Specific to website hosting, cloud hosting works in a way such that your website pulls from the virtual resources of multiple servers to provide for all the aspects of what it takes to host your site. The cloud is the server cluster and this method of hosting makes for a balanced load. The resources are made accessible virtually and can be availed when needed.
Most affordable hosting packages are great for those who are just starting out, but as your site or service grows bigger, with more features, and more importantly, more users, you will begin to understand that you will have to move to a more expensive solution that can provide you with more processing power.
That is because most hosting packages have very little resources allocated to them. There are usually several dozen user accounts on every shared physical server, and all of them have to share the resources. If one of the users starts using too much processor time or Megabytes of RAM, the account is automatically locked until the scripts are no longer active.
But what about those times when you are reaching the limits of your current hosting package, but you still don’t want to switch to a much more expensive solution like a dedicated server? You may run into such a problem if, for example, you run out of money at exactly the moment your site gets on the first page of a popular search term in Google or you get featured on the front page of Digg or other major social networks – you know how it happens, unexpectedly and at the worse moment possible.
Well, there actually is a great solution that can get you out of those situations! It’s called CDN, or Content Distribution Networks, and it may be just the thing that will save you and your site from being overloaded with traffic and not be able to handle it.
Content Distribution Networks are a relatively new invention. The first one appeared in 2005 as a proof-of-concept project, but later grew into something much bigger. A CDN at its core is simply a network of servers, usually spread all over the world (or at least the local region, like the US or Europe), that takes over the job of serving web pages from your hosting package.
It is basically an advanced version of external caching, where your site’s pages get copied onto the whole network’s hard drives and then displayed to any users that try to access them. So, for example, if you get hit by hundreds of thousands of visitors from Digg or Facebook (and that’s a thing that few dedicated servers can handle, never mind shared hosting packages), you can use a CDN to easily display the page to them, using the power of thousands of powerful servers, and not using even a bit of your hosting package’s resources. Sounds impressive, doesn’t it?
Well, right now there are several major Content Distribution Networks online, Three of which are the most recommended and two of them are actually free!
The first one, Coral CDN, is comprised of servers owned by volunteers who agreed to participate all over the world and installed the CDN software on their machines, which most of the times were just idling or not being used at their full potential (that’s why most of them agree to it in the first place) and is absolutely free for anyone to use.
The second is CloudFlare, one of the most popular content delivery networks, mainly because they have a free plan option and a lot of web hosting companies have an easy setup option integrated into their control panels for easy setup. CloudFlare is an excellent way to speed up your website’s loading time, increase security and reduce spam.
The third is MaxCDN, which is operated by a company that rents all of their network’s servers from hosting providers all around the world. That makes it more reliable, faster and it also gives you the ability to do other interesting things, like keep your whole site stored on the CDN. That can be very useful when you’re moving to another hosting, but don’t want to lose any readers. The visitors will see your site just as they normally would, while you are switching servers or even hosting companies in the background. The service is a bit expensive, but it’s worth it.
If you want to significantly reduce the load on your hosting package, you should definitely try a CDN, especially when there are options that are completely free like CloudFlare.