THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO
The cloud refers to a vast global network of virtual servers that can be accessed over the internet. By extension, all applications, software, and databases that run on this network of servers are said to be cloud-based. When you use a cloud-based software or service, you’re running it online instead of locally on your computer — the location of that software and hardware is irrelevant. All your data, instead of being stored in a single location, is stored in multiple places — and retrieved and delivered by a virtual network of servers whenever you need it. The cloud is what has made anytime, anywhere accessibility to computing resources possible.
TYPES OF CLOUD
The public cloud is the most commonly adopted model for cloud services. In this model, the cloud is segmented to serve multiple tenants (customers). However, the cloud resources, such as the servers, computing power, storage, and networks, are owned and managed by a third-party — the cloud service provider. Public cloud-based services help businesses realize all the benefits of the cloud (such as automation, scalability, and reliability) while significantly reducing upfront, operational, and maintenance costs. Popular public cloud service providers include Amazon (Amazon Web Services/ AWS), Google (Google Cloud Platform), Microsoft ( Microsoft Azure), IBM (IBM Cloud), and Alibaba (Alibaba Cloud).
A private cloud is a cloud environment that is dedicated to a single customer (individual or business). It is not shared with other tenants, as is the case with a public cloud. A private cloud is usually set up behind a client’s firewall, ensuring sole access to the entire cloud infrastructure. While private clouds were initially deployed on-premise, they can now be deployed via third-party private cloud service providers. Private clouds are typically used by organizations that require enhanced control over their environment — such as government agencies and financial institutions.
A hybrid cloud mixes public and private cloud environments so that customers can take advantage of the benefits of both. However, for a hybrid cloud to be truly effective, its individual components should be merged into a tightly integrated setup that functions as a single entity — which should be managed via an equally well-integrated platform. Hybrid clouds may be used for flexibility in running different types of data and applications (with different levels of criticality) on different setups, for on-demand scaling needs (when one environment runs out of capacity due to spike in demand), or for backup reasons (so that one environment is a backup for another, primary environment). The flip side of hybrid clouds is that they tend to have a complicated infrastructure, which requires considerable expertise to manage.
As businesses race to adopt the cloud, they’re beginning to realize that managing it is a whole other ballgame. Cloud management is a complicated process, requiring a lot of expertise, which can be very hard to come by depending on the location of your business. Managed service providers (MSPs) remotely manage IT/cloud infrastructure, and in some cases end-user systems, on behalf of their customers. This model enables customers to instead focus on their day to day business operations, without having to stretch their payroll to accommodate expensive professionals who do little to add value to their core offerings.
WHAT IS CLOUD HOSTING, AND HOW DOES IT WORK?
WHY CHOOSE CLOUD HOSTING?
There are a number of reasons to shift to cloud hosting:
1. BUSINESS GROWTH
One of the biggest reasons for migrating to the cloud is its ability to scale nearly infinitely, elastically, in real time, and in sync with your business as it grows. The cloud allows you to expand capacity on demand when you have peak scaling events, such as Black Friday if you are an ecommerce business, and cut back just as easily during a lull, or when you need to scale back on your business goals.
2. CUSTOMIZABLE SETUP
One of the biggest determiners of success for a business is the control that it has over not only its processes, but also over customer experience. In reality, no matter how much you’re in control of your internal processes, it’s the end result (customer experience) that has a much larger impact on your success (and revenue). This means that even the slightest instances of downtime, literally a matter of minutes, can translate into massive losses in terms of lost revenue — not to mention the trauma of a less than perfect customer experience. Cloud hosting is virtually immune to downtime, although it can happen, but good multi-cloud disaster recovery protocols, where you can opt to run copies of your application in other cloud zones and regions for immediate fail over in the event of an outage, can seriously mitigate this risk.
Traditionally, managed hosting environments sized their infrastructure based on an estimated peak load. But what happens when you’re not experiencing peak load? You’re over-provisioned, and worse, overspending. Ironically, if you try to cut back capacity based on your current load, you may witness the earth give way from under you as traffic suddenly picks up and your site goes down (and with it, your revenue). Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. With cloud hosting, you don’t need to get into the planning and provisioning side of things. It’s automated to dynamically scale in line with your requirements — which means that you’re always paying only for what you need to use.
