Unlike traditional hosting that provides space for websites on a dedicated or shared physical server, cloud hosting relies on the capabilities of a virtual server. Cloud servers are created by using virtual machines. While you can go the self-hosted route and build your virtual server, the most popular options include renting space from public or private infrastructure providers. Before you start searching for cloud server hosting services for your project, let’s take a look at how cloud hosting works and what it takes to set up a server.
Cloud Hosting Essentials
How does a cloud server work? It’s a virtual server hosted on a cloud computing platform. Users can access it remotely through the Internet. Every server operates as an independent unit and can be scaled up and down when needed.
The three main types of servers include private, public and hybrid options.
Similar to its physical counterpart, a private virtual server runs on a company’s infrastructure. You need to set up a network, boot a virtual machine and create your own VM instance. A private virtual server is usually accessible only to the local users (your employees). External access through the Internet can also be made available.
Public or IaaS servers offer you an option to rent their virtual space and computing capabilities. Most popular public platforms include Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, and Microsoft Azure. They are a great alternative to private servers if you have budget constraints. But many established businesses also rely on the power of IaaS because of almost infinite scalability and stellar technical support.
Hybrid clouds are private servers that exchange data with public platforms. For example, you can place your most sensitive data in a private environment and let an IaaS server take control of less important applications and backups.
Advantages of Virtual Hosting
- Cloud servers help their users bring down development and maintenance costs.
- Storage and computing power can be scaled in response to changing application load.
- Networking allows combining the power of several servers, distributing the load, and ensuring a seamless end-user experience.
- Cloud servers are more stable and secure than their physical counterparts.
- Unlike shared physical hosting, cloud servers isolate every instance from its environment.
- IaaS platforms provide state-of-the-art anti-virus software, firewalls, and monitoring options.
- If you have a project that receives highly variable user traffic, cloud hosting is your only sensible choice.
Companies continue to migrate to the cloud for their hosting needs. The public cloud computing market alone is expected to be worth $0.8 trillion by 2025.
Choosing a Cloud Hosting Provider
There are hundreds of hosting service providers out there. You should choose the one that offers a perfect mix of affordability, scalability, and customer service. The Big Three IaaS providers (Amazon, Microsoft, and Google) remain the go-to option for more than 60% of users. But partnering with a trustworthy niche web hosting provider can be a better choice for start-ups and smaller businesses, both money-wise and from a technical point of view. Most companies don’t need all the complexities offered by the IaaS giants.
Setting Up a Server
Most providers will set up a server for you and help migrate your data. However, if you want to understand the basics of cloud hosting, it’s recommended that you try and create your own server using a free option, offered by large IaaS providers. We will be using Google Cloud Platform as an example.
Creating Your Account and Signing In
It takes about 20 minutes to create and run a Google Cloud server. You have to start with logging into your regular Google account. Then go to Google Cloud’s website and select the “Get started for free” option.
You will be required to provide your credit card data. However, all new users receive a $300 sign-up bonus, and you can cancel your GCP account any time you want. So, technically you are free to tinker with the platform until you run out of your $300 bonus.
Running a New Computing Engine Instance
The second step requires you to head over to the “Compute Engine” menu and select “VM Instances.” You can create and run a virtual machine, where you will be hosting your server. When the “Create” button becomes clickable, press it to set up the settings of your server environment.
- Set a name for your server. You can use 62 lowercase characters, including hyphens and numbers.
- Select your geographical region. If you create a server as a part of your learning experience, choose your region. If you want to try a real web project, select the region where your potential visitors and customers live.
- Select your zone. A zone is the location of the data center that will process and store your data. Either choose the one that is closest to your or your customers.
- The “Machine Type” option allows you to select and configure the technical parameters of your server environment. Select how much memory and processing power you need. This setting can be changed at any time.
- By choosing a boot disk, you can use one of several Linux-based operating systems, including Debian, Ubuntu, and CentOS. Choose the default option, or select the OS you are the most familiar with.
- Under the “Firewall” option, enable both HTTP and HTTPS traffic, to make sure that your virtual server can be accessed through the Internet.
After you have selected all the parameters and pressed “Create,” Google will build a new computing instance for you.
Start Using Your Cloud Server
Now you have your server up and running. You can access it through the GCP console by selecting the “SSH” connect option. A new browser window will pop up with an open terminal inside.
After you have finished tinkering with the server, make sure to press the “Stop” button located in the VM instances menu. If you experience any troubles, use a “Reset” button. It will restart your virtual server.
Opt for cloud hosting if you want to have a reliable, scalable solution for your web application development. Before you choose a hosting provider, try setting up and running your own virtual server to get the hang of it.