Over the past couple of years many web hosts and server professionals have been toting “The Cloud” as a cure all for majority of the IT problems, but for the end user is this all hype or is it real?
How old is “The Cloud”?
Contrary to popular belief, cloud computing has been around since the 1970’s via mainframes which had the ability to scale resources as needed by pooling the resources of multiple systems. Virtual Private Servers which have been offered by webhosts for years are another example of “cloud technology” as they allow customers to scale storage and RAM as needed.
Despite” cloud” being a marketing term without any concrete definition, the technologies has become vital for virtually every IT professional to understand. In particular the two tiers of cloud computing are public and private clouds. At its foundation, the comparison between public and private clouds is analogous to shared/virtual hosting and plans on dedicated servers. With a public cloud, you are given a segment of resources on hardware which is shared with other clients. In a private cloud, just like a traditional dedicated hosting plan, the service gives the client full access to their own sets of hardware.
Although traditional dedicated plans provide superior levels of security and control when compared to shared hosting, when it comes to cloud plans, public clouds are typically sufficient for majority of the routine hosting needs. The reason for this is because in a public cloud the use of “virtualization” sandboxes each customer from the other users providing them with a much higher level of security compared to traditional shared hosting which is simply a server allowing hundreds (if not thousands) of websites to access the same set of resources.
Pricing for cloud services depends heavily on the provider you choose. However, to provide an idea of the pricing gap between public and private clouds,given below is a small pricing sample pulled from Softlayer, which is one of the leading web hosts in the industry.
Base public cloud package:
1 core, 1GB of RAM, and 25GB of local storage – $50/month or $0.10/hour
Base private cloud package:
1 core, 1 GB of RAM, and 100 GB of local storage – $159/month or $0.30/hour
In addition to Soft layer, industry leader Rackspace, has recently released Open Stack which is an open sourced stack for businesses to create their own private clouds using their own hardware. Open Stack has been receiving praise for the fact it does not lock clients into a single vendor, however as the code has not yet been proven for long term use, the decision to adopt the platform has been debatable by many Information Technology professionals primarily in enterprise environments.
Regardless, as Open Stack is free software and since the ecosystem for the platform is very active, the platform will likely be one of the top emerging technologies of 2012 and is therefore a must for any IT pro’s watch list.
Hosting needs handling with Traditional and Cloud Hosting
Going back to the types of hosting plans available to businesses, although cloud plans are newer, many companies utilize both traditional and cloud servers to handle their hosting needs. For example, cloud servers can be used for load balancing, code testing, and usability testing, and so on. By using VPS or Dedicated servers to handle the routine loads and cloud servers to handle specialty and as needed tasks, companies are able to create a better server package specifically geared towards their needs.
Public or Private Cloud
As far as using a public or private cloud, the answer to that depends heavily on your needs. Do you need full control of the hardware? If so, then a private cloud is a must. Regarding security, through virtualization, public clouds are typically much more secure than a traditional shared plan, but a private cloud provides a complete barrier from other clients should something go wrong. In most cases a simple call to your web host will provide you with access to staff devoted to the hosting products, which can therefore provide guidance based on your needs.
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