Web hosting trends: moving services to the cloud

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Cloud computing is by no means a new technology. The on-demand availability of computer resources has gained popularity since the mid-00s, with the idea dating back to the early 90s. Web hosting is one of the industries where cloud computing made a revolution, changing the entire industry landscape. 

But does the average client understand the cloud? Can they make it work to their advantage?

We will review the main characteristics of cloud hosting and how we can easily make the switch.

What is cloud hosting?

In the traditional type of hosting, you have one or many clients utilizing the resources of a single server for powering their online projects. Here is the big difference between shared and cloud services

Hosting your website on the cloud means that you have access to the resources of a worldwide network of interconnected servers. This includes everything, from disk space and bandwidth to CPU and RAM. The resources are available on-demand, allowing you to overcome sudden traffic spikes and other things that normally cause service interruptions.

It's important to understand cloud services are not a separate type of hosting but more like an environment that any provider and client can utilize. Shared servers, VPS solutions, dedicated platforms - they can all be connected and operate on the cloud. 

Benefits of cloud hosting services

The way cloud computing operates opens an ocean of opportunities for website owners. Here are a few:

Scalable resources - one of the great advantages of the cloud is having all the needed server resources at any given time. Because you're not hosted on a single machine, you practically have no boundaries as to how much CPU power or operating memory you consume at any given time. The same goes when your traffic decreases - the resources are promptly adjusted to the lower consumption.

Ultimate availability - service downtimes are practically a thing of the past with cloud hosting. Utilizing a wide network of computers means that even if your server goes down - there will always be another to take the load. Traditional hosting users would need to add a CDN solution to achieve such uptime numbers.

Flexible pricing - utilizing just as much resources as you need at any given time helps you keep an easy track of your hosting costs as well. Cloud services are paid on a per-use basis, so your monthly bill will highly depend on your monthly consumption. Gone are the days where you'd be paying for an entire account even though you rarely use more than 10% of it.

Increased loading speeds - just as with your service availability, your loading speeds can also be positively affected by switching to the cloud. It's a simple principle, really - when a visitor tries to open any of your web pages, they get the content from the closest possible server. And by residing on the cloud, this means you are covering hundreds of locations all over the world, always getting the best possible response times.

Backup and disaster recovery - cloud servers are a great option for backups and disaster recovery as well. Keeping all your files properly secured on an offsite location is a must for any webmaster, but with the help of the cloud, you can guarantee no single breach can make you lose your data. Recovering a backup only takes a few mouse clicks but can save you months of heavy work. 

Types of cloud services

The easiest way to classify cloud solutions is by their deployment method. Alternative types of cloud are popping up every year, but we can outline the following main categories:

Public Cloud - in this type of setup, you are utilizing shared resources from the public internet. Third-party providers lend those resources, either for free or for some premium fee. This allows you to take advantage of on-demand CPU, RAM, bandwidth, or disk space. Public cloud services are shared between multiple users, which raises some security concerns. Google Cloud and AWS are among the most popular public cloud vendors.

Private Cloud - opposite to the public solutions, private cloud hosting offers the pool of resources for the needs of a single company. Enterprises can choose to keep their setup on-premise or in third-party datacenters. The environment is highly secure and well-suited for commercial and even government use. VMWare, Citrix Cloud, and BMC software are well-acclaimed providers of private cloud services.

Hybrid Cloud - taking the best of both worlds, a hybrid cloud configuration allows webmasters to utilize both public and private cloud servers for the needs of their projects. Rackspace and Microsoft Azure are two of the best go-to places if you're looking for such a setup.

Others - this category contains all other combinations and new cloud technologies that are emerging in the last few years. Here, we can include Community Cloud, Distributed Cloud, Multi-Cloud, and others.

How to move from on-premise to cloud hosting?

Let's say you've come to the decision that a cloud hosting solution would be the best option for your website. If your current provider offers such services, the process would be as simple as asking your support team to upgrade you to the chosen cloud server. 

But what happens if they don't support such plans?

Worry not, as you can migrate to the cloud yourself. It only takes a few simple steps:

Find a new cloud host 

Start by determining the type of hosting plan you need before searching for the vendor that can tie your plan to the cloud. For example, providers like ScalaHosting specialize in premium cloud VPS services, while others, like LiquidWeb, can fix you up with dedicated cloud solutions when needed.

Back up your data 

Make sure to create an archive of all your files and associated databases. In the case of a cPanel-to-cPanel transition, the process is as simple as downloading the archive files on your computer and uploading them in the control panel of the new host.

Recreate your email accounts

If you also want to move your email correspondence, you would first need to go over to your new cloud hosting account and create the mailboxes you already have. You can also save all previous mail data and move it to the new server to keep everything intact.

Test like crazy

Before you switch to your live site, you need to first ensure your migration went through successfully. You can check your pages via IP address, analyze your images, and test your interlinking to avoid any hosting issues.

Change your domain DNS

If all seems to work correctly, it's time to point your domain name to your new cloud solution. Log in with your domain registrar and find the nameservers appointed to it. Change the DNS to the ones your new vendor supplied you with upon signup. There will be some propagation of up to 24-48 hours for the changes to occur globally. 

You see, moving your services to the cloud is way less complicated than one might anticipate. Not to mention your hosting provider can ease the procedure even more by offering to take care of the migration for free. One chat with the support team can give you a good idea of the scope of their cloud services and how they can assist with the transfer.

Desire Athow
Managing Editor, TechRadar Pro

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website builders and web hosting when DHTML and frames were in vogue and started narrating about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium.