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I'm currently looking for a hosting company that can provide a very solid service with a 100% SLA.

In the search both cloud hosting and managed dedicated hosting have come up. (I'd rather not manage the server myself as I'm still rather new to Linux.)

I'm not sure if phrasing this as a "which is best" would make sense, but what advantages does cloud hosting have over dedicated server hosting?

I need a reliable service above all else, and some elements of the application to be hosted will be relatively CPU intensive, although those spikes in CPU usage will be sporadic, so the hosting needs to be able to deal with that.

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5 Answers 5

up vote 8 down vote accepted

what advantages does cloud hosting have over dedicated server hosting?

There is no answer to that in the abstract; or the general answer to that is at least too long to type up here. You need to start with a picture of which architecture you desire and which load you forecast, and then evaluate the hosting architecture on that basis. Just for a beginning, which programming language you're using matters a great deal, and you didn't say.

To give you a partial answer, in short form:

  • Understand the CAP theorem. Cloud hosting usually offers storage APIs that lean to the A-P side of CAP, such as Amazon SimpleDB and S3.
  • Cloud hosting implies that scaling out will not be a problem, i.e. you can spool up 100 new servers without prior warning, and you will get them.
  • Cloud hosting should have some network-centric and monitoring-centric addons that make managing a fleet of servers easier, fx HTTP load balancing, monitoring, auto-scaling.

Please note that:

  • If you're just using a few servers, then cloud computing isn't really that different from traditional VPS hosting.
  • If you use those highly scalable storage APIs (like SimpleDB), then you do of course gain a platform to handle lots of growth. On the flip side, you're also strongly locked in by the cloud computing vendor.

I need a reliable service above all else

That IMHO points to either:

  • A fully managed VPS or dedicated server provider like Rackspace, Engine Yard, Joyent and others.

OR

  • A 'full-stack' cloud computing provider like Google App Engine or Windows Azure (as opposed to Amazon EC2, which requires you to manage the operating system, backups, security patching etc yourself).

Either of the above would be good starting points -- but again, it comes down to the specifics of your architecture, and your growth expectations.

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Mortenesen: +1 I think this is the 1st complete and clear answer I read on the internet about the pros/cons of standard hosting compared to cloud hosting. I would also add that many times also scaling over a VPS is not that hard (unless you need huge scaling), most fully managed VPS can increase your VPS space and bandwidth by simply upgrading to a more expensive plan, and they do it pretty fast, you won't even notice a downtime of your server. –  Marco Demaio Sep 6 '10 at 12:16
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Without an idea of the kind of traffic you'll be seeing or your plans for growth, I can't speak to whether you'll do better with a clustered/grid-computing option or a traditional dedicated server, however, (as I've worked in the hosting industry for years) I can say that you will not find a reputable company with a 100% SLA - there is no such thing as guaranteed 100% uptime with any service and anyone who promises as much is hiding something (perhaps something so simple as overcharging every month to allow for credit issuance in the event of downtime).

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+1 for mentioning there is no such thing as 100% uptime –  John Conde Sep 6 '10 at 13:54
    
There are actually companies with 100% SLA, depending on your definition of SLA and 100%. Most people know that there are no 100% guarantees in life. And 100% SLA does not mean 100% uptime. The Earth could be hit with an asteroid and all your backup servers on all continents simultaneously taken out. But at least with a 100% SLA, you will be compensates (OK, in this case it probably doesn't matter much). The key is to determine whether the SLA warranty can cover your losses in the case of downtime (is 100% credit enough to cover your losses? 200%? 500%?) and the premium on that 100% SLA. –  Lèse majesté Oct 5 '10 at 17:26
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Cloud hosting has a lot of different meanings, but if you are talking about Platform as a Service (PaaS) or Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) then the main benefits are usually the ability to scale out to multiple servers and pay hourly instead of monthly. I wrote a blog post about VPS/VM vs Dedicated vs Cloud Servers: Hosting options and cost comparisons, and from your question it sounds like you would do just fine with a Virtual Private Server (VPS) or VM hosting provider. If uptime is your highest concern than using a Cloud hosting provider with multiple VMs behind a load balancer is your best bet for high availability. By using multiple servers you can take one down for maintinence / upgrades and not have any downtime.

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+1 Nice article! I would mention cPanel in place of Plesk as control panel, anyway the article is very clear explaining things and comparing VPS vs Cloud –  Marco Demaio Oct 11 '10 at 16:19
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+1 for 100% SLA, every mission-critical application should reside at a host who offers this. In addition I might add that every company has fine print in between the 100% SLA.

They might guarantee it on the uptime (ping) and the hardware, but the more intensive stuff comes in when they can offer a 100% SLA for the application itself. If you would like a list of providers who can offer this sort of thing, I've worked with a few I can recommend.

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How can they offer 100% SLA on the application you built? Are you implying that the web hosting is gonna go through your code and troubleshoot it when something goes haywire? Any honest web hosting SLA will only cover hardware/OS and network uptime, since that's all they have control over. If you choose to write unsecure code, not install critical patches, or run non-stable versions of software, then the web host can't do anything about the resultant downtime. Application availability is generally only guaranteed by SaaS providers. –  Lèse majesté Oct 21 '10 at 17:06
    
It would be the more extended approach of the hosting provider crossing the chasm extending beyond the scope of just becoming a vendor rather a shared mission and trusted advisor. –  Nick O'Neil Oct 27 '10 at 21:01
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A cloud service has three distinct characteristics that differentiate it from traditional hosting. It is sold on demand, typically by the minute or the hour; it is elastic -- a user can have as much or as little of a service as they want at any given time; and the service is fully managed by the provider (the consumer needs nothing but a personal computer and Internet access). Significant innovations in virtualization and distributed computing, as well as improved access to high-speed Internet and a weak economy, have accelerated interest in cloud computing.

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protected by John Conde Nov 24 '12 at 5:55

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