Hosting Tutorial & Guide

What is Cloud Hosting

updated on Oct 30, 2014
What is Cloud Hosting Many web hosting companies start the cloud hosting products as cloud become the hot term in 2011. Most of the cloud hosting are just designed for catching people's eyes from my insight. It likes a marketing trick more than the high technical solution. Any web hosting companies can buy an upgraded virtualization system from Parallels then announce they have cloud hosting already. These companies don't have any technology background even may not know what is cloud essentially. The widely advertising just making you confused or mislead you pay more money for their advertisement. In this article, I reveal the secret of cloud hosting and help you know what cloud hosting it is and whether you really need it.

What is Cloud?

Cloud comes from the virtualization technology which has been used by Virtual Private Server (VPS) in web hosting for many years. Read 5 web hosting types for the glossary if you're new to web hosting. Essentially, you can understand Cloud is that the hosting provider has large data centers with hundreds of thousands servers which form an super powerful server farm. By virtualization technology, it creates computing units (or called instances) presented as virtual machines for customers. Virtual machine? Yes, it's similar to VMWare or Virtual PC for Windows users.

It sounds Cloud hosting is the same thing as VPS hosting. But the difference are,
  • VPS hosting is that the virtual machines hosted on a physical machine but Cloud hosting is on a server farm.
  • VPS hosting is static that you use the virtual machine and computing resources what you have ordered and paid. But Cloud hosting is dynamic and focusing on you pay for what you used. You buy a cloud hosting account, you can simply and quickly activate more instances (virtual machines or computing units) for the high peak time and turn them off at the low peak time. Even this can be automated. You're charged by computing units per time.
  • VPS hosting doesn't have APIs for integration but cloud hosting usually provides rich APIs that you can integrate with your business system for the better twist and turn.

Cloud Hosting Advantages

Having explained what cloud hosting is above, we would like to introduce its main advantages as follows.

Pay-as-You-Go Model

Usually, Cloud hosting runs the model of Pay-as-you-go , which means that you pay for the CPU, memory, storage, and data transfer which you have used really, and you can adjust the usage based on the website traffic at any time. Mostly, CPU and memory is considered as computing unit, charged per unit per hour. Your website is initiated with some computing units. But at the different time during a day, you can request to launch more computing units dynamically or decrease the computing units based on the traffic at the time. You have to reserve the minimum computing units at the low time. The computing unit is pricing more than $40/month, and 1 computing unit is usually not enough for a site. In this way, a single computing unit in cloud hosting is usually pricing more expensive than VPS or dedicated server.

Cloud Hosting - Pay as You Go Storage is charged by the size of disk space you requested and used in GB. Data transfer is measured by GB/month, including transferring in and out. Generally, these are not the main cost. Take Amazon cloud example, storage costs $0.1/GB/month and data transfer costs $0.12/GB/month. The mock cloud hosting is not charged for usage based on computing units per hour, but per month. And it doesn't charge for used storage and monthly data transfer. In fact, it's the complete same to VPS. Cloud.bgis a negative example. charges computing units per month, at €39/month ($60) for 12 months billing cycle. It doesn't provide any cloud hosting features as the article mentioned above. The cloud hosting is absolutely simulated from VPS hosting.

But if your system volume highly depends on the time, you may cost down significantly by cloud hosting. Take an example, if you system requires 10 dedicated servers for the visits at high peak time, you have to order 10 dedicated servers fixedly and pay $3000/month (=$300/month * 10). It assumes 1 dedicated server equals to 5 computing units. If you're leveraging cloud hosting, you use 50 computing units at the high peak time and you may only reserve 20 computing units at low peak time, by auto scaling. So you save money on the infrastructure from the low peak time. Oh, you shift the waste at the low peak time to the cloud hosting provider.

Auto Scaling & Infinite Computing

You can request unlimited instances dynamically for the complicated computing and release them after the computing is completed at any time. Namely, the mechanism is the cloud platform monitors the usage of your existing computing units. When the usage is increased above than a number, the platform allocates new computing units to your website automatically. By the contrary, when the usage is decreased below a number, the platform removes some computing units from your website. And this technology is named "auto scaling" and it is the key for "pay-as-you-go" model.

Cloud Hosting - Auto Scaling So ideally, the computing ability of your system hosted with cloud shall be infinite. However, physically, there is no infinite computing or storing capability. The large cloud hosting companies have hundreds of thousands of servers. It's infinite for most of websites virtually. Meanwhile, some frauds only rent several servers and advertise that they're providing cloud hosting. Their "infinite" only makes sense to the small sized websites, with under 1000 visits daily possibly. Otherwise, it's easy to exhaust all of their resources and get unpredictable problems.

