There’s quite a bit of confusion online about the difference between cloud hosting and shared web hosting. Cloud computing is such a substantial area of growth for technology companies and cloud backups are ubiquitous now too. As a result, the term ‘cloud hosting’ isn’t at all clear to the end user because to them, the cloud might be Dropbox, Box, or Google Drive.
So, to begin with, we’ll cover what shared and cloud hosting solutions offer and then the differences between them. Armed with this information, you’ll be much better informed about which web hosting is relevant for you or your company.
What is Shared Hosting?
Shared hosting is the most affordable web hosting solution from web hosts. Websites situate themselves on the server and once configured properly, they are live on the internet. Its affordability comes from taking a single physical server, adding web server software like Apache or IIS, and hosting hundreds or even a thousand websites on it.
Each website hosted on a shared server gets allocated a portion of the resources from that server. This includes disk space, RAM memory, computing resources, and ultimately, bandwidth. In theory, each customer’s website is ring-fenced from all the other ones and operates under a ‘fair use’ policy where no single website is expected to use their fair share of the computing or bandwidth resources.
The cost-effectiveness comes from network engineers who can manage the server easily on behalf of hundreds of customers. Maintenance on the server can improve performance for all. Upgrades to bandwidth capabilities or increases in memory as the prices tumble makes it affordable to add and allocate more memory per shared hosting customer. With that said, the biggest complaint by users about shared hosting is that it gets slow when the site starts getting busier or larger in size.
What is Cloud Hosting?
Cloud hosting came after dedicated hosting which is the provision of a single physical server for one website or customer. The one negative with a dedicated server is that a hardware fault or server crash would bring down the entire website and any other sites owned by the person renting the server too. That’s its Achilles heel. Cloud hosting, in part, was designed to provide an alternative solution to move past that basic vulnerability.
Cloud hosting works by utilising computer resources across a distributed network of computer servers. The idea is that instead of having one server that’s creating and sending out all web pages as they’re requested by the visitor’s web browser, several servers in the cloud handle the page requests as a group using virtualisation to run the same website simultaneously.
By using load balancing which redirects traffic more evenly between different servers, each cloud server receives only a portion of all the requests to the website for pages, images, videos and other hosted content. Should a single cloud server fail, the other servers in the collective can pick up the slack by being allocated more of the traffic and greater computing resources to handle the additional traffic. You can think of it like opening up an additional lane on the motorway that’s usually blocked but gets re-opened during rush hour to ease the flow of cars with their occupants hurrying to work.
Two Different Animals Entirely
Shared web hosting is mostly used for small websites for companies without a high street presence or a physical office. This type of hosting works perfectly well during times when the website is not receiving that many concurrent users. However, should the company offer a sales discount that they’ve promoted to their email list, they could receive a significant one-day increase as newsletter subscribers open their offer email and click to open the website.
In the above scenario, a shared hosting plan such as the ones offered by HostPresto.com are going to hit its fair use limits and may even get suspended by the web host until the hosting account can be upgraded. This type of suspension would be disruptive to the business and cost sales from people who’ll never come back. Worse still, having sent the email out, the business will suffer a reputational loss when subscribers click the link and the website won’t load.
Smart businesses understand the limitations of shared web hosting and when to upgrade to cloud hosting. While there are usually multiple shared hosting plans offering more powerful servers, a greater number of features, and higher limits on usage, ultimately the hosted site is still subject to many shared hosting restrictions which creates a bottleneck.
A Practical Lesson in Web Scalability Through the Cloud
Cloud web hosting uses multiple servers that duplicate the hosting of the site. Indeed, individual server ‘nodes’ can be spun up to increase the number of servers providing hosting resources to the site. This diversifies the site’s hosting and limits potential financial losses from a single server crash.
Individual server nodes can get their resources immediately increased. A higher allocation of RAM memory, more disk space and a boosted bandwidth allocation provide better page serving speeds to keep up with increased demand. This scaling up can be done manually or automatically based on the cloud hosting plan. It’s also possible to choose a web server with a more powerful Intel Xeon processor instead of an Intel Pentium or Celeron one to give it greater capacity too.
Using cloud-based hosting, websites owners will no longer dread having their hosting account suspended due to peak use or irregular traffic surges because their blog post was shared on Reddit.com. By logging into their hosting account, more resources can be allocated in mere seconds.
For small businesses with minimal web traffic of a thousand visitors per day, shared web hosting is likely to be perfectly sufficient for their needs. Having the ability to scale up is nice to have, but unless their business size or web presence becomes more significant, it’s overkill. However, for companies with busier websites that are finding it too slow to load and are particularly worried about a dependence on shared hosting that won’t scale fast, then cloud hosting is the far better option.