By Meredith Barnhill
For small companies, hosting a Web site on a local server can be a huge expense to set up and maintain. Most companies choose to host their site on a shared hosting plan instead. Recently, a small number of Web hosts have moved their shared Web hosting plans to a cloud computing infrastructure to better manage data flowing to and from the servers where these companies' Web sites live.
What Is Cloud Computing?
Cloud computing is a new buzz word that can be used to describe several different Internet concepts. For shared Web hosting, it means that a Web host links together hundreds of servers to act as an enormous, single server with multiple Internet connections. The resulting space is called "the cloud."
Most Web hosting companies do not use a cloud configuration for shared Web hosting. When you host your Web site at one of these companies, your site is housed on a single server with other customers' sites, and every Web site on that server has access only to the processing power and Internet connections of that one server.
Advantages to Cloud-Based Hosting
When you choose a Web host with a cloud configuration, your Web site has access to the processing power and connections of the entire group of servers. When traffic spikes or a server stops working, the resources of many servers are accessed to make up for the loss of processor power. This makes site crashes and slow downs extremely rare.
And during times of slow traffic, only a few servers are used, which reduces the amount of power consumed and makes the system energy efficient.
Disadvantages to the Cloud
Since cloud computing is relatively new, there are still questions about long term stability. Companies rise and fold quickly in the technology sector so it's important to choose a well-established hosting company with experience in cloud infrastructure.
About the Author
Meredith Barnhill is a multimedia journalist who operates within the cloud. She consulted Matt Glazer of GNI, Strategies, a small, political consulting firm focusing on online strategies, for this article.