5. MANAGED SUPPORT
Depending on the size of your organization, your internal IT departments may not possess the skills needed to effectively monitor and maintain a cloud-hosted environment. In such cases, it’s best to outsource your daily IT management and tech support to professionals. However, in traditional hosting environments, this support has severe limitations. Cloud hosting providers, on the other hand, offer complete support for your infrastructure, not to mention the opportunity to automate and enhance your operations as you scale and grow.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WEB HOSTING AND CLOUD HOSTING?
In web hosting, you store all your site data on a single server. There are three common types of web hosting environments.
- Shared: The cheapest and most popular type of web hosting, this involves the partitioning of a single server among multiple tenants (users).
- Dedicated: In this model, you have an entire server dedicated to your website. While this gives you more control over server performance, it tends to be an expensive option — which also requires considerable expertise to set up and maintain.
- Virtual Private Server: A VPS is also a shared hosting environment. However, it houses dedicated virtual spaces within its servers, each of which comes with dedicated resources (split equally among other users).
Cloud hosting is a decentralized form of hosting that offers unlimited resources for scaling and expansion — which is a critical requirement for all modern-day businesses. With no single point of failure (cloud hosting deploys a cluster of servers instead of a single server), your site offers failsafe uptime and performance, with no upfront costs and a pay-as-you-go model.
WHO IS CLOUD HOSTING FOR?
- Businesses that need instantaneous, infinite scaling capabilities and on-demand resources to ensure high performance and accessibility at all times — such as ecommerce companies, media/entertainment companies, or streaming service providers
- Businesses that offer mission-critical services, such as banking services
- Businesses that want to offload the procurement, management, and costs related to managing on-premise infrastructure so that they can focus on more core activities
- Business startups that are looking at scaling their offerings and expanding their customer base
- DevOps/software development teams that may need testing environments on a sporadic basis (spot instances), or similarly, businesses that may have sporadic scaling needs
CLOUD HOSTING MODELS
There are three main ways in which you can deploy the cloud for your business.
INFRASTRUCTURE AS A SERVICE (IAAS)
As the name indicates, this is the provision of virtual infrastructure over the cloud. Infrastructure covers storage, servers, and networking resources, as well as maintenance and support services. Users have the freedom to run their own applications, websites, or platforms using the cloud hosting provider’s infrastructure. This model enables users to benefit from all the benefits of the cloud, without having to incur the otherwise significant expense and effort of procuring and installing hardware on premise.
PLATFORM AS A SERVICE (PAAS)
This entails the provision of a cloud environment for users to develop, test, manage, and host their applications. Users are also given access to a suite of tools to help their development and customization process. In essence, the PaaS model enables users to simplify and accelerate their software development process by offering them a real-time virtual testing environment to test their applications without having to worry about infrastructure (which is managed by the provider).
SOFTWARE AS A SERVICE (SAAS)
In this model, users are provided with access to cloud-based software, eliminating the need for them to install or run anything on their physical computing devices. All necessary applications can be accessed online or through an API, and the entire technology stack is managed and maintained (software upgrades, security patching, etc.) by the software provider — who also offers user support whenever necessary.
WHAT ARE THE FEATURES AND BENEFITS OF CLOUD HOSTING?
The benefits of cloud hosting are many. Let’s take a quick look at a few of the major ones.
FLEXIBLE PRICING STRUCTURE
The first and most important benefit of a cloud setup is its pay-as-you-go feature, which means that you only pay for what you use. In most other hosting setups, you pay a fixed rate regardless of whether or not you use all your allocated resources.
SPEEDY SERVER SETUP
Cloud servers can be set up in no time. Since there’s no need to install any physical servers, applications can literally be deployed in minutes.
Cloud hosting offers you the kind of performance that’s just not possible with legacy hosting environments, thanks to load balancing techniques that ensure that no single server has to function at beyond its optimal load capacity.
HIGH UPTIME AND AVAILABILITY
Since you’re flying free of the physical constraints of a traditional datacenter, downtime is a thing of the past. With load balancing, multiple servers, and responsive scaling, there’s little to no way you can experience downtime.
INFINITE, INSTANT SCALABILITY?
One of the best advantages of cloud hosting is its immense, limitless, elastic scalability, in real time (reactively) — or even better, predictively. Some cloud hosting providers offer this capability, where predictive analytics are used to forecast demand and scale infrastructure to meet that need, before any preset limits are hit. This can ensure no loss of performance or functionality during the scaling process.
