Web Hosting vs Cloud Hosting – What’s the Difference?

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Creating a website can be confusing, especially when choosing between web hosting and cloud hosting. With thousands of new websites launched daily, making the right choice is crucial to avoid wasting time and money.

Let’s break down the key differences between web hosting and cloud hosting so you can make the best choice for your website.

Web Hosting vs Cloud Hosting

Web Hosting is a highly generic term that refers to a service that allows you to store files where they can be served up as web pages on the Internet. Typically, a server is used to store files, while web server software which is on that same server handles delivering those files to visitors when a request is made.

You can learn more about the different type of web hosting in this article.

Cloud Hosting refers to a specific type of web hosting that utilizes multiple interconnected servers to host websites, rather than relying on a single server.

See our list of best cloud-based hosting here.

Cloud Hosting is the Subset of Web Hosting

Cloud Hosting is a sub-category under web hosting.

While both web and cloud hosting serve the same fundamental objective, how it’s done behind the scene is where the magic happens.

Think of these two as “category” and “sub-category.” Web Hosting will be a broad category like “fruits,” while Cloud Hosting is a sub-category under “fruits,” such as “bananas.” 

Because of this categorical relationship, “Web Hosting” and “Cloud Hosting” share some base similarities but may differ in other areas. 

Example: Web Hosting Plans

Hostinger web hosting pricing
Example of “Web Hosting” packages at Hostinger – Users pay fixed amounts of monthly subscription fees to host their websites with the provider > Learn more and signup.

Example: Cloud Hosting Plans

Digital Ocean pricing
Example of “Cloud Hosting” packages at Digital Ocean – Users pay according to their server resources usage > Learn more and signup.

How is Cloud Hosting Different Compared to Traditional Web Hosting?

How Cloud Computing Works
How Cloud Computing Works (Source: Cloudflare)

How Does a Cloud Server Work?

A cloud server functions by dividing and spreading data across multiple physical servers that are interconnected through a central network managed by a cloud computing provider. Each cloud server acts as a virtual server, pulling resources from a pool of physical servers.

When a website hosted on a cloud server experiences a change in traffic or resource demand, the cloud hosting platform automatically allocates more or fewer resources to the site, depending on the need.

Cloud Infrastructure and Management Software

The seamless allocation and reallocation of resources in cloud hosting are orchestrated by complex algorithms and specialized software designed to monitor and manage the cloud environment’s demands dynamically. These technologies continuously analyze the workload and performance requirements of websites and applications hosted on the cloud.

Specific examples of software that enable these capabilities in cloud environments include:

  • Kubernetes An open-source platform designed for automating the deployment, scaling, and operation of application containers across clusters of hosts. As the original developer of Kubernetes, Google uses this system extensively in its cloud services to manage containerized applications.
  • OpenStack An open-source software platform for cloud computing, primarily deployed as infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS). It controls large pools of compute, storage, and networking resources throughout a datacenter, managed through a dashboard or via the OpenStack API. OpenStack works with popular enterprise and open-source technologies – including PayPal and AT&T, making it ideal for heterogeneous infrastructure.
  • Apache CloudStack An open-source cloud computing and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) platform. It enables users to deploy and manage large networks of virtual machines. CloudStack is used by a number of service providers to offer public cloud services, as well as by many companies to provide an on-premises (private) cloud offering.

Key Differences Between Cloud and Traditional Web Hosting

Performance

Web hosting plans, in general, come with many levels of performance characteristics. Many say that Cloud hosting offers good performance, but performance still depends on the service provider. It’s more accurate to say that Cloud hosting offers more reliable hosting performance since you get dedicated resource allocations.

This reliability extends to uptime since Cloud infrastructure is incredibly robust. If one component fails, another will take its place while repairs or replacements occur. Unless something terrible happens, Cloud hosting seldom suffers disastrous failures.

Scalability

Because various equipment and services are linked, the potential of Cloud infrastructure goes way beyond a single server. Think of it as a cluster of servers that work together. Anytime you need more resources, the administrator can simply expand the cloud with more equipment.

Cloud hosting is also the best option for companies that need to scale quickly or have an unpredictable workload. It allows you to add and remove resources on-demand, reducing costs when there are fewer users and reducing waste during peak hours. 

Other web hosting service options may offer some perception of scalability. For example, you may think moving from one shared hosting plan to the next level is scalability. In a way, that’s true, but the move offers less potential than scaling up specific dedicated resources.

