HostLabs Cloud Hosting Guide

Every day, you likely benefit from using cloud computing.  Services like Google’s Gmail have become a part of our daily routine, yet you may not understand the benefits of hosting your website or applications on a cloud-server. However, more organizations are moving data to the cloud for its flexibility, speed and ease of use.

There is a lot of information on cloud computing and hosting around the web, but we wanted to simplify cloud hosting and share the most important information in a concise and simple way. We’ll also provide you with some other great resources to learn more about the workings of cloud hosting.

Whether you are an enterprise company addressing infrastructure needs or a startup launching an application. Hopefully, after reading HostLabs Guide to Cloud Hosting, you’ll feel confident in your knowledge of cloud hosting and understand how and if cloud hosting can benefit your organization.

If performance, security and control are top priorities, make sure to check out our cloud hosting services.

Defining the Cloud

So, what is cloud hosting anyway?

Cloud hosting is a service that leverages a network of virtual servers working together to pull resources from a network of physical servers.  

Instead of your website application relying exclusively on one physical server and its physical limitations, the resources required for your website are shared across multiple remote servers that balance the load, based on your website’s needs. This is very important, as it means computing power can be used more efficiently, and closer to its full capacity.

Cloud hosting also allows you to pay for what you use. In contrast, traditional hosting has you pay upfront for your server.

How Does it Work?

As explained above, cloud hosting services maintain and manage a “farm” of servers that work together to support a group of websites. Cloud providers, like HostLabs leverage multiple computers – or the farm – to balance and manage traffic during regular use and spikes for a range of clients.

Benefits of Cloud Hosting

There are many benefits to cloud hosting, like lower infrastructure cost, flexibility and security. Here are a few of the main benefits you should understand.

Speed

Cloud hosting is fast and, in most cases, will offer much faster speeds and data access. Why? First, users accessing data from cloud hosting services will receive content from the closest source. This creates a better user experience and content will load faster.  Lastly, instead of one server handling all of the burdens, with cloud hosting the workload is shared across multiple servers. You are leveraging a team of computing power working together to balance the load.

Cost

Cloud hosting gives you many of the benefits of having a dedicated server without the cost of the purchasing or renting a physical server.

Scalability

Another benefit of cloud hosting is the ability to easily scale resources up or down depending on your needs. If you are launching a new app and expect a burst of traffic, access your management dashboard and scale your resources accordingly.

Server Environment

When it comes to your website, it’s critical that it’s online and available at all times. But in a typical server environment, your website is dependent on a single server, so if there is an issue with the hardware, it’s likely your website will have some downtime.  While failure can happen in any hosting environment, redundancy protects you against data loss and allows you to retrieve information at any given time. Cloud hosting will provide a redundant server environment with the latest version of your website accessible instantly.

Access and Control

The cloud allows you to gain access from anywhere in the world at any given time. If you have an internet connection, you can access the cloud. This gives an organization and its employee’s great flexibility and control of work environments.

Security

Yes, cloud hosting is secure.  We’ll talk a little bit more about security and best practices, later in the guide. But cloud hosting offers multi-layer security and data is stored and protected in the cloud.  

What’s the Difference Between Public vs. Private Cloud Hosting? 

If you have done any research on cloud computing, you’ve likely come across public and private clouds. But what is the difference between the services? Are they the same?

Private Cloud

A private cloud works in essentially the same way as a normal enterprise data center. In this scenario, the hardware for the service is owned, maintained and located on-premise. Its applications are protected behind a corporate firewall and remain under the control of a dedicated IT department.

A company using a private cloud, for example, might deploy Microsoft Exchange. And only authorized users can access the company’s Microsoft Exchange using a secure virtual private network (VPN) connection.

By assembling this framework through a cloud hosting vendor, however, enterprises gain an advantage. With this arrangement, clients benefit from regular software and equipment updates, which may exceed budgeting limits had the enterprise maintain the system on their own. Today, however, the private cloud model is rapidly succumbing to public cloud architecture.

In most instances, organizations with special security, privacy or development requirements will make use of a private cloud. However, as the public cloud industry matures, more organizations are trusting cloud hosting providers with sensitive information.

Today, some of the largest technology companies operate their own data centers for internal needs, while leasing out hardware and software resources to clients. These massive enterprises are well qualified to provide this service because of their financial ability and expertise in data management and web technology.

Public Cloud

A public cloud mirrors the standard computing structure. This may encompass applications, files, storage and other services that are available to the public through the internet. However, the user is not responsible for the management of a public cloud.

Think about a service like Google’s email service Gmail. When you access your account, you are not accessing your personal email server and you are not responsible for maintaining the Gmail server.

Often, the term public cloud is used when referring to PaaS. In this instance, the cloud hosting provider makes data center hardware available to clients. This service will most likely include several integrated web hosting software packages. 

Occasionally, some enterprises want nothing more than access to a cloud hosting provider’s hardware. In this case, a firm’s IT department will install their own code and software to host their web applications, but more often, firms use public cloud providers to manage software and network security and that all resources are preinstalled and ready for use. 

