What is Cloud hosting?

What is Cloud hosting?

Cloud hosting services provide hosting on virtual servers which pull their computing resource from extensive underlying networks of physical web servers.

Generally, clients can tap into their service as much as they need to, depending on their requirements at any stage. This can result in cost savings as they only have to pay for what they use, and because they can access it at any time, they don’t need to pay for additional capacity.

Introduction to Cloud Computing Services:

Earlier we used to store our data in hard drives on a computer. Cloud Computing services have replaced such hard drive technology. Cloud Computing service is nothing but providing the services like Storage, Databases, Servers, networking, software’s etc through the Internet.

Few Companies offer such computing services, hence named as Cloud Computing Providers/ Companies”. They charge its users for utilizing such services and the charges are based on their usage of services.

Types

  • Disk Space: The amount of storage space provided by the web hosting provider to store the web files. Disk space is measured in MB. A good web host will provide differing disk space options catering to all kinds of needs for the website.
  • Bandwidth: The amount of data that a website can transfer over a given period of time, which determines the speed of the website. Higher the bandwidth, faster will be the website.
  • Uptime: It is the amount of time (in percentage) that a hosting server stays up and running. 99.99% uptime means that the website will remain down only for about 8 hours in a year.
  • Customer service: Customer support in the form of text, phone, email etc. is very essential in resolving any technical difficulties arising in the website on the client side.

Public Cloud:

  • Most examples of cloud hosting involve the use of public cloud models; hosting on virtual servers that pull resource from a pool of other publicly available virtual servers
  • The same public networks are used to transmit their data; data which is physically stored on the underlying shared servers which form the cloud resource
  • These public clouds will include some security measure to ensure that data is kept private, and would suffice for most installations

Private Cloud:

  • Private clouds are more suitable where security and privacy is more of a concern
  • Private clouds use ring-fenced resources, such as servers and networks, whether located on site or with the cloud provider.

Features and Benefits

  • Load balancing can be instantly scalable to respond to changing demands.
  • Clients only have to pay for the resources that they actually use. There are no wasted resources when the demand is low. Hence there is utility style costing.
  • It is largely scalable. Resources are available in real time on demand and are not limited to the physical constraints/capacity of the server.
  • The underlying physical servers are still housed within data centers and so benefit from the security measures that those facilities implement to prevent people accessing or disrupting them on-site
  • If one server goes offline, it will have no effect on the availability of resources, as the virtual servers will continue to pull resources from the remaining network of servers. Hence it is very reliable.

Traits of a good Cloud hosting service provider

  • Provides highly scalable infrastructure
  • Guaranteed high uptime (about 99.9%)
  • Provides services like domain name registration, email hosting services and SSL certificate etc.
  • Issues unlimited domains and sub domains
  • Provides advanced optimization options for email and e-commerce hosting
  • Control panel that puts the client in command
  • Ensures 24x7 reliable customer support
  • Provides risk free trials and money-back guarantees
  • 1-click installation for all types of applications

Business health and processes

Financial health.The provider should have a track record of stability and be in a healthy financial position with sufficient capital to operate successfully over the long term.

Organization, governance, planning and risk management.The provider should have a formal management structure, established risk management policies and a formal process for assessing third-party service providers and vendors.

Trust. You should like the company and its principles. Check the provider’s reputation and see who its partners are. Find out its level of cloud experience. Read reviews and talk to customers whose situation is similar to yours.

Business knowledge and technical know-how. The provider should understand your business and what you are looking to do and be able to match it up with their technical expertise.

Compliance audit.The provider should be able to validate compliance with all of your requirements through a third-party audit.

Administration support

Service Level Agreements (SLAs).Providers should be able to promise you a basic level of service that you are comfortable with.

Performance reporting.The provider should be able to give you performance reports.

Resource monitoring and configuration management.There should be sufficient controls for the provider to track and monitor services provided to customers and any changes made to their systems.

Billing and accounting.This should be automated so that you can monitor what resources you are using and the cost, so you don’t run up unexpected bills. There should also be support for billing-related issues.

Technical capabilities and processes

Ease of deployment, management and upgrade.Make sure the provider has mechanisms that make it easy for you to deploy, manage and upgrade your software and applications.

Standard interfaces.The provider should use standard APIs and data transforms so that your organization can easily build connections to the cloud.

Event management.The provider should have a formal system for event management which is integrated with its monitoring/management system.

Change management.The provider should have documented and formal processes for requesting, logging, approving, testing and accepting changes.

Hybrid capability.Even if you don’t plan to use a hybrid cloud initially, you should make sure the provider can support this model. It has advantages that you may wish to exploit at a later time.

