Cloud Server Hosting vs. Dedicated Server Hosting

Posted by | August 26, 2011 | Featured, Hosting | 2 Comments

Determining the ultimate web hosting solution is not inevitable in it’s conclusion – it is only ever achieved by a means of filtering down through every possible individual requirement and preference. These preferences and requirements fluctuate immensely for each individual scenario. Ergo it is imperative to first learn the facts, benefits and the drawbacks to a seemingly endless array of possible configurations and hosting available.

This article has been crafted to serve you as the beacon of light we hope shall guide you safely and graciously to the truth of the matter, amidst a dark and turbulent sea of uncertainty, misunderstanding and jargon. Within this comparison article reside teachings of the facts and terminologies that are essential for you to take on board if you are to gracefully navigate your way to comprehension of the important technical information concerning your hosting. We hope that by the time you are finished reading, you have drawn your own conclusion based on the information provided and premonition of your future hosting desires. We encourage you to formulate your own conclusion as to whether a dedicated server or a cloud server, is the better option for you personally. Not simply for now, but for the future also.

We have discovered on some of our own voyages into cyberspace that some of the views you may encounter can in fact insinuate that cloud server hosting is inferior or belittled when compared to traditional dedicated server hosting. These are clearly views with narrow perspectives on what cloud hosting is, moreover what it is doing for the evolution of server-side computer technology. We have found such suggestions to be profoundly humorous as cloud hosting is without question a highly robust and scalable hosting solution and is unrivalled in it’s flexibility of computing power and resources.

An instance of the aforementioned elasticity of cloud hosting, would be an innate ability to have at it’s disposal a means to increase it’s virtual amount of CPU Power, HDD Space and RAM. A dedicated server on the other hand, provides you solely with a fixed amount of resources. Furthermore, to revise the amount of resources a dedicated server has at it’s disposal is a time consuming process and it involves considerable downtime of your server. With a cloud server, this downtime exists for a matter of seconds as opposed to hours in some cases for dedicated servers as the hosting provider physically upgrade or downgrade the hardware.

Downtime is a fundamental issue with the modification of dedicated server resources

We are able to deduce a theory from this point, which is that dedicated servers are likely to be the inferior hosting solution, due to their static properties. Allow us to explain…

Dynamic Hosting vs. Static Hosting – A Cyber Showdown

If you are unsure of the difference between dynamic and static hosting, or would like to clarify a defining term for your current hosting type, you can follow this simple conditional logic:

  • If you have traditional VPS hosting, dedicated server hosting or shared hosting, these are “static”.
  • If you have a cloud server or cloud CDN, you can relate your hosting type to the term “dynamic”.

Have you ever heard us web developers waffle on about the advantages of having dynamic websites as opposed to static websites?

It has become a common trait of our industry that static websites are ridiculed, while dynamic websites are praised – not without legitimate reasoning of course. The truth however, is that the decision is primarily purpose driven, in which budget and time scale are both factors and moreover there can be no generalisation of right or wrong for each and every situation.

Invoking an assumption of the individual scenario, a dynamic website is the direction in which development should take place, as it offers enormous flexibility in the foundation of a website and it’s residing content. This added flexibility, can also add time to the development process and therefore cost. However, the elasticity of solutions provided by dynamic websites has become increasingly more accessible and more refined, it’s expansion fuelled by developments in open source CMS platforms such as WordPress.

How does this relate to the debate of cloud vs. dedicated hosting?

There is an underlying euphemism with dynamic and static websites, which goes as follows:

Cloud servers are dynamic, while dedicated and shared servers are static.

To fully understand the similarities: In the same way that static websites are generally inferior to dynamic websites, this concept also applies to hosting in many ways.

Therefore, views expressed by web developers which promote static servers are bypassing a frequently required ability to seamlessly and effectively increase web hosting resources, on-the-fly, should the need arise. It also outlines a significant lack of clarity within the industry itself on the nature of emerging technologies such as cloud computing – as it is currently and where it leads to in the future.

An example of this would be when asked something similar to the following: What if a hosted website is mentioned in a major news publication, or is genuinely subject to a heavy influx of traffic for any reason?

If the website’s data is housed on a cloud server, you can simply boost the computing resources in a matter of seconds. This can be an automated process with some cloud hosting providers. Going the dedicated server route effectively locks you in to a pre-set quota of server resources. There are also a number of technical factors involved in this process, many of which are explained in the following FAQ’s…

Going Into Depth With FAQ’s…


Burstable Resources. What Are They, What Do They Provide?

