Who Gives a Crap About “The Cloud”?

That was my question all through HostingCon last year. Almost every pillar seminar had some mention about “the cloud” outside of any context that meant anything other than finding an excuse to talk about cloud hosting.  But really, who cares about cloud hosting?

No really — I’d like to know who thinks cloud hosting is really worth its hype and would benefit a hosting provider offering shared hosting services.

You need special hardware and software to efficiently support a cloud hosting platform. It’s not like a cPanel server you can turn on and set up – and I so far haven’t come across any [good] user-side control panels available for cloud hosting. That means that you’re going to have to find a way to come up with your own.  Since the hardware is also specialized, I’m sure the scope of vendors is limited, and those vendors probably take full advantage of that by cranking up their prices.

And…

The purpose of cloud hosting is expandability and reliability. You have multiple servers working in tandem serving sites, so if one server has a problem, the others pick up the slack. Then if you plan on doing what other hosting providers so, you’ll charge your clients based on how much system resources they are using instead of changing their hosting plan every time they have a burst of traffic. The part about the stability is great – but the same can be achieved by load balancing.  And not limiting a user’s resources but charging them for what they actually use is great too – until they use too much, especially in conjunction with other users on the system who are coincidently “overusing” resources as well.  But you’re probably losing money, and fooling those customers into thinking that they can get away with running that junk on a shared server.  Thank you, Mr. Over-Cloudy Shared Hosting Provider, for providing a false sense of need to your customers so they cause a problem for the rest of us when they decide to switch hosts.  

I don’t know how they do it in the cloudy wonderland up there, but in the real world of hosting, if one of my customers is burning an excessive amount of CPU cycles, they’re not going to be on one of my shared servers – they’re moving to a dedicated server.  If a site gets enough traffic to warrant VPS or Dedicated hosting, why would you willingly keep them on a shared server? You’re stunting your revenue by 1) allowing high resource customers to pay for shared hosting, even if the cost fluctuates based on their usage, and 2) decreasing your shared server capacity so you end up needing more servers to accommodate users that shouldn’t be on them to begin with.When a server runs out of resources it runs out of resources – whether it’s one server or 10 servers “clouded” together.

Cloud hosting tends to only beneficial to the customer, who is certainly getting the better end of the deal by costing you money.  I’m just going to put it out there that while customers probably like the concept of cloud hosting, most probably have no idea what it actually is, and wouldn’t notice any change in hosting quality from that of a standalone or clustered hosting solution.  So I’m sure you could actually just run their site off a crap dedicated server with 100 other customers and randomly change their hosting bill every month to make it look like they’re getting cloud hosting, then laugh while they talk about how awesome it is to be on the cutting edge of technology.  Heh.

That also brings up a customer service point about cost.  I checked a few pricing points for cloud hosting providers, most of which charge on a percentage of RAM and CPU cycles used per month.  To me, that just screams customer service problems. Most of the time when I try to tell a customer that they are using too much CPU on a shared server, the first thing they do is either deny it, or blame it on us.  You can imagine what would happen if a customer’s traffic quadrupled one month and they look at their bill, suddenly realizing that they were charged more.  A majority of your customers are likely non-technical and therefore not going to understand why their hosting charges changed.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not against cloud hosting, I just don’t care for it, and I’m tired of hearing about.  If you’re a hosting consumer and looking for hosting and your site is as massive as Google, you could benefit from a dedicated cloud hosting solution. But otherwise, just stick with the simple stuff. Standalone and clustered servers have been used for years, and tend to be very reliable if managed efficiently.

I mean, people thought the iPad was going to be the next best thing but it turned out to be a piece of shit.

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