FLEXIBILITY AND OPEN ENVIRONMENT
As mentioned earlier, cloud hosting can be adapted to a variety of user requirements. Whether you’re preparing for a major online promotion, planning for business growth and expansion, testing an application, or offering a high touchpoint/ mission-critical service, you can tailor and spin up the perfect cloud environment for your needs in no time at all.
FOOL PROOF SECURITY
Cloud hosting providers offer a very broad selection of security options to safeguard your data from cyber threats. However, given that security is and always will be an arms race, you can never be safe enough. Providers who offer 360-degree, proactive, redundant security features that cover the edge, as well as the core of your application, are your best bet.
The cloud offers you access to many technologies, so you can hit the ground running with the right infrastructure for just about any workload. The cloud also gives you the freedom to innovate, to spin up resources when they’re needed so you can test new ideas in real time.
EASY DISASTER RECOVERY
Despite guaranteed business continuity with the cloud, in the remote case that an area or region goes down, cloud hosting makes it possible to retrieve data much faster than can happen in case of a physical system failure. Even the process of backup and recovery is entirely automated in the cloud.
REDUNDANT NETWORK AND STORAGE
The cloud comes inbuilt with a redundant network and storage infrastructure, ensuring continuous availability even in case of any single point of failure — something that’s impossible with a data center setup.
WHAT ARE THE DISADVANTAGES
OF CLOUD HOSTING?
While cloud hosting can make life easier, it also poses a few challenges that can derail a business ill-prepared to tackle them.
The cloud is inherently a complex structure — which means that managing it requires specific cloud expertise. Unfortunately, good cloud expertise can be hard to come by.
Your cloud provider will support your infrastructure, but once you are down the application level, you are on your own. If this is important to your business, then seek out managed service providers that specialize in your area and can help troubleshoot issues, regardless of their source.
The cloud by itself rarely goes down. Outages are extremely rare, and happen way less frequently than physical system failures. But your lifeline to it is your internet connection. If that goes down, you go down.
LEADING PUBLIC CLOUD PROVIDERS
The biggest players in the public cloud space are Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, and Alibaba Cloud.
AMAZON WEB SERVICES (AWS)
AWS dominates the market at present, with an unrivaled, comprehensive portfolio of services (175 and counting) and unbeatable slew of user benefits. Having a massive first-mover advantage in the space, AWS, with a presence across 76 availability zones in 24 regions, offers a highly evolved, rich set of developer functionalities that puts it squarely in the lead in the public cloud market.
Azure is a runaway favorite among C-suite executives given the popularity of its enterprise software over decades, and therefore the convenience of one partner to do business with. Besides offering the usual cloud benefits, Azure can handle parallel batch computing at scale if required by custom software. In terms of global presence, Azure leads the pack with a presence in 60+ regions — more than any other global provider.
GOOGLE CLOUD PLATFORM
On a relative scale, Google offers slightly fewer services than its competitors, but it houses all the necessary features for mobile application development. It currently operates 70 zones in 23 regions.
Alibaba, though relatively new in the cloud space, has acquired a strong foothold in the market due to its attractively priced range of services. It currently manages 63 availability zones in 21 regions.
Webscale Cloud Hosting Benefits
Webscale is a managed service provider, with a deeply integrated technology platform, which is simply deployed to customers as a Software as a Service. Supporting virtually any platform, the company manages more than 3000 ecommerce storefronts across all the major public cloud providers. The Webscale platform delivers:
Webscale’s predictive auto-scaling helps forecast changes in site traffic, allowing you to proactively and automatically scale out/in your application infrastructure in real time — effectively ensuring that your site is perfectly provisioned for its traffic at any point of time.
Our ensemble of powerful security tools and controls, ranging from virtual patching to intelligent bot management and intrusion detection, helps secure your application at the edge as well as the back end (which is under heightened risk given that it houses your most important data).
Blazing fast performance
Our end-to-end website performance optimization practices, such as content optimization, image management, and intelligent caching, accelerate page load speeds and help you deliver consistently better user experiences — leading to enhanced brand loyalty and revenue.
24x7x365 Global Proactive Support
Our team of cloud-certified engineers respond to critical issues in under 15 minutes, however because they are monitoring our customers’ infrastructure 24×7, most issues are resolved before any disruption can occur.