Burstable resources are for the most part only available on cloud server hosting and play a role in what makes cloud hosting the robust server framework that it is. The term: Burstable – when applied to hosting, means if a certain amount of resources are available, but currently unused throughout the server or cluster of servers home to your cloud hosting container, then any additional required amount of these resources is automatically allocated. These exchanges of computer resources, make full use of all or most of the resources available at any given time. It is not only more efficient in terms of overall power usage, it can be helpful when dealing with suddenly increased amounts of inbound traffic.

In simple terms, if you have access to burstable resources, you are not limited to the default resources of your server hardware. Traditional dedicated servers are less likely to have access to burstable resources than cloud servers, but it is a good idea to check the burstable resource allocation details with the hosting provider.

Burstable resources are not guaranteed to be available to every server, 100% of the time. For example at peak times there will be, by generic assumption and probability, less resources available to your server than at off-peak times. Most hosting providers will cap the amount of burstable resources available to you at roughly double your current server specs, as to prevent misuse of the system.


Denial of Service (DoS & DDoS) Attacks. Is Anyone Safe?

The subject of DoS and DDoS is rather in-depth and goes far beyond the scope of this article. There is a theoretical correlation to the subject of cloud vs. dedicated servers in the following way:

If your server lives in the cloud, it is more likely to have access to the burstable resources and has the resource scaling abilities mentioned previously. Cloud servers have this flexibility which can help when it comes to protecting from DoS or DDoS attacks. In the event of a full-scale attack this is not entirely relevant, as those extra resources will likely be consumed by the attack also. Dedicated servers are limited to their static resources and would not be able to do this.

By law of average, dedicated servers are more vulnerable to DoS and DDoS attacks.

In any case – with ignorance of technicalities and assumptions applied, the effects of a DoS or DDoS attack will be similar. Irrespective of whether you are hosting on a dedicated server or a cloud server. Moreover the act of causing Denial of Service is illegal, on an international scale. Nonetheless, it is clearly seen as an interesting topic as it has also circulated major news headlines recently.


Server Location. Does It Factor In The Equation At All?

Your server’s location plays a minor role in performance as well as to assist search engines in knowing the physical location of your website and is likely they are adding weight to those results hosted closer to you, if no other method of detecting your locale is available to them.

It is entirely possible for cloud hosted websites to be spread over many different locations and then have your data served from the closest location. A dedicated server will only ever exist in one specific location and furthermore moving one would be impossible or ensues significant downtime. If you’re feeling adventurous, you could also set up a CDN or secondary server in an alternate location to cater for the more resource-intensive parts of your website, or to act as a data mirror provided from a different location automatically.

However, the round trip time for data between the U.S. and the U.K. is around 70 milliseconds. So the data you receive from overseas is delayed by this amount of time, this factor borderlines unnoticeable, especially for websites with decent performance optimisations.

Firefox users can find out server locations accurately and reliably by installing FlagFox.


File I/O Performance. Is File I/O An Issue With Cloud Hosting?

There are 2 types of hard disk available for any server, whether on cloud hosting or dedicated hosting, these are: Solid State Drives and Rotational Disk Drives. For those who are not computer nerds, file I/O is the input/output of data – the inner workings of any hard drive when it saves to files or reads from files.

Solid state drives are what are known to most people as flash drives. Rotational disk drives, are more abundant as they are considerably cheaper, however they are not without many drawbacks. For example, with rotational drives, regardless of disk speed (RPM), they suffer brutally from what is known as “rotational latency”. This is the amount of time it takes for the disk to rotate physically to each file location on the disk. The further the physical distance, the slower file access will be as the time in which it takes for the disk to rotate can never achieve higher rotational speeds and continue to retain the required precision.

This has caused what is known as a “bottleneck” in disk drive technology.

Bottlenecking has occurred in this field of computing because a new generation of processors is currently flooding the market. These processors (CPU’s) can process more data than can physically be handled by any rotational disk drive in existence. The rotational disk drive file storage method holds back all performance advantages obtained from modern processors. This means of course, developing processors to operate on rotational disk drives is futile and ultimately pointless.

Did you know?… The movement of the rotational disk is what generates a large percentage of the noise heard from traditional server rooms and data centres.