Ultimately, public cloud services can save businesses money. This is especially so when clients lease cloud services for access to complex applications engineered by industry experts. 

Hybrid Cloud

You may also have come across a hybrid cloud solution. A hybrid cloud is composed of two or more hosting services which could be public, private or community-based. The clouds are distinct entities but are networked together and provide the benefit of multiple deployment models. In an alternative use, the term hybrid cloud can mean the networking of disparate, various services for enterprises using cloud resources. 

Cloud Hosting vs. the Alternatives 

Overall, there are three types of server resources generally used by enterprises and corporate organizations: dedicated servers, virtual private servers and cloud servers. There are several criteria to think about when deciding what type of server is right for your organization. 

First of all, you must consider your performance needs. Of course, you need to think about the level of privacy and security required for your data. You also need to consider scalability, or the ability to change size and services as needed. 

In addition, it’s always important to consider the reliability of a particular cloud hosting service. Furthermore, you need to think about who in your enterprise will oversee the technical side of managing cloud hosting. 

It’s essential that your cloud hosting provider’s expertise picks up where the person’s who’s in charge of the corporate network ends. In other words, despite the technical knowledge of the executive who’s in charge of the company’s information, the cloud hosting provider must be able to work with this individual effectively. 

Redundancy is another important cloud hosting characteristic. If something should happen to the primary location where your information is stored, you need to know that your cloud hosting provider can quickly retrieve your data. 

Dedicated Server Hosting 

With dedicated servers, the in-house IT representative chooses important features such as the amount of RAM, CPU cores and storage capacity. The primary benefit of this kind of server is the security of having hardware on site and not sharing the resource with others. Performance for this kind of system varies depending on the quality of the selected hardware and software. 

While dedicated servers have a reputation for their security and isolation, hackers – unfortunately – work continually to learn how to compromise all kinds of systems. Resultantly, failure to apply security patches and regular software updates can leave dedicated servers exposed to attack vectors. Still, with the proper optimization and configuration, dedicated servers are capable of handling more than 10,000 simultaneous users and millions of daily page views. 

Scalability for dedicated servers depends on processing requirements and hardware specifications. Without the proper configuration, dedicated servers have an inevitable fail point that will result in a crash or systemwide shutdown. With dedicated servers, in-house IT specialists must also maintain the power supply and technical configuration as well as maintain sustainable web operations. 

With dedicated servers, complexity varies. Enterprises can purchase bare-bones systems that require IT, experts, to install the operating system (OS), server extensions and required hardware. Alternatively, enterprises can purchase dedicated servers with these features installed. For experienced and skilled system administrators, either route is relatively straightforward. 

Most dedicated server packages do not include any provision for redundancy. In many instances, an enterprise’s IT officer will back the system up online. However, should a system failure occur the IT department will have to restore the system from an online backup, which can result in significant downtime. 

Dedicated servers are the most expensive hosting option for enterprises. In addition to the initial installation, enterprises must pay for IT support and an internet backbone connection as well as backup and security resources. However, for some companies, this is the best and most secure option.  

VPS Hosting 

Virtual private servers are typically as secure as dedicated servers. However, this type of hosting is more vulnerable to malicious actors. VPS partitioning operates on a shared environment, which can fail for many reasons, including but not limited to: 

• Security breaches 
• Hardware failure 
• Heavy web traffic 
• Datacenter failure 
• Data overruns 

Nevertheless, most IT professionals maintain nearly 100-percent uptime using VPS hosting. 

Like dedicated hosting servers, virtual private servers are available as managed or unmanaged and delivered bare-bones or with pre-installed resources and require the same maintenance as far as security patches and updates. Most VPS hosting platforms come with administrative interfaces that IT specialists can use to complete these tasks. 

By default, virtual private servers also do not provide provisions for redundancy. Commonly, IT specialists mirror VPS data using a storage platform called RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks). 

Using a RAID system, IT officers can restore enterprise servers in the event of a failure. This set up at least provides some form of improved redundancy compared to a single dedicated server. 

One notable benefit of VPS hosting is that it costs less than a dedicated server while providing enterprises with the same features. VPS hosting costs a little more than shared hosting but provides significantly more processing power for enterprises.

Cloud Hosting 

Cloud hosting offers benefits over both dedicated and VPS hosting. Enterprises can run multiple instances of data centers, hardware and VPS partitions and can potentially scale up to meet any activity need and budget. 

Furthermore, the cloud hosting service provider typically manages security, which is another cost-saving benefit for clients. Also, a competent cloud hosting service provider with a dedicated IT department will ensure that all security patches and software updates are installed in a timely manner. 

There is no limit to the scalability of cloud hosting services. For instance, Google is world renowned in the technical community for launching more than 2 billion container packages per week to run a software backup platform called Borg. 

Cloud hosting is a more reliable alternative compared to both dedicated hosting and VPSs. It can easily handle traffic spikes and overruns that typically cripple dedicated and VPS data centers. To maintain reliability, competent cloud providers mirror client information in several data centers located at different locations to maintain nearly 100-percent uptime. 