And with the system workload increased, the cost on the infrastructure is increasing linearly. Because, your system is running on a super powerful server farm, you only pay for the computing in units. Usually a real cloud hosting solution includes the basic "auto scaling" functionality, like Amazon Cloud Auto Scaling. Take it as an example. So far it's one of the best cloud solution but the auto scaling takes up to 15 minutes to launch a new computing unit on demand, from the prepared image. It requires the development work by deeply integrating Amazon APIs with your own business for better efficiency.

Usually the website traffic is not evenly distributed on every hour during a day. When your website needs 10 computing units at the peak, you may only need 4 at low time. With auto scaling, you don't need to pay for the largest traffic at all the time. See the diagram as below.

Cloud Hosting - Cost Per Workload

Content Delivery Network

The abbreviation is CDN. The feature allows you deliver the content through a worldwide network of edge locations and automatically routes end-user requests to closest edge location, so content is delivered with the best possible performance, low latency and high data transfer rate.

Take an example. If you have a website targeting for global clients, traditionally, when you host the site in a data center in US, the clients from Asia, Europe or Australia may have slow speed to your website. With CDN of cloud hosting, you deploy the website once, the cloud distribute your content to its global data centers. So when a client from Asia accesses your website by a URL, it's automatically routed to your content in the Asia data center.

Cloud Hosting is NOT Heaven

Cloud Hosting is not Heaven But cloud hosting is not heaven and it's not the best choice for most of webmasters. Because the benefit of cloud hosting is only set out when the workload of your website/application gets above the beneficial boundary. A computing unit in cloud hosting is usually much expensive than VPS with the same computing ability. You shall know, the essential of cloud hosting is virtualization, which is innovated and developed from virtual PC or VMWare. There has been lots of negative news about Amazon cloud, which has been one of the best cloud hosting provider.

In my calculating model, you can start to cost down by cloud hosting only when your system requires the dedicated servers costing thousands dollars monthly. Then with larger workload your system requires, the more money you can save by cloud hosting. As you don't want to pay for the redundancy of the infrastructure, the cloud hosting providers are not stupid.

Some people may think, when cloud hosting serves a huge customer base, the high/low peak time of the different customers may be complementary so that the providers can use the resources more efficiently? The answer is NO. The powerful server farm consists of servers in a data center by the very high speed intranet. A data center is built for users in a special geographic area usually. Within a geographic area, the high/low peak time of the customers are similar often. So when you choose Amazon cloud, you have to choose the zone, US zone for US customers, north of US zone for US & Canada customers, Asia zone for Asian customers, and Europe zone for European customers.

Meanwhile, you also have to consider the cost on development works for integrating your business with cloud for better efficiency.

Is Cloud Hosting a SCAM?

Microsoft, with rich experience on OS development, it also invests huge money and spends more than 3 years so far on its cloud - Windows Azure. Cloud is an extremely complicated solution that it's impossible for common web hosting companies. But there are a ton of web hosting companies started the cloud hosting products, including including, VPS Net, SiteCloud, HPC Host, etc. To be frank, most of them are not mature instead of scam, because:
  • these companies don't master the core technology about the kernel of OS, including Windows or Linux. Building a mature development center is much more expensive than a data center, as well as time costing. No one can rush the development without reducing the quality of the software.
  • these companies are usually small or medium. They don't own a huge data center so that they cannot provide infinite computing ability as Cloud shall be in place.
  • these companies usually just bought a Cloud solution from 3rd party and running the VPS in cloud model. Essentially, they're not cloud hosting but the enhanced VPS hosting.


Cloud hosting is not designed for individual, small even medium sized businesses. You shall not be puzzled in the marketing. If you don't need to pay more than thousands of dollars monthly on the dedicated servers, choosing cloud hosting is just wasting your time, energy and money. You shall be clear, the cloud hosting providers are the business entities, they're existing for making money from you only. In this case, we recommend you going with VPS first. Read the list of best VPS hosting here.

In this case, we'd like to recommend other favourable options which are designed to help clients speed up websites and email by 600% faster rather than other web hosts, at VERY competitive price. And they all make the hosting solution quite different by utilizing multiple data centers and network connection peering technology. Details are showed in follows.