Solid state drives on the other hand, do not experience any rotational latency, at all. They also operate completely silently, adding to their beauty and elegance. There can be no denial that this type of disk technology is highly efficient and is promising for the future of computing, but it is not without technical drawbacks at present. For instance, a solid state drive can only handle approximately 100,000 disk I/O operations before it will short circuit and need to be replaced. This short-circuiting is due to the precision required to manufacture such devices, on an atomic scale. It occurs when the material used to segregate each bit of data on the drive becomes worn down by use and is inevitably breached by the electrons and results in a malfunction.

There are no prizes for guessing that this adds significantly to the cost of solid state drives. It is why flash drives are still vastly more expensive than alternatives. It also means that all devices with flash drives such as Smartphones and MP3 players have a limited lifespan that is directly related to how often they are used.

The type of disk drives being used is a crucial factor, particularly for cloud hosting…

Because cloud hosting requires many disk-intensive procedures to function, you will find that a lot of cloud servers operate on solid state drives. Therefore cloud servers with solid state drives are much more efficient at serving files than the predominantly rotational disk-based dedicated servers. This area of computing is extremely in depth and becomes increasingly more important as precision and longevity of solid state disk technologies becomes more refined. It is especially important for cloud hosting however, so ensure that you pose the question of type of disk are being used for your server, as rotational disk drives will slow it down considerably.


Downsides To Cloud Hosting. What Does It Cost?

In the spirit of being honest and unbiased, we must eventually traverse the downsides to cloud hosting. The looming inescapable downside to cloud hosting, albeit at present, is the cost. At the time of writing, it is in fact more expensive to host in the cloud than it is to to host on any type of static server. This is simply because the software and hardware involved with cloud hosting is specifically set up for the purpose of facilitating a cloud-based operating system. In turn, the software and hardware has a domino effect in costing as it is more expensive for hosting providers to set up and maintain – subsequently those additional costs are passed on to their customers.

Over time, cloud hosting will become cheaper as for example, solid state disk drive technology becomes more reliable and efficient.

On the contrary however, you may be surprised to know that the cost of cloud hosting is not entirely a negative factor. Good cloud hosting providers bill per the hour or per the day, so you only have to pay for precisely what you use. Again, in this quite dramatic twist of fate – on dedicated servers you are not able to do this. Furthermore in certain circumstances this can lead to dedicated servers actually being more expensive than cloud servers. Dedicated servers are billed at a monthly or yearly rate for a fixed amount of resources, so you are paying for resources that you are not using. You do not need to be a computer nerd to know this can be extremely inefficient in terms of cost.

The cost of cloud hosting is flexible – it is tailored to match your needs.

In terms of cost efficiency, cloud servers are likely to be a more cost efficient solution, but it is always dependant on the individual circumstances. So in actual fact, this is yet another reason why opting for cloud hosting is likely to be an enlightened choice over dedicated and shared hosting.

Final Thoughts…

Individual circumstances will always be subject to frequent changes. For this reason, there must be a compromising solution which can account for any change in circumstances, and this is exactly what cloud hosting provides. Let cloud hosting be your armour in a forever ongoing battle with change.

Cloud hosting is a classic example of “you get what you pay for” but, for most cases we believe it to be the better hosting solution.

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  • http://www.ringcentral.com/virtual-pbx/index.html PBX

    I prefer cloud servers compared dedicated servers.

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    Gavin,
     
    A tad heavy on the literacy, but that is a good thing (“There is an underlying euphemism with dynamic and static websites, which goes as follows:” – great sentence!).  As a content writer I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to see something well thought and well written.  In my recent searches I have found an endless fountain of terrible writing, affiliate marketing, and paid advertising, but very little in terms of real, honest, and helpful articles (PBX man dropping his back link below is a great example of what I typically see, incomplete sentence, not the best English use due to missing words, and no real applicable commentary on your post.).
     
    Anyway, great article.  I found your article due to my recent move away from Rackspace and search for another host provider that can support WordPress installs, preferably in a cloud environment, without some of the limitations and shortcomings of the Rackspace environment.
     
    I’m finding as we expand our services that the actual term ‘cloud’ is one that is applied to all manner of service that isn’t necessarily what you’ve correctly described here as ‘cloud services’.  We are (I hope) deciding on a platform in the next 24 hours, and will happily begin hosting again from there, depending on how onerous the move from Rackspace is.
     
    Thanks again for the informative article, and keep them coming.  Great site, great articles, and great English use. :)
     
     - Henry