep the virtual server network secure.
One of the most common examples of this virtual security layer is how bad/noisy neighbors are handled on shared hosting. If a website is hacked it’s very hard to isolate if it’s on a single physical server. In the cloud however you can quickly isolate these websites and anyone potentially affected to ensure that everyone's data is safe.
Different types of cloud hosting
Just like with traditional hosting, there are multiple types of cloud hosting. We can’t tell you which one is right for you, as that depends on your requirements. What we can do is to tell you the pros and cons of each to make your decision a bit easier.
Shared cloud hosting
Let’s start with the most common one: shared cloud hosting, also known as public cloud. This type of hosting setup is very similar to the shared hosting setup that you’ll get with traditional hosting providers.
Your website will be hosted on servers that are shared with other websites, and thus you’ll also be sharing the costs.
This is a great setup for most websites that don’t have any special requirements. And since the virtual servers are already up and running you’ll quickly be set up and ready to go.
The best thing about using shared cloud hosting is that you get all of the benefits mentioned above - at a much lower price than private or managed cloud hosting.
In fact, with shared cloud hosting, you’ll often have much higher flexibility and scalability than if you’re running on a private cloud network. Because you’re already sharing servers with other websites there are not a lot of restrictions for the hosting provider. So if you need to scale up the server resources it’s much easier to do as there are a ton of shared servers ready to be connected to your virtual machine.
So should everyone use shared cloud hosting? No, not really.
While shared cloud hosting is great for a lot of cases, it might not be for you. There are especially two downsides which can make it a bad solution for you.
1. Security concerns
When your website is on shared hosting (cloud or not), there’s an added risk that you’ll experience a security breach. While there’s always the chance that the data center or physical server you’re on is hacked, there’s one more here: the other websites on your server. While there are security measures put in place to prevent it, it still adds yet another surface of attack for hackers. And once a hacker has access to one website on the server it makes the other websites on the server more vulnerable.
So even if your setup is very secure and you vigorously patch and update your website, you don’t know if other websites on your server are as well.
2. Resources are shared
It’s different from how the hosting is shared (more below), but it’s still shared nonetheless. What can happen on shared hosting is that one of the websites on the server uses up more resources than what’s allocated to them.
In a shared hosting setup, this is called a noisy neighbor, which results in the other websites on the same shared server having fewer resources available.
It’s important to note that it’s not uncommon for websites to use more resources than they’re allocated for a short time and that there can be many reasons for it. The spike in resource usage can be due to technical issues, or it could be due to a surge in website traffic on a day like Black Friday. But if the spike continues it becomes a big problem for all the other websites.
No matter the reason it’s happening, it’s important to know how the host handles these situations and what downtime (if any) you can expect in a situation where you have a noisy neighbor. While most cloud hosting providers have a system to handle these issues swiftly and automatically, it might still cause your website to have temporary performance issues until it’s fixed. And if you’re running a website where 100 % uptime is business-critical you don’t want that to happen.
What’s the difference between shared hosting and cloud hosting?
The key difference is that instead of sharing a physical server, you’re now sharing a virtual server with other websites. This might sound like splitting hairs, but it actually makes a huge difference for you and your website.
The virtual server that you’re sharing is not isolated like a physical server but is instead pulling resources from multiple different physical servers. Because of this setup, you will often see that every single website on a virtual server has its own disk space, processing power, etc.
This effectively means that shared cloud hosting gives you all of the same benefits as traditional shared hosting; it just comes without the downsides.
Even in the case of a noisy neighbor, the hosting provider has more options to fix it than if it was on a physical server. Because it’s connected to multiple physical servers a temporary fix can be to simply allocate more resources to the virtual server that needs it to ensure that it can keep up and not hurt the performance of all the websites hosted on the server.
If the noisy neighbor continuously keeps using more resources, then they can even be moved to a different virtual server to isolate them from the others. This is technically possible on a physical server as well but would require much more work than on cloud hosting.
Private cloud hosting
Private cloud hosting is comparable to having a dedicated server to host your website. With a private cloud, you will have your own network of physical servers running just to power your virtual server.
This setup is great for server redundancy and gives you a high level of security since you won’t be sharing any resources with other websites. So if you need a near 100 % uptime and want to keep your data more secure than on shared hosting, then this is a great solution for you.
