Cloud Hosting vs Dedicated Hosting

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The choice between cloud hosting or dedicated hosting often comes down to your requirements for your host, we break this down into the key areas for any hosting solution:

Scale – This is probably the biggest single advantage of cloud hosting, scaling up beyond a single server is notoriously difficult on a dedicated server setup – load balancing, maintaining sessions across different machines and a host of other issues make scaling up very tricky.
Cloud hosting by comparison allows painless scaling by spinning up more instances as required, instances can be programatically spun up and destroyed as required meaning the application can handle all the scaling without need for intervention. In addition to writing custom code, third-party products such as RightScale can sit on top of a cloud hosting instance and automatically implement all the scaling.Cost – Dedicated hosting still has a pricing advantage for small installations. A single low-spec (2GB RAM, 160 GB Storage, 2Ghz single-core CPU) dedicated server will cost about $130 per month for dedicated hosting, but this usually comes with a huge amount of bandwidth (2TB per month on Server Beach for example).  By contrast, cloud hosts charge a little less for the ‘hardware’ – a similar spec’d server at RackSpace Cloud Servers costs about $90 per month, however bandwidth is usually charged between $0.11 – $0.14 per GB , so if your users will require a lot of bandwidth cloud hosting can work out more expensive (although it should be noted, if you are using a lot of bandwidth you should be using a CDN)Requirement for OS/Hardware Access – A major drawback of cloud hosting is the lack of access to the operating system and/or hardware. If you need to fine-tune the software/hardware stack then dedicated hosting is the only way to go.Security – Theoretically a cloud server should be less secure than a dedicated host, if your ‘instance’ is part of a cluster of machines that will inherently be less secure than an isolated machine which has fewer connections. However, against this must be weighed the fact that cloud hosts will (or should!) have a dedicated security team to patch the OS when necessary and implement security best practices which will often not be fully adhered to if you have to manage the security of a dedicated host yourself.
In practice, the greatest vulnerabilities are usually at the application level which is independent of the platform.Simplicity – Cloud servers are far simpler to administrate than dedicated servers, adding servers can be done via a control panel and all the OS patching is fully managed.Reliability – There is no definitive winner here, cloud servers have built in failover so you will not notice a hardware/server failure. However it should be remembered that a cloud host is actually in  a cluster of servers which you share with other users, severe slowdowns can occur from the other users running long running queries on the cluster.

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So cloud hosting stacks up very well against dedicated hosts and if you run a simple application such as a CMS powered website then a cloud host is almost certainly the right choice, however if you need a very specialized solution then dedicated hosting (or co-lo) can still be the best choice.

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