Cloud hosting has changed the hosting industry for the better, allowing for increasing reliability and resilience for clients.
Signing up for a simple web hosting package would usually buy you a defined block of resources on a single server: register your domain name, then choose this much web space, that much bandwidth, maybe a set amount of RAM or CPU cores.
While this works well for many websites, having fixed resources can be a problem for larger projects. There's generally no way to temporarily allocate extra RAM or bandwidth if you experience an increase in traffic, and even a simple plan upgrade might require your website to go offline for a while.
Cloud hosting plans look much like virtual private server (VPS) web hosting products, where you'll initially pay for a set amount of web space, RAM, CPU time and bandwidth. But these resources are spread across multiple devices instead of just one, and changing your plan later – adding another gig of RAM, for instance – is generally as easy as dragging a slider, with the extra power coming online within moments.
There are also additional options for small business web hosting, such as environmentally-friendly green web hosting. Additionally, cloud hosting is scalable and can provide for a good alternative to needing a dedicated server with colocation provider, and there are options for managed web hosting services.
You can use cloud hosting for everything, from just hosting your emails, to replacing your business server. However, if you want a hands-on experience expect the virtual servers to be running Linux, not Windows.
Cloud hosting still won't be for everyone, and small, simple websites are likely to be better off with regular packages. But the technology has a lot to offer anyone with larger or more ambitious projects, and many hosts run free trials which make it easy to explore their abilities for yourself.
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Hostinger is one of the biggest providers of free web hosting via its 000webhosting brand. It has well over 30 million users, and some of the lowest prices thanks to low running costs and overheads. Hostinger prefers to use its own technology (for example, it has its own customized control panel instead of the ubiquitous Cpanel), so that it can better control performance and features.
There are three plans available, Cloud Startup, Cloud Professional, and Cloud Global, all of which offer unlimited websites and unlimited bandwidth for your account.
The Cloud Startup plan comes with 200GB of SSD storage, 3GB of RAM, and 2 CPU cores. The Cloud Professional plan increases these to 250GB storage, 6GB RAM, and 4 CPU cores, the Cloud Global plan extends these further to 300GB storage, 16GB RAM, and 8CPU cores. All plans come with a free SSL certificate and domain name.
Pricing depends on how long you commit to the service. For the Cloud Startup plan, it costs $29.00 on a month to month basis. However, if you commit for a year the monthly cost falls to $12.99 a month. For a two-year contract, it drops to $10.99 a month, and for a four-year contract, it falls to $9.99 a month.
If you only need to host a website rather than additional business data, then HostGator's cloud platform could be a more ideal choice. Unlike normal web hosting, Hostgator's cloud hosting platform spreads your website load across multiple virtual server instances for more reliable and scalable hosting, but it's as easy to use as standard shared hosting, and only costs a little more.
For example, the baseline Hatchling Cloud plan gets you support for one domain, unmetered bandwidth and storage, a share of up to two cores and 2GB RAM, and distributed Varnish caching to speed up the loading of static content. You can get started for as little as $3.13 (£2.26) a month if you buy three years upfront, although the price leaps to $8.95 (£6.40) on renewal.
If you need something more powerful, the top-of-the-range Business Cloud plan supports unlimited domains, gives you up to six cores and 6GB RAM, and includes private SSL and a dedicated IP. Another chunky introductory discount means you can pay as little as $6.28 (£4.54) a month over three years, but after that, you'll pay $17.95 (£12.80) per month.
Benefits of the cloud plans include (up to) twice as fast load times, along with more site statistics, and because your site is mirrored across multiple devices, the ability to switch your site to another server in the event of a hardware failure.
But the key advantage of all cloud hosting schemes is scalability. If your site can't cope with demand, you can scale up to eight cores and 8GB RAM with a click. There's no waiting around for someone to process your order and no downtime while your web space is reallocated – you get the extra resources right away.
Also, while prices go up after the initial discount promotion, they still remain extremely competitive.
At first glance, cloud hosting products seem to be divided into two clear groups: enterprise-level technology from Amazon, Microsoft, IBM and more, or simpler and more user-friendly products from hosts like Hostgator.
Cloudways represents an interesting middle path. The company offers managed cloud hosting which is powered by your choice of the top providers – Amazon, Google, DigitalOcean, Linode or Vultr are supported – and comes packed with features, yet is configured from a simple web console which is just as easy to use as the more basic competition.
It's an impressive platform. Cloudways' ThunderStack covers all your core performance needs: Nginx, Apache, Memcached, MySQL/MariaDB, Varnish Cache, PHP 7, PHP-FM and Redis. There's one-click cloning, backup and restore, integrated Git and team collaboration tools for developers, and no less than 60 data centers strategically placed around the world (over 25 locations).
Despite all this high-end functionality, Cloudways products are generally simple to operate, and prices start at a beginner-friendly $10 (£7.15) a month for one core, 1GB RAM, 25GB storage and 1TB of bandwidth. It's all supremely configurable, and a free trial allows you to check out the product, with no credit card details required. Furthermore, a referral system is available, where both you and your friends can receive free hosting credits.
Bluehost is a company based in Utah which is owned by web giant Endurance International Group (EIG). It offers basic shared hosting from $2.75 monthly (on a three-year contract), with managed WordPress plans starting at $9.95 per month (although that’s also a discounted introductory rate).
For the money, you get automated setup for WordPress, not to mention other popular apps via a Mojo Marketplace-powered system. There’s also a cPanel-based area to allow expert users to tweak things.
Furthermore, Bluehost provides a Weebly-based website builder. This is a basic browser-based affair that lets you create a website of up to six pages, and there are no extras like site templates included. But still, it’s better than nothing, and more functionality is in the pipeline – plus you get this builder with the basic account.
There’s also good customer support on offer, and the end result is a mix of user-friendly aspects alongside a good amount of power, and potential tweaking for more advanced users.
While Bluehost doesn't offer cloud hosting as a separate service, it does offer free access to CloudFlare cloud hosting with all of its plans. This automatically increases the performance of your website without having to code or program for any changes.
Dreamhost offers cloud server hosting, taking it a step up from the other plans offered here. However, by running their unmanaged cloud servers the expectation is that users will be comfortable with a command line environment for managing their cloud hosting service.
Dreamhost's cloud hosting services cover two main areas: cloud computing and cloud object storage.
DreamCompute is the cloud computing service, and offers an easy way to develop and grow your own cloud services. You can run it based on Linux, BSD, or Windows, in a serverless environment based on the latest SSD storage and next-gen processors.
Built around the free and open-source OpenStack platform, there is no lock-in to proprietary software, and you can use Dreamhost as a place to grow until you're ready to manage your own OpenStack.
DreamObjects is Dreamhost's secure cloud storage hosting storage service, which can be use as a web development environment to augment or replace AWS E3 services. DreamObjects can also be used for backup storage.
While cloud services and storage can seem over-whelming for new users, Dreamhosts provides the ideal place to start to experiment, explore, and grow your cloud services at a very cost-effective rate.
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