The global economy has given way to a new method of web hosting known as “the cloud.” Cloud computing is to today’s Internet-based communications what the old mainframe computing was to worldwide databases of old. To some the cloud is simply an advanced version of the mainframe relying on worldwide Internet connections to make it work. But is it the best way to go?
How the Cloud Works
When you upload your data and applications to a cloud environment bits and pieces are stored on various servers around the world. At any given time visitors to your site might be accessing data in North America or Europe, for example, depending on your cloud host and how your information is divided up. The purpose for doing things this way is that it allows networks to employ a load balancer so that web based services and applications don’t slow down during peak traffic times.
Think of the cloud environment sort of like a multi-lane toll booth on the UK’s M6 or Canada’s QEW. During low traffic periods there may only be one or two lanes open in either direction; during peak traffic periods all lanes will be open. By putting various pieces of data in different worldwide locations a cloud provider is able to open and close data “lanes” as traffic dictates.
Cloud Hosting vs. Geo-Hosting
If cloud hosting has an opposite it would be geo-hosting. With a geo-hosting model your entire site is stored in a single geographic location either on a virtual private server or a shared server. In theory geo-hosting providers can quickly transfer your data to another server if yours is experiencing an extremely heavy load, but there’s usually some downtime involved.
The advantage of geo-hosting over cloud hosting is its speed. Despite the fact that data moves very quickly over wired connections, you can never eliminate the reality that the physical transfer takes longer if the distance covered is greater. In other words, the closer you are to the data you’re trying to retrieve, the faster the transaction occurs. With cloud hosting the distance between sender and receiver can be great enough to experience noticeable latency.
With geographic hosting you have the freedom to migrate between countries, its more cheaper then CDN and it is the best solution for hosting your website targeting the local (country) audience. Depending on your needs it can be a better option to choose a worldwide hosting company with more resources compared to a local hosting company.
CDN is another popular choice for worldwide sites, because of the faster page load time you can usually receive better rankings in Google, the only downside is its more expensive then geographic hosting.
Security and Scalability
In the area of security geo-hosting wins hands down. Though cloud hosting companies have made fairly good strides in keeping cloud environment secure, it doesn’t change the fact that the more locations involved in hosting data the more hands there are in the pie. And the more hands involved, the more inherent security risks exist. Geo-hosting is more secure because there is one location and one administrative staff.
On the other hand, scalability is better handled by the cloud hosting environment simply because there’s more room to space things out. Geo-hosting companies do offer scalability for the most part, but it is more tedious and can involve some downtime.
At the end of the day both cloud and geo-hosting have their pros and cons. Which choice a business makes depends on its needs, resources, and budget.