So why go for a private cloud instead of a dedicated server?
This goes back to the main benefits of cloud hosting, where having more than one physical server will provide you with increased reliability, flexibility, and security.
Managed cloud hosting
Managed cloud hosting is very similar to private cloud hosting. The main difference is who takes care of server maintenance.
In a private cloud setup, you’ll be in charge of managing the servers - even if they’re physically placed in a data center.
With managed cloud hosting you will have experts taking care of your servers as well. This will include everything from security patches, maintenance, and monitoring the performance of your setup.
Because you’re paying someone else to handle your servers, this might cost you more than private cloud hosting. But it might be worth it, as you won’t have to worry about maintaining it yourself and spending resources on that.
Which type of cloud hosting should you choose?
To find the right cloud hosting for your website, it’s important to take a look at your requirements as well as your budget.
All types of hosting come in different price levels and they all have benefits and drawbacks. And depending on your needs, the recommended hosting setup might be very different.
Here are a few things to consider when choosing your hosting setup:
1. What is your budget?
This should always be your starting point. If you’re a startup or a small business with a smaller budget, then you should not invest a lot of time researching complex managed hosting setups; it’ll simply be too expensive.
Instead, you should consider a range based on how much business your website generates for you. Hosting prices vary a lot and thus you can get something for any size and type of website.
2. How much traffic do you expect to have on your website?
While website traffic is not a perfect metric for determining your hosting needs, it’s usually a good enough indicator for hosting providers to suggest a hosting setup for your website.
3. Do you expect seasonal spikes in traffic?
For some websites, the resource usage might be very stable and thus quite predictable in how many server resources they need at any given time. But if you’re expecting a lot of spikes with a ton of concurrent visitors in short periods, it’s important to have a hosting setup that can handle it.
This is where the right cloud setup shines. With the right hosting provider, you’ll be able to have the right server resources for your daily usage, as well as the scaling capabilities to handle even the biggest spikes in traffic.
4. Is uptime essential for your business?
On Amazon Prime Day in 2018, their website went offline for 13 minutes. The cost? An estimated $100 million in lost sales.
While that can seem like an extreme example, it’s important to consider how downtime affects your business. If it’s business-critical to have your website running at all times, that’ll play a big role in the hosting setup you’ll need.
5. Are there any laws or regulations in your industry?
While this is not common for most industries, in some, hosting and data storage are regulated by laws and thus there are specific demands for the setup.
This can be anything from which country a server can be to the level of server redundancy that is needed to ensure 100 % uptime.
6. Which content management system are you going to use?
Depending on your content management system, there might be very specific server requirements that you need to run it.
If you’re using a .NET CMS then the server requirements are much different than those of a CMS built in PHP or something else.
Cloud hosting providers
Cloud hosting has come a long way and is no longer seen as a trend or new technology. Today it’s clear that it’s here to stay.
That means a lot of hosting providers are now offering a cloud hosting setup that ranges from shared, public hosting to private and managed.
To find the right hosting provider we recommend that you go through the 6 points in the previous section and research the possibilities in your space.
The last point can be especially important to ensure the best performance for your website. While some servers might be fine for most content management systems, the right configuration can make a big difference. So if you already know which CMS you’re going to be using for your website, then you should try to find a hosting provider that offers servers specifically built for that CMS.
What does Cloud Hosting cost?
Just like traditional hosting servers, the prices of cloud hosting vary a lot depending on your needs.
Cloud hosting is generally more expensive than traditional hosting. So if you’re running a low-budget website that doesn’t need all the benefits of cloud hosting, then you will probably be fine with a traditional shared hosting setup.
If you want to go with cloud hosting, there are a few things that factor into the price.
Firstly, there are your requirements for the server itself in the terms of resources, memory, operating system, and similar technical requirements. Something as simple as the operating system can have a big influence on the price.
Secondly, there’s a difference between picking an existing plan vs. a custom plan with a hosting provider. If you can find an existing plan with a hosting provider that fits your needs, then that’ll typically be cheaper than having a custom plan.
Lastly, there’s the type of hosting that you require. Public, shared cloud hosting is the cheapest option, while private and managed are both more expensive.
What is a cloud CMS?
A cloud CMS is a content management system that includes cloud hosting on top of its other features.
