The 5 best Cloud Hosting Providers
For the past few years, Cloud hosting has seen an increasing popularity over traditional hosting providers. The usability, hardware, support and pricing alone are enough to make businesses “jump on the cloud”.
But what is the “cloud”? The word is being thrown around carelessly yet no one has truly understood its meaning. There are two different kinds of “clouds”: a “public cloud” (the Internet) and a “private cloud” (a business’s intranet). Generally speaking, when referring to the “cloud”, it’s about the public cloud. “Cloud computing” refers to managing Internet or Intranet applications/services through a web browser, eliminating the need to purchase and install software on your computer.
There are three key types of cloud computing services:
Software as a Service (SaaS):
Think Microsoft Office 365, Salesforce, Google Docs, and Insightly when thinking of SaaS providers. SaaS providers offer the end-product of cloud computing.
Platform as a Service (PaaS):
Used by IT staff, PaaS allows you to create, run and manage web applications without building separate infrastructure to develop and launch them. PaaS also offers web hosting. You are able to focus most of your resources on developing applications rather than maintaining the Operating System.
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS):
IaaS providers such as Amazon EC2 and Rackspace provide services similar to PaaS providers but also offer more control over the Operating System. Your company can use the basic infrastructure to create and deliver applications on a variety of platforms and OS.
So now that you have a basic understanding of the kinds of Cloud hosting available, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of this post which is outlining the best cloud hosting providers you can consider for your business:
Voted by Forbes as the most innovative company in the world for quite a few consecutive years, Salesforce should come as no surprise at all on this list. It is a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software that manages any sales and marketing task you can think of. The Salesforce cloud gives you user authentication, data access, data security and much more.
Salesforce CRM is for a wide variety of businesses which means it is not necessary that your business should have a background in tech or software to use the platform. The CRM’s simple interface makes it a valuable asset in every company’s toolkit. You can avoid the hassle of coding and cautiously updating products with their straightforward format. Moreover, the CRM’s customization abilities allow for a flexible integration with wide-ranging business schemes giving you analytics reports that are tailored specifically to your business’s particular needs.
Additionally, AppExchange is an industry-targeted online app market that removes the risks and saves you time by enabling you to find the best tools that incorporate with your particular Salesforce needs and allows you to increase your team’s efficiency and overall growth.
Another one of the most-trusted CRM software platforms in the world is none other than Insightly. Insightly offers you comprehensive ways to track leads and manage them. You can use numerous tools to focus on contact information in methods that will personalize your communication with your customers. You can segment emails, provide your sales team with background information about leads before they contact them, ensure existing customers are encouraged to remain loyal through a reward system and much more.
Insightly also allows you to manage collaborative projects. It can get difficult to coordinate creative teams and make headway together, but with Insightly, you can create a roadmap of the project so that you can manage tasks from the beginning to the end. Set due dates, assign tasks and send reminders. Insightly ensures your team moves forward from start to finish as one collaborative whole.
The CRM also allows you to look at past projects, their timelines, documents, the team members involved in the project and any extra information you might need for specific clients. That way you can analyze what worked for your team and what didn’t, you can change in areas that need improving and enhance communication by learning what you did wrong and/or right from your past projects.
The Windows Azure is a PaaS platform that allows you to supply and manage your operating systems, a huge benefit if your apps don’t need a specific OS. You can develop, deploy and manage cloud apps without having to fuss over constant updates and reinforcements. Use any code, framework and tool to build custom apps that suit your business needs. There’s also an extensive client library which is released with an open-source license allowing you to code in a variety of languages.
You can expect three features in the Windows Azure package:
- The Web Feature: The OS allows the development of applications using web frameworks such as PHP, Node.js and ASP.NET.
- The Worker Feature: For web servers like Apache Tomcat and abstract computing machines such as Java Virtual Machines, the Worker role in Windows Azure will allow use arbitrary code or host any kind of application of your choice.
- The Virtual Machine Feature: You (the customer) are basically in charge of the operating system and keeping it updated.
Additionally, Microsoft’s cloud storage feature allows you to store different kinds of data that you are using with your Windows Azure applications. The platform offers a pay-as-you-go pricing plan, which means you can use the service for as long as you like without having to pay a sum total months in advance. You could also make use of the free 3 month trial so that you get to have a feel for the platform before making the decision to invest.
An example of an Infrastructure as a Service platform is the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud or Amazon EC2, offered by Amazon Web Services. The platform provides the basic infrastructure for the development and enablement of any operating system your particular applications would require. Amazon EC2 will give you full control over the operating system but the only downside to it is that it lacks automatic updates and patches, so keeping your OS up-to-date is your responsibility.
Amazon EC2 provides you two database services to choose from. One provides free use of cloud services with a few restrictions, the other is a relational database that makes it easier to activate, operate and scale for running applications.
There’s a wide range of services Amazon EC2 provides besides the ones we’ve stated already:
- Preconfigured examples with common database servers (MySQL, IBM DB2 etc)
- Resource management tools
- Web servers
- Application servers
- Media servers
There are three purchasing schemes you can try Amazon EC2 with: On-Demand Instances is the first option, where you get to pay an hourly rate with no obligation whatsoever. The second option if Reserved Instances where you can pay a one-time fee in the beginning and get a discount on the hourly rate with a commitment of buying the services for one or three years. The last package is the Spot Instances in which you have to “bid on pricing” using Amazon’s calculator depending on how much you have used the service.
Rackspace is another option for an IaaS provider which offers raw infrastructure with full control over the operating system. Unlike majority of the IaaS providers (as well as Amazon EC2), Rackspace does not allow uploading of current virtual machines you already own, you have to choose between Linux and Windows versions the company provides.
The platform provides monitoring, operating software and application infrastructure level support (updates and patches included) as well as technical advice on what kind of OS the cloud servers can support. The data center makes the tall claim of being available 24/7, 365 (excluding maintenance downtime). That basically entails that the availability of this service is pretty much 99% of the time – can any hosting provider you have state this? Lastly, the company offers cloud st0rage through its own Cloud Files service.
With a wide variety of server sizes, you can buy Rackspace services that suit your needs. Although you are unable to stop the hourly charges if you’re not using the server, you will still pay less for the services by finding out how much you have used by calculating using the Rackspace’s calculator. While there is no free trial, you can still create an account on their administrative portal to get an idea of how Rackspace will work for you.
Every platform has its own advantages and disadvantages. Salesforce and Insightly are a complete CRM solution that will help you with your day-to-day sales and marketing tasks without having to lose track of leads. Windows Azure is a PaaS platform that is great if you want great service at a competitive price. And whether you choose Rackspace or Amazon EC2, you can be sure to get the bang for your buck with the range of cloud services each of them provides.
Figuring out what to choose is largely contingent on your business needs and what the service would be used for. Determine what you would use the Cloud Hosting services for and how much OS control you prefer when developing applications. Lastly, keep an eye out for data security and make sure you double check what kind of encryption solutions the company provides. Although a more expensive option than a sole-purpose server, cloud hosting websites is a great option for large businesses that seek more independence and control that traditional servers offer.