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Cloud Hosting Providers: Pulling Aside the Marketing Curtain

2010-09-23 by Roko Nastic

Things to Keep in Mind When Choosing a Cloud Hosting Provider

The cloud hosting revolution began about three years ago when major companies such as Amazon launched public cloud services. The phenomenon quickly grew to encompass web hosting as well. So if you're a business or other organization looking for the most reliable of web hosting options, the first thing you're likely to consider is a cloud hosting provider. It won't take long, however, for you to realize that not all cloud hosts are created equal.

Indeed, some companies deliberately use the term cloud to fool unscrupulous customers into selecting a package that may not actually qualify as a cloud host. In addition, there's still debate in the hosting community as to what exactly constitutes a cloud host.

Here are some things to keep in mind to help you find a cloud hosting provider that will hopefully grow with your business as it accelerates into the future.

Scalability on Steroids

True cloud hosts are both vertically and horizontally scalable. They don't simply scale on one server such as a VPS; they can potentially scale to the size of a datacenter, if necessary. Maybe this is asking a lot of most cloud hosting providers, but as a business, it's important for you to find one that has the capacity through its APIs to scale beyond one or two servers.

Depending on your needs, you don't want a cloud host that can only scale to the end of its server farm, either. It should have two primary connections that can allow it to grab resources off site as well. For smaller sites, you won't need this kind of scalability, and you'll pay less if you go with a less ambitious hosting package.

The bottom line is to make sure that when a company claims its service is scalable, they're not simply talking about a virtual private server.

The Key is Reliability

Most businesses switch to the cloud because they need rock-solid reliability. Maybe they're sick of their shared bandwidth fluctuating, or maybe their private server has been crashing on them. Cloud hosting is designed to relegate those types of problems to the dust bin of history.

As you examine the provider's system, make sure that it not only has multiple redundancies built into the server but immediate access to secondary and tertiary servers that can pick up if any server or network cluster should crash.

Your data is gold, and your cloud host should treat it that way. Backups are ancient history. For cloud hosts, you'll want your data stored redundantly, possibly on more than one SAN. This allows servers to access your data right away, without the need to bring any backups online.

Of course, as with any hosting provider, you want your cloud host to be located in facilities that are as secure as possible. This usually means high-capacity power generators, a state-of-the-art climate control system and a hardened structure that can withstand most man-made and natural disasters.

Cloud Security

Perhaps the biggest drawback of a public cloud host is its lack of data security. However, there are certain precautions that all reputable providers take to help ensure the security of your data. These generally include:

 

- Encryption of All data using 256-bit SSL communication
- Compartmentalization of each client so that your data can never be accessed by a peer running on the same server
- Secure authentication of all communications between your systems and the cloud, such as administrative messages
- Upgrades to the latest and/or most secure versions of all software within a reasonable amount of time

 

Most of these go without saying, so if you find a provider that doesn't meet these basic requirements, it may be time to look elsewhere.

Management

Many cloud hosting providers don't offer fully managed solutions, but that's because they're largely unneeded. You don't need someone to install any software because you can access anything you need through the cloud. You don't need someone to add hardware components for the same reason. However, you do need your provider to have easy-to-use applications that perform all of these functions and more.

One of the best parts of the cloud is that you're in direct control of exactly how many resources you're using. This can also be a bad thing, however, if your provider uses poorly designed management applications. You should know right away if this is true.

Though there are other aspects of cloud hosting such as support and price that are also important, the above areas have unique requirements when it comes to cloud providers. If you can find a provider that doesn't skimp in either of these areas, has a pricing plan that fits your budget and friendly, timely support, you've found your next cloud host.

About the author: Roko Nastic is a webmaster and blogger who writes for WebmasterFormat, a webmasters resource focused on delivering timely, relevant, and engaging stories on website promotion techniques, latest trends in web development industry and best web hosting companies.

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Roko Nastic

Roko Nastic

WebmasterFormat

Roko Nastic is writer and editor at WebmasterFormat. He enjoys helping other webmasters and website owners succeed in creating better, faster and more profitable websites.

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