My internet connection had been crawling the past few days. I’ve checked with my DSL provider, and my account seems fine. And for some reason, it’s not with all websites that I’m having difficulties. Then I just recently learned that an earthquake has caused faults in undersea cables connecting my region to the rest of the world. This means that accessing certain websites running on servers on the other side of the globe will be slower. Being in the Asia Pacific, this supposedly meant most sites out there, with the popularity of inexpensive US-based datacenters.
Still, I can access my Gmail without much fuss. Google searches return results at the usual super-fast speeds. And then I remember that Google uses multiple datacenters spread around the world. When you run a Google search, chances are you get directed to the datacenter nearest you. This is advantageous in at least two ways. First, you get faster access time, since data packets travel through shorter distances. Second, you are assured of service even if communication through the the main line gets severed or disrupted.
Shouldn’t your blog be running on a similar setup?
I had recently moved some of my blogs into a new web host, and one of the things I had to think about was whether to go for traditional hosting or those cloud hosting services like Rackspace Cloud (previously Mosso). Cloud hosting essentially does what Google does with its datacenters–it distributes the load across servers in different locations.
So assuming your website is in a cloud hosting setup, you are more or less assured of service, even if there are traffic spikes and server outages. If you’ve been fortunate to have been frontpaged on popular social bookmarking sites like Digg and Delicious, you’ve probably experienced some server downtime either due to the sheer number of visits, or a bandwidth exceeded error on your account. And even if it’s not your site that experiences this slowdown, if another site hosted on the same shared server gets massive traffic, then chances are your site will also slow down.
Is cloud hosting for everyone?
Considering the scenarios above, I can say that cloud hosting is not necessarily ideal for everyone. For one, there are cost considerations. Cloud hosting companies don’t usually charge a flat rate per month. Rather, they charge based on usage: bandwidth, space and even CPU cycles used. If you have a small audience, you might be better off in a less-expensive shared hosting environment. And if a good majority of your audience is located in one place, then you may not have to worry about undersea cables failing.
However, if you are planning to run a web application in which uptime is an absolute must, you should consider cloud hosting. This would also be the case if you run a really popular blog with a decent-sized audience. Or perhaps you are planning to start small, but you foresee the need to scale in the near future–then in this case cloud hosting might be right for you.
From what I’ve read, some hosting companies are moving to cloud-based setups, but some are still holding out, focusing on improving their traditional hosting business. What’s important for me is that consumers have a choice, based on need, budget and opportunities for growth.