With traditional content management systems, you have to buy a license or download the CMS and handle hosting yourself. This can be done any way you want to, either by hosting it on-premise or through a hosting provider in a data center. You can even set up the CMS on cloud hosting if you want to.
With a cloud CMS, you don’t have to worry about any of that though as the hosting is already included.
Having hosting included with your CMS gives you 3 main benefits compared to hosting it yourself:
- You get all of the benefits of cloud hosting
- You save time by not having to worry about hosting. This typically includes saving costs on people to help manage the servers
- The CMS provider can tailor the hosting service to fit their CMS
So if you want to get cloud hosting for your website, it might very well be a good solution for you to find a cloud-based CMS where you get all the benefits of cloud hosting on top of having it tailored to your CMS of choice.
With cloud hosting emerging as a great hosting option for more and more websites, it is natural to ask yourself the simple question of how to choose the right cloud-based CMS.
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How do I choose the right cloud-based CMS?
If you’re looking for the right cloud-based CMS there are a few things you should consider before choosing the one that’s right for you.
Please note that this list will only cover cloud-specific features and considerations. If you want a more general guide, you should go read this article on how to choose the right CMS.
1. How does the hosting setup compare to other providers?
The first consideration should always be how it compares to alternative solutions. While some content management systems are only cloud-based and don't allow you to host it yourself, most will have both options. In that case, it’s important to compare the cloud-based CMS setup with what you could get at a comparable provider.
This should first and foremost be a comparison of hosting features only, such as resources, memory, server redundancy, and the location where your data is hosted. Additional features and benefits that might be added to the cloud-based version of the CMS should come next.
2. Which additional features do you get?
Most cloud-based content management systems take advantage of them having full control over the hosting setup by including additional features. These can range from development and deployment tools to product support and SLAs.
The features you get here will vary a lot, but ultimately it can be the deciding factor between choosing your own setup vs. the cloud-based CMS setup.
3. How is the pricing model?
A big part of cloud hosting is its scalability, and that includes the pricing model. When choosing a cloud-based CMS it’s important to take a look at the pricing structure overall and how it fits your current and future needs. Besides looking at the available plans, it’s important to know how pricing changes if you need to scale up or down, either temporarily to handle a traffic spike or permanently.
A good mindset is to take an optimistic approach and plan for success. If your business is growing, does the price scale in a reasonable way? That way you’re not staring at a big server migration down the line, but can stay on the platform when your business grows.
4. How often do new features come out? And can you request them?
A cloud-based CMS is typically managed, and in some cases, it’s also closed-source. That means you leave a lot of control in the hands of the vendor, which is not necessarily a bad thing by the way.
But it does mean you need to know if there are any downsides to it.
One of the common ones to look for is how often new features are released and what direction these are in. If it’s moving in a direction that doesn’t fit your needs, it might be a sign that the vendor will be a bad fit for you down the line. Additionally, it’s important to know how receptive the vendor is to feature requests. Can anyone make them and do they actually get implemented? That last bit can usually be solved by choosing an open-source CMS, as they’ll have public repositories where you can make feature requests.
5. Can you migrate away from the platform if you need to?
Finally, it’s always good to have a plan if things don’t work out. That’s why it’s good to know right away how a migration process works and if it’s even possible.
First off, there’s the hosting migration, if you for some reason want to move to a different hosting setup. Is that possible or will you run into any issues? Whether you're able to do that or not typically comes down to ownership of the codebase. Are you allowed to bring it all with you, or is it owned by the vendor?
Again, if you find the right CMS for you, this is really a non-issue as you'll be staying with it for years and years. But if it doesn't work out as planned, this can add yet another layer of frustration for you down the line.
Is Umbraco a Cloud-based CMS?
Yes and no.
The Open Source CMS is free (and always will be). You can download it right here and host it any way you want - cloud or not.
If you want us to manage hosting for your solution you can choose to go with Umbraco Cloud. You’ll get all of the same core CMS features as you get with the open-source version, as well as cloud hosting on Microsoft Azure. You can choose between shared and dedicated hosting, and can even scale up or down as you need it for your website.
On top of hosting we’ve also added a ton of built-in features that helps your developers and editors get more out of Umbraco. If you want to know more, take a look at our Umbraco Cloud product page.