The second installment of this series of posts looking at how cloud hosting platforms match up to traditional dedicated hosting platforms focuses on a number of issues which businesses look for in a package, including reliability, flexibility and responsiveness.
For both the provider and the consumer there are considerable differences between cloud and dedicated in the time in which the services can be up and running. As mentioned previously, dedicated hosting platforms require considerable input from the provider, often in consultation with the client to understand the business requirements, quote for a service and then set up and provision that platform (one of the reasons for providers seeking a fixed term lock in to ensure return on that invested time).
However, cloud hosting does not require the latter of these processes. Once the level of resources required by a business customer has been defined a quote can be calculated much quicker, because the resource is already in place, and the setup time is much reduced – in some cases almost instant – as the configuration needed to provide the final service is reduced. Consequently, dedicated hosting platforms may take weeks to provision whereas cloud hosting platforms can be provisioned in a matter of minutes or hours.
What’s more, when extra resource is required from a cloud hosting platform this again can often be provided and scaled in no time at all without the need for further server setups regardless of the demand. Instead already configured pooled computer resource can be tapped into as it is required. Dedicated platforms on the other hand may require the installation of further hardware and solution stacks, for example, when the capacity of the existing setup has been exceeded, and so the time lag that that entails.
Each hosting platform has its own plus-points in the area of reliability and, conversely, it own issues on which it may be bettered. Cloud computing fundamentally relies on the premise of pooled computing resource and so redundancy is built into the core model. Whether it be within a public or private cloud, the physical liability for the hosting platform will be spread across numerous servers and so the risk of hardware/solution stack issues causing downtime is greatly spread and reduced. If one server goes offline, the hosting service will be maintained without interruption on the remaining servers. What’s more, if the hosting service utilises services from disparate data centres it can also negate the risk of localised failures (e.g., power cuts) causing downtime.
However, for a consumer the cloud model can involve ambiguities as to the stability and reliability of the underlying physical resources and the hosting provider themselves if they do not plump for a trusted provider with known network capabilities. The cloud moniker is easy and popular to apply to computing services without the necessary resources to ensure high reliability and performance and so the level of service experienced across providers can vary greatly.
Dedicated platforms however, benefit from reduced risk of failures in the first place as the server’s resources are not shared with other business’s functions and therefore are not at risk from their potential security vulnerabilities (see Part 3) or from these functions draining shared resources (bandwidth, disk space etc). The flip side of this is that any failures may take the entire server offline, although dedicated services will employ back up systems (often tape back ups which are low maintenance) to ensure that functions can be restored as quickly as possible if failures do occur – albeit not necessarily seamlessly as with cloud platforms.