What is application hosting?

What is application hosting?
(Image credit: Shutterstock / Blackboard)

Put simply, a hosted application is any piece of software that is running on someone else’s infrastructure rather than on-premise. Such hosted applications are accessed over the Internet and provide a web-based user interface for users to interact with them. Hosted applications are usually offered as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)

In other words, application hosting allows you to run your applications on servers or in a cloud that is hosted by a service provider, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Google Cloud Platform (GCP) that provide the necessary foundations to host your apps.

An example of a hosted application that everyone can identify with is Wordpress. If you wanted to blog, the traditional method would be to download Wordpress, spend time installing and configuring it before you could publish. However, thanks to application hosting on Wordpress.com, you can simply visit the website, and get started immediately after registering an account. That’s because Wordpress.com hosts a pre-installed, pre-configured version of Wordpress.

(Image credit: Wordpress)

Advantages of application hosting

Hosting applications on remote machines has several advantages. For starters, it reduces costs since you don’t have to spend any money in building and maintaining the underlying hardware and software, and general IT infrastructure. This is hugely beneficial since most of the time the underlying hardware remains underutilized. 

Furthermore, with application hosting, you only pay for the services you use. This also makes it very scalable as opposed to the traditional on-premise hosting, since you can provision additional resources to handle peak load requirements with just a few clicks. You can start small and grow as needed without incurring the costs of pre-purchasing excess server capacity.

Application hosting also provides improved availability by minimizing downtime as most of the reputable hosts provide enough redundancy to handle hardware failures and other faults. In the same vein, the cloud hosts also invest in enhancing the security of their servers. In fact, most of the reputable ones meet stringent ISO security standards.

Finally, since the hosted application is accessible from the Internet, all authorized users can access the app from anywhere and work remotely. 

(Image credit: Amazon)

The cost of application hosting

There’s no dearth of cloud hosting providers that you can use to host your applications. Since they don’t all offer their services at the same price, there are some important factors that influence the final cost of hosting applications.

The most important factor is the nature of the application to be hosted. Some applications take more processing power while others need a lot of storage. The final cost of application hosting will be based on these technical requirements of the hosted application. 

Another factor that influences the cost is the type of server. The two most common are shared and dedicated servers. While dedicated servers are more expensive than shared hosting ones, both types have their advantages and drawbacks. You should evaluate both to determine which option works best for your application. 

In addition to choosing the type of server, the duration of the plan will also have an impact on the final cost of hosting the application. Instead of charging an upfront cost, most of the application hosting providers offer them on a recurring subscription. While most platforms offer flexible tenures, we’ll advise you to choose a long term plan, which will be comparatively cheaper than monthly plans. 

Google Cloud Platform

(Image credit: Google)

Selecting an application hosting platform

Convinced about the benefits of application hosting? The next step is to hunt for the right hosting provider that meets all your requirements  without breaking the bank. Here are some of the main features that you should look for while evaluating a application hosting vendor:

1. Application compatibility: Just like all applications are built differently, application hosting too isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. The software requirements of your application will dictate the features that the hosting platform must meet.  

2. Onboarding process: Depending on the type of application you need to host, many hosting platforms will offer a one-click setup to simplify the deployment process. But deployment is only one piece of the puzzle, and you’ll also need to look into the platform’s management tools and also evaluate their documentation and other resources to help you get starting with the platform. 

3. Security features: You should always be on the offensive when it comes to cyber security, especially these days when data breaches happen at an alarming frequency. Keep your eyes peeled for hosting platforms that invest in the security of their infrastructure, both from physical and online attacks.

4. Reliability and uptime: Servers, whether hosted on-premise or online, do occasionally have to go offline for maintenance, and for other reasons, such as faulty hardware, and other disruptions. Make sure you check the amount of time a service is affected by these kinds of issues. Many reputable providers promise 99% uptime and some even back their claims with a guarantee.

5. Support and service: Since most businesses service clients round the clock, you’ll need the same kind of available from your application hosting provider. Look for the platform that provides 24/7 customer support, and the available avenues of communication such as live chat, email, or phone.

6. Data export services: Although it’s fairly common for all providers to allow you to export your data from the provider, it’ll still be a good idea to check for this function. Application providers can and do go out of business, which is a legitimate concern and often cited as one of the disadvantages of hosting applications on a remote platform rather than on-premise. However, having the flexibility to export your data will help you migrate it to another platform without too much downtime.

Mayank Sharma

With almost two decades of writing and reporting on Linux, Mayank Sharma would like everyone to think he’s TechRadar Pro’s expert on the topic. Of course, he’s just as interested in other computing topics, particularly cybersecurity, cloud, containers, and coding.