Cloud hosting is the process of outsourcing an organization's computing and storage resources to a service provider that offers its infrastructure services in a utility model.
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The cloud provider oversees the setup, cloud infrastructure, security and maintenance, while sometimes allowing clients to customize hardware and applications and scale servers online. Compute and storage resources are spread out across hundreds of virtual machines (VMs) that load balance I/O demands in a cloud infrastructure configuration.
The cloud hosting model is a cheaper alternative to the traditional dedicated server model that requires companies to build and manage their own data centers. In the traditional model, servers and storage, with dedicated hardware and virtual resources, reside on premises and can be a costly capital and operating expense for organizations.
Cloud hosting benefits
Cloud hosting provides significant capital and operational savings to organizations because they don't have to spend a lot on the initial upfront capital cost associated with owning and managing data centers. IT also has the ability to scale more efficiently, using and paying only for the resources they need. In addition, long-term data retention becomes a more simplified process, eliminating the costly management of disks and tape systems.
Companies using a cloud hosting service get data protection benefits such as high availability and disaster recovery. Many organizations prefer a hybrid model that mixes compute and storage resources residing on premises with compute and storage in a cloud provider's environment.
One of the main benefits of using cloud hosting services is flexible and more cost-efficient scalability in building applications, websites and other services. Because users can scale as needed, they are charged only for the services they use and do not pay for any unused capacity. This payment system makes cloud hosting a relatively inexpensive method of storage.
But drawbacks exist. Security issues with the cloud have gained more attention as the cloud adoption rate has grown. With data leaving the company data center, organizations run the risk of intellectual property theft and loss, compliance violations, lack of oversight over rogue employees' actions, and data breaches.
Cloud hosting services have fueled a rise in the infrastructure as a service (IaaS) model, in which a third-party provider offers the hardware, software, servers, storage and networking resources to a customer, typically with a pay-per-use method.
Popular cloud hosting offerings include Amazon Web Services (AWS), the Google Cloud Platform, IBM Cloud and Microsoft Azure. AWS is the dominant player in the market, offering extensive computing services and more regions and zones than other cloud providers. However, Azure and Google have gained traction in recent years.
AWS offers its Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) to handle compute services, along with Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) and Amazon Glacier for storage. Google offers its Google Compute Engine (GCE) and Google Cloud Storage for the enterprise. Microsoft Azure provides Azure Virtual Machines and Azure Virtual Machine Scale Sets, and its storage includes blob, file and queue storage. Its Microsoft Office 365 is a popular cloud service.
All three major public cloud providers offer products that support containers, including Amazon's EC2 Container Service (ECS), Google's Container Engine and Azure's own container services.