Beyond a Single Server
Cloud hosting is the hot darling in the web hosting space right now. This hosting category has been around for a while, but recently has really started to gain traction, even among smaller businesses. Cloud hostingwhich spreads your site across multiple serversis the most unique of all hosting types, as it lets you do many things that you could not do with the standard shared, virtual private server (VPS), dedicated, or WordPress hosting options. Let's explore those features.
Traditional hosting sees your website leverage the power of one particular server's CPU, RAM, storage, and data transfers. For example, shared web hosting has your website share resources with other sites that are also hosted exclusively on one server. The result is many annoying limitations in terms of power, and the inability to handle sharp traffic surges. For better service, you can pay for a virtual private server, or even a dedicated server of varying power. In all these case, you're basically relying on one server, and that's it. Cloud hosting, however, kicks that single-server hosting model to the curb in a marvelous manner. With cloud hosting, your website draws resources from multiple servers.
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Cloud hosting's use of multiple servers gives it certain advantages over traditional hosting. For example, if your website experiences a sudden traffic spike, it can pull resources from another server to prevent slow page loads or, worse, the site going down. In addition, cloud hosting makes it incredibly simple for your to scale resources up or down, as needed.
Note that there are different types of cloud hosting. Traditional web hosts, such as DreamHost and HostGator, offer cloud hosting packages that are priced similarly as their other web hosting packages (typically in the Shared or VPS range). These small business-friendly cloud hosting solutions are what we're primarily focused on in this roundup.
Enterprise-level, infrastructure-as-a-service cloud hosting from the likes of Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Rackspace are also available. Though these are technically cloud hosting services, they are not what's highlighted here. For more on that flavor of expansive (and potentially more expensive!) cloud hosting, please visit our story about the best infrastructure-as-a-service solutions.
The chart above focuses on the web hosts that boast the best cloud hosting plans of all the services we've reviewed. Note that we are still in the process of examining cloud hosting offerings as this is a new categorywe're definitely going to be testing more services in the coming months. Still, with the reviews we've done so far and lots of research, we've discovered what you should look for in a cloud hosting service.
Many cloud web hosts offer unlimited monthly data transfers, so other factors may help you decide which service is best for your business. That said, if you're interested in "unlimited" anything, no matter if it's data or storage, be sure to read the tiny print to make sure that there aren't any surprises. In other words, make sure your definition of unlimited matches the hosting service's definition. They can be two very different things.
Speaking of storage, we've discovered that cloud hosts typically offer hard drives or solid-state drives that range between 100GB and 200GB in size. That said, you'll occasionally discover a web host that boasts unlimited storage. (Again, the usual caveats apply with regards to "unlimited" anything.) Solid-state drives are typically faster than their hard-drive-based counterparts, but are typically smaller in terms of storage capacity. If you're looking for sheer volume, a traditional hard drive is the way to go.
When it comes to server operating systems, Linux is typically the default option. Still, some services offer Windows hosting, too. If you have specific server-side applications that require Windows, such as SQL Server or a custom application written in .NET, then you need to make sure your web host has Windows hosting.
You'll also want a web host with responsive 24/7 customer support. Forums, knowledge bases, and tutorials are useful tools, but there's nothing like getting another human being on the horn (or at least in a web chat) when problems arise.
Security is of utmost importance, too. If your goal is to sell products or services, you need to look into Secure Socket Layer (SSL) and Transport Layer Security (TLS). Those technologies encrypt the data that travel's between a customer's computer and your company's servers to safeguard the information from people with ill intentions.
In each of our reviews, we devote an entire section to uptime, it's so important. Simply put, if your site is down, clients or customers will be unable to find your business or access your products or services. They may find what they're looking for elsewhere, and never return. At the very least, customers will be annoyed, and it won't help their image of your business. Neither is a good outcome.
Three years ago, we added formal uptime monitoring to our review process, and the results show that most web hosts do an excellent job of keeping their sites up and running. If they don't, they suffer for it in our rankings. Even if they get everything else right, sites with uptime problems aren't eligible for top scores. All services suffer ups and downs, sometimes for reasons beyond their control. Those sites that fail to address the problem are penalized accordingly.
