Managed Cloud Hosting
In years past, companies looking to host a high-traffic website have had one of three main options:
- Shared Web hosting services
- Dedicated Web hosting services
- Hosting on local IT infrastructure
Shared Web hosting services have been most popular with small businesses, but they suffer from performance bottlenecks, limited management features, and no direct server access. Dedicated Web hosting offers a solution to the performance issues of shared Web hosting—but at a cost. Monthly rates are typically high, and support is either expensive or nonexistent. Local hosting has been the route chosen by most corporations, but small businesses and startups often lack the resources and personnel necessary to maintain their own on-premises Web servers.
More recently, virtual private servers have emerged as an intermediate option for customers wanting the flexibility and performance of dedicated servers without the costly hardware overhead. Virtual private servers work well for some customers, but they’re not without their own problems. Performance bottlenecks still occur, and companies without networking and IT expertise still struggle with securing their websites.
Managed Hosting Providers
Enter cloud-hosted, managed VPS providers. In the past year, companies such as Rackspace and FireHost have seen the demand for their services soar. Rackspace offers a range of customizable cloud servers with quality customer support, while FireHost provides a fully managed, secured cloud hosting solution.
These cloud hosting services solve the usual VPS performance issues by providing scalable virtual servers that run on a vast pool of shared computing resources. Advances in virtualization hypervisors make the process of elastically allocating computing resources smooth, invisible, and almost instantaneous, which means cloud servers provide practically the same performance as their dedicated counterparts, but at a far more reasonable price. In addition to reliable performance, the scalability of cloud servers means websites are much less likely to suffer from unexpected traffic spikes.
Managed cloud servers are becoming especially popular among startups and other small businesses concerned about Web security. Prior to managed hosting services, most security-conscious companies hired system administrators to configure, secure, and maintain their Web servers—an expense that could easily exceed several hundred, or even several thousand dollars per month. But today’s managed cloud hosting services can dramatically reduce this expense by delivering a standardized service that’s typically more reliable and secure than what any single system administrator can achieve.
The quality of managed cloud hosting services varies, but established service providers—such as FireHost, Rackspace, and Softlayer—offer a variety of advanced features, including automatic scaling (for performance demand spikes), managed backup, and third-party application support. FireHost also offers enterprise-grade security features—including network isolation, secure VPN access, and DDoS protection—while Softlayer allows customers to mix and match among a variety of integrated public cloud, private cloud, and dedicated hardware options.
In today’s environment of growing security threats and activist hackers, expect continued growth in the demand for managed cloud hosting services. As security breaches at major companies such as Sony and Zappos—along with DDoS attacks against VISA, MasterCard, and PayPal—have shown, there’s good reason for companies to be concerned about the reliability and security of their websites.
By Joseph Walker