Written by Jessica Ann on December 4th, 2013
Cloud Hosting – What is it?
It’s not easy to come up with a simple metaphor to explain cloud hosting. One example is to use electricity and explain how a large grid serving millions of people is more cost effective and efficient than each one of those millions having their own mini electricity power station. But that is a bit boring. You could also use the sewage system and explain how it deals with increased loads, but that is a bit hard to stomach. Another idea is to discuss animal herds and how they are stronger, safer and more efficient as a group, rather than each animal trying to survive on its own. But this one is way too complicated!
So, the easiest way to explain cloud hosting is by using the example of your own business.
So here goes…
To ensure your business runs efficiently you need enough staff. But in order to make a profit you cannot have too many people on the payroll so there is a balance to be found. You also need to have backup plans in place to cover when people are off. That usually means ensuring that each member of your team is trained to do more than one job. You cannot close the doors for a week just because one person is off – even if that person is you!
Finally, you need to have a temporary plan for busy periods of the year, like Christmas. During these periods you are likely to need more staff.
How It Works
So let’s get back to cloud hosting. Traditionally websites are hosted on servers. That means a physical computer. In our business metaphor it would be the equivalent of hiring one person to work 120 hours a week and do six different jobs! If something happens to that one person, six jobs will not get done.
Of course you wouldn’t do anything like that. It would be crazy and completely unethical. Instead you would hire six people to work 20 hours a week, each doing a different job. If one of those people is off, the other five can pick up the slack and provide cover.
When you use cloud hosting, your website does not reside on one server. Just like the way you spread the workload of your business among several employees, when you use cloud hosting, by the magic of software and the genius of those fancy computer programmers, your website is spread over several different servers. If one goes down, the others pick up the slack.
If you have ever wondered why Google and Facebook never go down – now you know. Their websites and services are spread across multiple computers so can handle outages without crashing.
Cloud hosting not only helps when something fails: it also makes it easier for you to increase capacity when your traffic increases (just like employing more staff to cover busy periods in your business). This can usually be done very quickly so cloud hosting allows you to respond almost immediately to surges in visitor activity.
Believe it or not, cloud hosting can trace its origins back to the 1950s and the large mainframe computers used by big corporations, universities and researchers. It has come a long way since those very early days and with modern advances in technology, it’s here to stay.