Security

Cloud hosting is secure, but it’s important to know that this security is relative. For example, it’s more secure than shared hosting but less secure than expensive options like on-premise servers. Overall, however, the isolated environments mean that security is pretty robust.

Web hosting plans differ the most in how security works. At the lower end of the spectrum, shared hosting is notoriously insecure. It’s always best to consider the type of your website first when looking towards web host security needs.

Pricing

Cloud hosting is generally affordable since you only pay for what you use. In some cases, it may be cheaper than more expensive shared hosting plans. Additionally, many Cloud providers work on a pay-as-you-go model instead of charging upfront fees for extended contracts.

It’s important to know that web hosting plans have massive variations in price even among the same category. For example, shared hosting can cost anywhere from $2/mo to over $10/mo. Cloud hosting may start at $6, but there is seldom a top limit to its price ceiling.

Server Management

If that sounds excellent, then you’d be right and wrong. The potential of Cloud hosting is awesome, but it’s also more complex to manage than other forms of web hosting like shared hosting. 

You’ll need many skills like network configuration, application deployment and management, and cybersecurity. If not, hiring the expertise may come at steep prices that add considerably to your bottom line.

I’ve tried deploying and configuring a Cloud server from scratch before, and I can tell you that it’s an absolute nightmare. Even if you get everything right by some chance, the maintenance and upkeep of an unmanaged Cloud server are enough to drive anyone insane. 

When to Choose Cloud Hosting?

Because of its reliability and scalability, Cloud hosting does exceptionally well in commercial web hosting environments. These are situations where websites serve a vital customer-facing role and can influence the financials and reputation of a company.

Examples of these roles include:

  • Business websites.
  • eCommerce websites or online stores.
  • Web services.
  • Mission-critical services.

And more.

Solving the Cloud Management Dilemma with IaaS

The Cloudways management interface makes it possible for almost anyone to use Cloud hosting.
The Cloudways management interface makes it possible for almost anyone to use Cloud hosting.

As mentioned above, the main challenge to Cloud hosting adoption for many users is the highly complex management needs. Most website owners are used to simplified web hosting models like shared hosting.

These scenarios lead to “spoon-fed” results whereby many web hosting users lack the technical skills to manage Cloud hosting environments. You can solve this problem by either learning the needed skills or hiring staff who have them.

Using Cloud Management Platform Providers

However, there is a Plan C, and that is to look toward an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) provider. One of the best examples I can think of in this scenario is Cloudways

Instead of offering Cloud hosting, Cloudways provides a management interface that works with several different Cloud hosting providers. These include Digital Ocean, VULTR, AWS, and Google Cloud.

The result is a shared hosting-like experience with all the advantages of Cloud hosting. While the service bumps prices upward, it’s nowhere near what you’d have to pay to onboard new talent.

Final Thought: Be Caution of Your Web Hosting Needs

It’s clear that web hosting and Cloud hosting have a lot in common. After all, they’re essentially the same thing, albeit with different characteristics. Ultimately, we’re back to answering the same question – which is better for your website?

Web Hosting vs Cloud Hosting Summary

FeatureWeb HostingCloud Hosting
DefinitionA service that stores and serves website files.Uses a network of servers to host websites.
PerformanceVaries based on server resources.More reliable due to distributed resources.
ScalabilityLimited scalability, often requires plan upgrades.Highly scalable, can easily add/remove resources.
SecurityVaries, less secure in shared environments.More secure with isolated environments.
ManagementGenerally simpler to manage.More complex, may require technical expertise.
PricingFixed monthly fees.Pay-as-you-go model, based on resource usage.
ExampleHostinger, ScalaHosting, GreenGeeksCloudways, Digital Ocean, Kamatera

By now, you can tell that you must have web hosting and that Cloud hosting is an excellent choice. The Cloud today is highly affordable and, thanks to IaaS providers like Cloudways, simple to use.

While I don’t recommend Cloud hosting to absolute beginners, it isn’t as impossible to use as it used to be in the past.


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Article by Jerry Low

Jerry Low has immersed himself in web technologies for over a decade and has built many successful sites from scratch. He is a self-professed geek who has made it his life’s ambition to keep the web hosting industry honest. For latest personal updates and news, follow Jerry on Facebook and Twitter.
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