For anyone looking to purchase web hosting for the first time, the term cloud can be confusing. If you feel the same, then this article is for you. We will discuss here the important differences between cloud and shared hosting.

When I started to create websites in 2013, cloud computing was not as buzzy as today.

It was still there but a normal customer had only three types of web hosting to worry about:

  • Shared
  • VPS
  • Dedicated

For any new website with low traffic, Shared was the obvious choice.

Later, more and more web hosts started providing cloud-based hosting packages at affordable prices. Instead of babbling about scalability and reliability, I wanted to know why the cloud is such a big deal.

So, I started reading about the underlying technologies behind Cloud computing like virtualization and hypervisors. In this article, I will try to explain what I have understood in the context of hosting websites.

What is Shared Hosting?

When you buy shared hosting, you get a user account on a server residing in some data center. Apart from yours, the server may be home for several other accounts as well.

Usually, these accounts are created using CPanel or Plesk. This software allows the system admin to create and manage multiple user accounts on the same physical server for customers like you.

So, in effect, all the users on that server are sharing the same resources including RAM and CPU power. If someone else overuses the resources, your sites can also get affected.

Also, if the provider tries to stuff a lot of accounts on a single server, everyone can get affected. That's the main reason behind the sluggish performance of some cheap hosts.

On the plus side, this allows companies to provide hosting services at a low price.

Pros of Shared Hosting

  • Economical
  • Minimal technical expertise required

Cons of Shared Hosting

  • Relies on a single physical server
  • Sharing system resources with other users
  • No root access

What is Cloud Hosting

The infrastructure behind the cloud is not as simple as that of a shared environment. It involves several layers.

At the heart of cloud hosting is Virtualisation. It is the same technology used in Virtual Private Servers (VPS) to create multiple virtual machines from a single physical server. So, on a basic level, a Cloud server is also a VPS.

The software used for creating virtual machines out of real machines is called a hypervisor. A few examples are:

  • KVM
  • VMware
  • Xen

According to an article published in The Register, Amazon AWS uses a customized version of the KVM hypervisor to virtualize their machines. Earlier, they were using Xen.

In addition to it, a Cloud service uses cloud computing software to create and manage virtual machines via hypervisors. These hypervisors can be from multiple physical servers located at different geographical locations connected by a network.

It enables automated creation and scaling of virtual machines when the demand arises.

A few examples of cloud computing software are:

Both are open source software platforms many companies use to build their cloud infrastructure.

In short, when you buy a 2GB instance from a cloud provider, it is not a physical machine with 2GB memory. It is only a virtual instance provisioned by the cloud software from the real resources it manages through hypervisors.

With that, we can look at the main advantages a Cloud platform offers.

Pros of Cloud Hosting

  • On-demand creation and destruction of virtual instances.
  • Does not depend on a physical server
  • Easy to scale
  • Virtualized environment instead of a shared one
  • Offers pay-as-you-go or hourly pricing
  • Gives more control and root access

Cons of Cloud Hosting

  • Needs technical knowledge to manage
  • Reliability is better than traditional hosting, but still, outages can occur

Conclusion - Which One Should You Choose?

For a beginner, shared hosting is still the most economical choice. You don't need to worry much about the technical side either.

As your demands grow, moving to a cloud environment is more beneficial. Price-wise, it is often more cost-effective than a VPS because you only have to pay for what you use. You can easily scale up or down. Not all of them offer hourly pricing though.

With cloud hosting, the task of maintaining your machine is upon you. Managed cloud hosting providers like Cloudways and ServerPilot help you to get the benefits of the cloud without worrying about the infrastructure. However, it is more expensive.

See also:

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