Depending on the platform, cloud hosting can be simple or complex. By using snapshots of complete operating systems, however, cloud hosting vendors can make the process of provisioning resources extremely easy. It’s significant to note that cloud hosting platforms leverage software that automatically mirrors data and balances activity load, enhancing the ability and effectiveness of resource management. 

The Cloud Computing Stack

Cloud hosting falls in the category of cloud computing. Cloud computing is a general term used to describe a number of services, from IaaS to PaaS to SaaS. It is important to understand all the different aspects of cloud computing – this is especially important for an organization that is taking into considerations a move to cloud hosting, to better understand the cloud service that best fits your needs.

Types of cloud computing services are:

  • Software as a Service (or SaaS)
  • Infrastructure as a Service (or IaaS)
  • Platform as a Service (or PaaS)

Cloud computing is often times described as a stack and has a number of services which are built on top of each other under the term cloud.

Cloud computing as defined by the NIST – National Institute of Standards and Technology, is a model designed to enable on-demand network access to a shared pool of computer resources which can be provisioned as well as released with minimal service provider interaction or management effort. Simply put, it states that end users can use parts of resources and that the resources can be quickly and easily acquired.

In order for the service to be cloud, NIST lists a number of essential characteristics, such as resource pooling, broad network access, measured service, and on-demand self-service.

SaaS (Software as a Service) – SaaS applications are delivered over the web and are designed for end-users. SaaS offers web access to commercial software, its users don’t have to handle software patches and upgrades, and the software management is done from a central location. SaaS is a method of delivering technology that is rapidly growing, and there are certain solutions which are prime candidates for a move to SaaS, such as software which is used for a short-term need or which demand spikes significantly, applications that have a need for mobile or web access, and applications where there is interplay between the outside world and the organization.

SaaS is not ideal when it comes to applications that require real-time data or extremely fast processing, where legislation does not permit data to be hosted externally, or when an existing solution fulfills the organization’s needs.

PaaS (Platform as a Service) – A set of services and tools designed to make deploying and coding efficient and quick. PaaS has built-in scalability of deployed software, integration with databases and web services is possible through common standards, it features tools designed to handle subscription management and billing, it offers support for team collaboration, and it features a web-based interface creation tools which are used to create, test, modify, and deploy various UI scenarios. PaaS is useful when there are multiple developers who are working on a project or when external parties have to interact with the process.

On the other hand, PaaS is not ideal if the application has to be portable when it comes to where it’s hosted, if the approaches or languages would impact the development, or if application performance needs customization of the underlying software and hardware.

IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) – The software and hardware which powers everything (from servers to operating systems). It provides a way of delivering infrastructure as a service which is on-demand. IaaS features resources distributed as a service, it allows for dynamic scaling, it typically includes multiple users on one piece of hardware, and it has a variable cost.

IaaS could be used by new organizations that don’t have the capital necessary to invest in hardware, when the company is growing at a rapid pace and scaling hardware is problematic. Or, if demand is volatile, if the organization has to limit capital expenditure.

IaaS is not ideal if the highest level of performance is necessary and on-premise infrastructure is able to meet the needs of the organization, or if regulation makes outsourcing or offshoring of data storage and processing complicated.

While there are clear differences among the three categories, SaaS, IaaS, and PaaS, have started to blur in recent times, especially between IaaS and PaaS, and this trend is bound to continue.

Is Cloud Hosting Secure? 

We’ve talked a lot about cloud hosting benefits and technology, but is it secure? The simple answer is yes when implemented correctly, cloud hosting offers a secure, reliable option with enough flexibility to fit whatever your organization’s needs may be.

While securing your cloud environment may use different tools and security policies, according to Quentin Hardy, The Time’s deputy technology editor, cloud hosting is, “probably more secure than conventionally stored data.

Alert Logic publishes cloud security information. As early as 2012, the cyber threat and compliance consultancy reported that despite the location, on-site and off-site servers are equally vulnerable to malicious actors. In other words, no matter where servers are located, hackers are more interested in opportunity rather than server location.

Alert Logic’s reporting reveals that hackers attack in-house and cloud providers nearly equally. In fact, according to the firm, on-premise networks suffer slightly more attacks.

While cloud-hosted services experience nearly 28 attacks annually, on-premise servers typically experience more than 60 yearly attacks. Bear in mind, whether the attacks were successful is a separate issue. Furthermore, concluded Alert Logic, malicious actors are more likely to attempt brute force attacks of on-premise hosts compared to other types of networks.

Cloud Hosting Best Practices

As with any hosting environment, there are threats and vulnerabilities. Cloud computing utilizes software, as do traditional servers and software, has exposures. However, using best practices for cloud security will mitigate risk.

Security Solutions Engineer published the Best Practices for Cloud Security article in 2018, that included the steps:

  • Perform Due Diligence
  • Managing Access
  • Protect Data
  • Monitor and Defend

In the end, cloud hosting best practices come down to fully understanding the network and applications, the ability to securely manage user access, protecting data and continuous monitoring of cloud resources.

HostLabs Cloud Hosting HostLabs works with industry-leading cloud platforms, from AWS to Google to Alibaba and more. Or if you are looking for a custom private cloud solution you can control request a Private Cloud consultation today.

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