Security practices

Security infrastructure.There should be a comprehensive security infrastructure for all levels and types of cloud services.

Security policies.There should be comprehensive security policies and procedures in place for controlling access to provider and customer systems.

Identity management.Changes to any application service or hardware component should be authorized on a personal or group role basis and authentication should be required for anyone to change an application or data.

Data backup and retention.Policies and procedures to ensure integrity of customer data should be in place and operational.

Physical security.Controls ensuring physical security should be in place, including for access to co-located hardware. Also, data centers should have environmental safeguards to protect equipment and data from disruptive events. There should be redundant networking and power and a documented disaster recovery and business continuity plan.

Flexibility – Just as different workloads are suitable for different environments, they also require different configuration and delivery parameters. As such, the cloud provider should offer a menu or range of options related to performance, security, and resiliency, enabling the enterprise to select—and pay for—just the settings it requires for each workload.

Service Level Agreements – Be sure to read the fine print, and ask questions about the provider’s service level agreements (SLAs). Reports of cloud outages often include statements from outraged clients who were shocked—shocked—to learn that a prolonged outage was actually permissible under the terms of the provider’s ‘annual average’ availability metric. If a half-day outage will be detrimental to your business, then discuss this potential outcome with your provider upfront. Remember, it’s not about getting the “best” SLAs; it’s about getting the terms that are most meaningful to you and your business.

Security – When an enterprise enters the cloud, it is entrusting its information assets to a third-party provider. To earn that trust, the provider must take great steps to protect those assets. Look for a provider that makes security a priority. Choose an expert that thinks beyond the physical security of the facility or even firewalls. Ensure the provider builds its cloud architecture for optimal protection, including measures to isolate enterprise workloads on physical servers, protections against Internet-borne attacks, and clear administrative access controls.

Which cloud services do you provide?

Knowing what your cloud computing needs are will dictate the type of service or services you choose, says Nicholas Bessmer, author of Cloud Computing for Small Business.

There are software-based cloud offerings, such as Drop box for online document, photo and video storage. Intuit offers QuickBooks for online accounting. And there’s Sales force for online customer relationship management (CRM).

If you need more than basic data storage, several vendors offer a range of general-purpose cloud computing services, including IT networking infrastructure with on-demand access to virtual servers, applications and software. These include IBM Smart Cloud Enterprise, Amazon Web Services and Go Grid.

What is your pricing structure?

You should only pay for what you use, says Mike Foreman, a general manager at AVG Technologies, an Amsterdam-based internet and mobile data security provider.

Also, be wary of large upfront costs, which aren’t the norm for reputable cloud vendors, Foreman says. The pricing scheme should be pay-as-you go from the outset, with the ability to add services as needed. Fees can typically be charged hourly, monthly, semi-annually or annually, depending on the vendor. Pricing for cloud computing services can vary significantly, from as low as about $1 per month per user to $100 a month per user and up, depending on a company’s needs.

How secure is your cloud?

Security should be a major consideration when it comes to storing your company’s critical data in the cloud. Cloud providers should have several standard security measures in place and constantly update them, Foreman says. “You’ve got to be sure that you’re completely comfortable with your cloud provider’s approach to security.”

Security measures to look for include firewalls, anti-virus detection, multifactor user authentication and data encryption, and routine security audits. It’s also important to ask who at the cloud company will have access to your data in the cloud and whether the cloud provider does employee background checks to weed out potential cybercriminals or identity thieves.

Where is your data center and how safe is it?

The location and security of the data centers and servers where your company’s information will be stored are as important as online security, Foreman says. “You want to make sure you’re not doing business with a guy with a couple of servers in a spare room somewhere that could quite easily be accessed and compromised.”

To make sure that isn’t the case, Foreman suggests asking how a potential cloud vendor protects its data center from natural disasters, including fires, floods, earthquakes and storms. Also, find out how the facilities are protected from thieves who could walk away with your sensitive data.

What happens if you lose my data?

On the off chance your cloud provider accidentally deletes or loses your precious data, you need to know how it will rectify the problem. Be sure to ask: What provisions are in the company’s Service Level Agreement (SLA) that address potential data losses? Will the provider compensate you for losses? What data redundancies does it have in place to mitigate the risks of data loss? It’s also important to ask if the company has experienced any significant issues resulting from the loss of customer data.

What customer support services do you offer?

Without exception, technical support should be available to you online or by phone 24 hours a day, every day, including holidays, Bessmer advises.

You should also inquire about the average response and resolution time, and whether you’ll be interacting with knowledgeable engineers or customer service reps reading scripts when you call the customer help line or use a live chat feature.