A Freelancer’s Guide to Cloud Hosting Versus Geo Hosting

If you’re new to freelancing or are just beginning your online business, you probably started off or are still hosting websites on a shared hosting plan. This is a type of geo hosting that basically consists of renting space on a physical web server (which provides the means of putting your website(s) securely online) that resides in a certain geographic location from a hosting company.

But have you thought about what happens when your business grows and your websites’ traffic or storage needs become too much for that shared environment?

Traditionally, when you outgrew a shared server, you only had two choices to resolve the problems, moving to a virtual private server (VPS) or a dedicated server. But recently, the popularity of a third option, called cloud hosting, has been on the rise.

Here’s a guide to help you out with the shopping process of moving up from shared hosting.

What Is Cloud Hosting?

The term “cloud” in cloud hosting stems from the technology of cloud computing, which originally referred to a group of computers that were tied together to be able to function as one machine. This meant they could share the load of resource intensive projects and programming needs. A few years ago, this architecture style was applied to a new kind of shared hosting to create cloud hosting.

Cloud hosting is similar to cloud computing as it ties many servers together to enable them to share resources. Like geo hosting, cloud hosting allows for multi-tenancy, which allows a large pool of users to share resources at a lower cost than other hosting options (i.e. – a dedicated server).

Furthermore, when peak-load levels hit, cloud hosting as a whole is better prepared to handle the extra traffic without problems. You, as the hosting customer, will pay a premium only when you require the extra services. During non-peak times, your cost will be a flat rate. The scalability of cloud hosting will allow you to have some of the advantages of dedicated geo hosting without paying the higher rates all the time.

Cloud Hosting Kinks

Conversely, cloud hosting still has a few kinks to work out. Since other accounts are still sharing your resources, they too will sometimes need that extra push. When the server you’re on starts shifting things around to balance the load with other accounts, you may find your resources coming from across the country or even across the globe. For example, if your website is being served from New York City and your users are in San Francisco, their connection could be as much as 23 times slower. In some cases, the distance could become even greater. Some cloud hosting companies use servers in other countries. So, if your files have to travel from a very far distance, server jobs, such as email, can be slowed significantly.

By the same token, the scalability that makes cloud hosting so attractive can also cause a slower overall response time as resources are constantly being shifted to balance the load due to the shared environment. That continual shifting could also become a security issue. Geo hosting companies have established rules for handling security situations. However, since cloud hosting is still relatively new, there are no present industry standards. But eventually there will be, as large cloud hosting companies are presently in the process of developing security guidelines.

On the brighter side of things, cloud hosting can be very useful for you if you need to have a wide variance of resources, such as if you’re working on large scale application projects that sometimes involve heavy loads of data.

Geo Hosting Benefits

On the other hand, if you have level load needs, a geo-based hosting plan may be a better choice. Starting off on a shared server may offer limited load balancing situations, but when needed a good geo host should be able to move your shared server account to a next level without the additional security risks. In addition, geo hosting is able to support Secure Shell (SSH) to help secure your data as you move your databases. This feature is not usually offered with cloud hosting.

Another benefit of geo hosting is that if you need more resources than a traditional shared environment can handle, you have the option of moving to a dedicated server. This alternative can surely resolve your traffic problems while providing you with a more stable habitat. Instead of sharing physical resources with others, you will have your own private space to perform operations and store files. With this solution, you have a much more secure environment for you and your clients’ confidential information and a more predictable financial situation.

Furthermore, if you have a small to medium sized business that is customer driven, a dedicated geo host will supply better email service, shorter page load times and a more evenly distributed cost. If your website has extreme variations in its environmental needs, then you should try out cloud hosting. If your server needs fluctuate wildly on an intermittent and unpredictable schedule, the flexible pricing of cloud hosting may save you money in the long run.

How to Choose a Host

Now that you have the background information on the different types of hosting plans available for your growing business, make sure to analyze your current and future growth when deciding on which choice works best for you and/or your clients.

Just as important–do the proper research to find a solid hosting company that has a professionally trained technical staff available on a 24/7, 365 days a year basis. The best hosting plan possible is not worth much if you cannot get the help you need when problems arise. The Internet does not shut down at night, weekends or holidays. So all of your users, clients and their users expect the websites to be accessible at all times. If they’re not, you face losing them to the competition that IS available.

Your Turn

Do you use cloud or geo hosting for your website?

Explain your choice in the comments so we can learn from each other.

Image by Karin Dalziel