Cloud hosting is different from traditional hosting in that it offers much more reliability and scalability. While traditional hosting involves ‘renting’ physical servers or a fixed portion of what they have to offer, cloud hosing bypasses all that by offering virtual servers that themselves are running on a (in most cases) huge cluster of physical servers.
If you’re hosting your application on the cloud, you get dynamic resource-scaling:the cloud matches your system’s requirements as it changes. Consequentially, you don’t have to constantly worry about your application exceeding the resources you have been allocated by your host.
Ever since the idea of hosting applications on the cloud went mainstream more than half a decade ago, people have been looking for the best cloud host. Today, we’re going to help you decide which of the top 4 cloud hosts will serve your needs best. Also, before we dive into that, I’d like to make it clear that cloud services are exponentially costlier than their traditional counterparts.
As far as categorization is concerned, we decided to split hosting services into 3 categories:Pure cloud, managed hosting and cloud storage.
This category includes hosting services which provide Infrastructure-as-a-Service and Platform-as-a-Service options.
Microsoft entered the cloud scene with a bang when it introduced its Azure platform to the market. I think we all know how lousy Microsoft is when it comes to support for platforms that qualify as competition. Well, with Azure, Microsoft decided to go with both Windows and Linux, underlining how serious it is about the whole thing.
Azure’s list of supported languages isn’t comprehensive but it’s enough to get work done. ASP .NET is one language that’s both rather obvious and worthy of being mentioned. Obvious since it’s Microsoft and mention-worthy since Azure is only one of the few cloud hosts which actually provide ASP .NET support. Other supported languages are PHP, Node.js and Python.
Microsoft has developed a strong ‘instant support’ infrastructure, something that has quite noticeably been missing with other hosts; you have to pay for it.
Integration and setting your application up with Azure is a complete breeze. All your focus is supposed to be on your application. You don’t need to worry about web server specific settings or anything like that.
In fact, Microsoft also gives you access Content Delivery Network so you can place static files for easy access across different geographical locations. All in all, Azure is the top choice for simplicity and reliability.
Amazon was one of the first companies to jump on the cloud bandwagon. In fact, Amazon didn’t just jump on it, it launched itself on to the bandwagon. The EC2 has evolved into a mammoth service. Almost infinite customizability and great emphasis on security. Pricing that is actually better than Microsoft Azure’s. These are just some reasons why EC2 is a solid choice if you’re already a cloud aficionado. If it’s first foray into the cloud world though, you’re better off opting for a service better geared towards beginners, such as Azure.
Since Linux is the staple operating system of the web, EC2 offers both Windows and Linux-based hosting.
Support is scarce if you’re not willing to cough up money. Also, Amazon’s heavy emphasis on security makes everything rather cumbersome.
EC2 offers a lot more control over every aspect compared to Azure. Still, all those details end up making the set-up process a tad too dry.
RackSpace’s popularity is majorly due to its focus on the open-source OpenStack cloud infrastructure. The hosting service provider has really managed to make OpenStack work despite the skepticism surrounding it.
RackSpace has better performance numbers and benchmark results than Amazon and Azure both. Also, it doesn’t all end with OpenStack. Linux and Windows based hosting is also offered. In fact the hosting company is so confident in its technical expertise that it offers paid support for Azure through its Fanatical Customer Service plan.
Also, Rackspace is insanely user-friendly. Even people who can’t tell the difference between Mac and Windows will be able to get their cloud app up and running in a few minutes with the level of support the company provides.
The only aspect where RackSpace lags behind is reliability and variety. RackSpace only has 6 data centers around the world but still somehow manages to perform better than Amazon’s frequently clogged infrastructure. Its terms and conditions, though, are slightly shady when it comes to downtime. I’d advise potential users to be really careful.
Long story short, if you’re a cloud newbie and just need to get your application up and running then RackSpace is for you.
If your demands are heavy, then you’re better off looking at Amazon’s services.
This category will explore services like Google Drive which provide file-syncing and highly flexible online storage services
Google Drive is the best storage service provider if you compare it solely on value/cost ratio. 15GB of free space, virtually no file-size limit and the ability to edit documents on-the-fly, all for free. The search-engine giant has rapidly improved Drive since introducing it as an add-on for its Gmail users’ convenience.
Like DropBox and a bunch of other cloud storage providers, Drive also offers a synced folder on your computer/phone. Anything sent to this folder will automatically be uploaded to Drive.
One of the features I really love is the ability to edit the same document in real-time with other people. It takes collaboration to the next level.
Of course Drive’s tight integration with the rest of Google’s services means that it’ll become indispensable once you start using it. Google Docs, for one, goes hand in hand with Drive. It handles all Microsoft Office files.
If you’re not satisfied with the free version features, you can get up to 16TB worth of storage space with their paid plans. Slick, isn’t it?
Simple, elegant and okay free-version features. That is what DropBox is, literally. With apps available for every platform you can name, DropBox ensures you’ll have access to your files anywhere as long you have a working internet connection. Android, iOS, BlackBerry, Kindle Fire, just name it.
DropBox’s synced folder setup is the best across all cloud storage providers. File-sharing is a breeze. The real qualm we have with DropBox is its pricing. It only offers 2GB of space with its free version; let’s be honest with ourselves, 2GB is next to nothing in this age.
If you’re willing to cough up money, though, then it’s a slightly different story. Starting with their Pro package (1 TB of storage space for $99 per annum or $9.99 per month), DropBox will provide you with priority support.
DropBox has a nifty bandwidth-saving trick up its sleeve: whenever changes are made to a file and syncing is needed, the whole file isn’t downloaded again. Instead DropBox keeps tracks of all the changes made and then only downloads the changes that have been made.
Also, DropBox doesn’t get rid of your files as soon as you delete them. In fact, it keeps deleted files on its servers for up to 30 days, in case you decide that the files weren’t as useless as you thought they were. Nifty, all right.
DropBox is one fine cloud storage provider if you’re willing to pay.
Microsoft and Google, once again competing against each other for the crown in yet another arena.
it’s no secret that Microsoft’s Windows still owns a majority of the PC/Laptop OS market share. OneDrive fully capitalizes on that advantage. The free version of OneDrive (Formerly known as SkyDrive) offers 7GB worth of storage space. Not bad at all.
The paid plans, on the other hand are quite reasonable considering the unreal integration OneDrive has across all Windows platforms. The rate is £16 per every additional 50GB you buy.
File syncing with OneDrive is cautiously intelligent. OneDrive does not automatically download files to its folder on your device. Instead, it just caches the most frequently used files and downloads others on demand. Such a move makes sense when you consider that a good majority of laptops today come with high-speed but relatively low-capacity solid state drives. It’s nice thinking on Microsoft’s part to be honest.
If you deal with a lot of Office documents, you’ll be pleased to know that Microsoft has added seamless integration between its Office Web Apps which basically mimic the actual Office suite on the web, and OneDrive. This means that unlike Google Drive and Google Docs, you won’t have to ‘import’ files to Office Web Apps every time you want to edit them online.
On the other hand if you use Office 2013, you’ll find that it’s easier to use OneDrive rather than the actual filesystem of the device you’re using. The integration’s that smooth.
So there it is. The three best cloud hosting services and the three best cloud storage services. A lot of factors contribute to the overall quality of service. We believe that the services reviewed here are currently the best. As always, we’d be more than happy to know what your experience with cloud hosting services, whether or not they’re on this list.