If you're ready to find a great web hosting service, click the links below to read our in-depth reviews of the biggest and best names in the space. If you're just getting started with web hosting, make sure to check out our primer, How to Create a Website, and How to Register a Domain Name.
Pros: A variety of feature-packed hosting plans. Excellent shared hosting offering. Good for novice webmasters. Useful site-building software. Good customer service. Outstanding uptime.
Cons: No Windows-based VPS hosting.
Bottom Line: HostGator is an excellent web hosting service that's simple to use and offers an array of useful plans for consumers and small businesses. It's our top pick for shared web hosting and for novice webmasters in general.
Pros: Strong security features. Extensive domain-management tools. Excellent cloud hosting offerings. Unlimited data transfers per month. Generous money-back guarantee.
Cons: No Windows-based servers. No true reseller hosting plans. No telephone support.
Bottom Line: DreamHost boasts outstanding features that should satisfy most expert users, and a new easy website builder tool makes the web host more welcoming to newbies as well.
Pros: Terrific uptime in testing. Excellent dedicated, reseller, and VPS hosting plans. Good customer service. Minecraft server hosting.
Cons: Not every plan has a Windows server option.
Bottom Line: Hostwinds is an excellent web hosting service that has the tools you need for building attractive, functional websites. It's a top choice overall, and VPS and reseller hosting plans are particularly strong.
Pros: Excellent dedicated, VPS, cloud, and reseller packages. Prorated VPS plans. High-end specs. Terrific customer service and uptime in testing.
Cons: Lacks shared hosting plans. Expensive.
Bottom Line: Liquid Web is expensive and lacks shared Web hosting, but it's a flexible, feature-packed online host with outstanding customer service.
Pros: Excellent customer support. Dependable uptime in testing. Offers basic and advanced hosting packages. Linux- or Windows-based servers. Easy-to-use website creation tools.
Cons: Lacks reseller hosting plans. Relatively skimpy storage options.
Bottom Line: Web hosting service 1&1 Ionos has rich website-creation tools and excellent customer support options. It's particularly good at large-scale cloud hosting, for which it wins an Editors' Choice.
Pros: Good uptime in testing. Integrates with CloudFlare for improved performance and security. Free SSL certificate with all plans. Many useful free services included. Lets customers choose server locations. Excellent customer service.
Cons: Plans don't offer a lot of storage. No month-to-month shared hosting plans. No Windows server options.
Bottom Line: SiteGround offers strong uptime and customer support, though you'll need to look elsewhere for VPS servers, Windows servers, or plans offering lots of storage.
Pros: Very easy to set up. Excellent up-time. Top-notch 24/7 web-based customer service. Supports numerous apps. Several flexible account tiers. Pay-as-you-go plans. Can try service for free before signing up.
Cons: No domain registration option. Email costs extra. Phone-based customer support needs work.
Bottom Line: Cloudways is a web hosting service with both affordable and powerful architecture, but there's no option for domain registration, and email costs extra.
Pros: Robust hosting packages, particularly WordPress. Excellent customer service. Terrific uptime. Good money-back refund plan.
Cons: Not every plan has a Windows server option. Relatively expensive.
Bottom Line: Packed with features, A2 is a web hosting service that's more than worthy of being the foundation for your website, especially if you're looking to use WordPress.
Pros: Stellar uptime. Excellent dedicated hosting plans. Good customer service. Offers a choice of Linux or Windows servers.
Cons: Lacks unlimited email with Windows accounts. No month-to-month shared hosting plans.
Bottom Line: AccuWeb Hosting has many useful features, including terrific uptime, customer service, and server options, but its excellent dedicated hosting plans are where this web host truly excels.
Pros: A wide array of hosting types. Strong uptime. Excellent customer service.
Cons: No Windows-based servers.
Bottom Line: Web hosting service FatCow is stable in our testing and has top-notch support. It's particularly good at shared and WordPress hosting.
See the article here:
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