Like so many other terms in information technology these days, the term “cloud” is being beaten to death. Some people refer to any collection of servers exposed on the web as a “cloud.” By that definition, every website from Google on down to the smallest website is its own cloud. Obviously, we are not going to use that as our definition.
For a web hosting platform to be considered a cloud, the following features are usually present in a variety of forms:
The client does not own the servers, load balancers, etc. thereby greatly reducing capital expenditures
A (relatively) massive computer infrastructure – accommodating multiple servers interconnected with the aim of allowing an application to run on one or more servers without any attachment to a particular server.
Servers can be added and removed from the cloud and the application should continue to run uninterrupted.
Scalability– A hosted site running in a cloud is running in a distributed fashion over multiple servers. To scale, new servers can be added and the application should just take advantage of the added resource availability.
Resource stability – Since usage is shared across multiple customers, better overall computer usage occurs because each client’s resource rise and fall based on actual need.
A pricing model based on usage of resources – This is probably the single biggest point of interest when hosting in a cloud. Instead of being charged a flat rate per month or a rate based strictly on bandwidth, a metered charge is used, similar to how electricity is billed in the United States.
There are many different approaches to cloud computing. Several big players in the market are Amazon, with their Elastic Cloud (which is the technology behind several other players), Microsoft, Rackspace, and GoGrid.
Various service levels and types of service are available and the user can select from a set of features to compute his price per computing hour. For example, a faster server with more memory will cost more, but as your demand increases, your resources will be increased at that level. When demand decreases, your overall costs will return to their non-peak point. If used for sites of appropriate size, this can save considerable money.
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