Web Hosting vs Cloud Hosting – What’s the Difference?

The world of websites can be confusing for the uninitiated. People create thousands of new websites daily. Young and old alike have reasons to take the bold step of stepping into a new dimension.

But what happens if you have no clue about what you're doing? There's a high risk you'll waste some hard-earned money. Even worse is seeing hundreds of hours of hard work go to waste if things go wrong.

Before you begin your web hosting journey, let's explore some standard terms you absolutely must know.

Web Hosting vs Cloud Hosting

Cloud Hosting is a sub-category under web hosting.

Web Hosting is a highly generic term that refers to a service that companies offer to store and serve your website files. Cloud Hosting refers to a specific type of web hosting. While they both serve the same fundamental objective, how it's done is where the magic happens.

Think of these two as “category” and “sub-category.” Web Hosting will be a broad category like “fruits,” while Cloud Hosting is a sub-category under “fruits,” such as “bananas.” 

Because of this categorical relationship, Web Hosting and Cloud Hosting share some base similarities but may differ in other areas. 

Examples

Hostinger web hosting pricing
Example of “Web Hosting” packages at Hostinger – Users pay fixed amounts of monthly subscription fees to host their websites with the provider > Learn more and signup.
Digital Ocean pricing
Example of “Cloud Hosting” packages at Digital Ocean – Users pay according to their server resources usage > Learn more and signup.

What is Web Hosting Really?

Web hosting is the service that allows you to publish your website on the internet. This phenomenon happens when a web hosting company provides space and bandwidth to store your website files. 

When on the web host's servers, your website files are available 24/7 to anyone who wants to visit your website. Visitors type a website address (or domain name), and the web hosting server will send the necessary information.

Web hosting is a mature industry, and several types of web hosting have emerged over the years. Each of these web hosting types offers advantages and disadvantages.

Types of Web Hosting

There are only a few distinct web hosting categories. Although some web hosts today may offer other types, they often rebrand the following:

  • Shared Hosting – The most fundamental of all web hosting services is shared hosting. This web hosting category pools the resources of a single web server to host hundreds of websites. The result is a competition for server resources that may result in poor website performance.
  • Virtual Private Server Hosting – Virtual Private Server or VPS Hosting also uses a single server to host websites. However, each website gets an isolated environment, and fewer occupy each server. The result is better performance and security potential.
  • Cloud Hosting – Many often confuse Cloud with VPS Hosting because they're incredibly similar. The main difference is that Cloud hosting uses an entire network of servers to host websites instead of a single server. This network configuration means that Cloud Hosting is often the most reliable option available.
  • Dedicated Server Hosting – A dedicated hosting server is a way to go if you want the best of everything. It tops the table in everything from performance to security. Unfortunately, occupying a single server yourself means you'll need to pay for the entire thing, even if you don't fully utilize the resources.

How is Cloud Hosting Different Compared to Traditional Web Hosting?

How Cloud Computing Works
How Cloud Computing Works (Source: Cloudflare)

The highlight of Cloud hosting is the underlying technology, which is Cloud infrastructure. Instead of a single server, Cloud consists of a mass of equipment, software, and services making up an entire computing environment. 

Reliable Performance

Web hosting plans, in general, come with many levels of performance characteristics. Many say that Cloud hosting offers good performance, but performance still depends on the service provider. It's more accurate to say that Cloud hosting offers more reliable hosting performance since you get dedicated resource allocations.

This reliability extends to uptime since Cloud infrastructure is incredibly robust. If one component fails, another will take its place while repairs or replacements occur. Unless something terrible happens, Cloud hosting seldom suffers disastrous failures.

Excellent Scalability

Because various equipment and services are linked, the potential of Cloud infrastructure goes way beyond a single server. Think of it as a cluster of servers that work together. Anytime you need more resources, the administrator can simply expand the cloud with more equipment.

Cloud hosting is also the best option for companies that need to scale quickly or have an unpredictable workload. It allows you to add and remove resources on-demand, reducing costs when there are fewer users and reducing waste during peak hours. 

Other web hosting service options may offer some perception of scalability. For example, you may think moving from one shared hosting plan to the next level is scalability. In a way, that's true, but the move offers less potential than scaling up specific dedicated resources.

Robust Security

Cloud hosting is secure, but it's important to know that this security is relative. For example, it's more secure than shared hosting but less secure than expensive options like on-premise servers. Overall, however, the isolated environments mean that security is pretty robust.

Web hosting plans differ the most in how security works. At the lower end of the spectrum, shared hosting is notoriously insecure. It's always best to consider the type of your website first when looking towards web host security needs.

Affordable Prices

Cloud hosting is generally affordable since you only pay for what you use. In some cases, it may be cheaper than more expensive shared hosting plans. Additionally, many Cloud providers work on a pay-as-you-go model instead of charging upfront fees for extended contracts.

It's important to know that web hosting plans have massive variations in price even among the same category. For example, shared hosting can cost anywhere from $2/mo to over $10/mo. Cloud hosting may start at $6, but there is seldom a top limit to its price ceiling.

Here's a deep dive into cloud hosting pricing.

The Disadvantage – Complex Management

If that sounds excellent, then you'd be right and wrong. The potential of Cloud hosting is awesome, but it's also more complex to manage than other forms of web hosting like shared hosting. 

You'll need many skills like network configuration, application deployment and management, and cybersecurity. If not, hiring the expertise may come at steep prices that add considerably to your bottom line.

I've tried deploying and configuring a Cloud server from scratch before, and I can tell you that it's an absolute nightmare. Even if you get everything right by some chance, the maintenance and upkeep of an unmanaged Cloud server are enough to drive anyone insane. 

When to Choose Cloud Hosting?

Because of its reliability and scalability, Cloud hosting does exceptionally well in commercial web hosting environments. These are situations where websites serve a vital customer-facing role and can influence the financials and reputation of a company.

Examples of these roles include:

  • Business websites.
  • eCommerce websites or online stores.
  • Web services.
  • Mission-critical services.

And more.

Solving the Cloud Management Dilemma with IaaS

The Cloudways management interface makes it possible for almost anyone to use Cloud hosting.
The Cloudways management interface makes it possible for almost anyone to use Cloud hosting.

As mentioned above, the main challenge to Cloud hosting adoption for many users is the highly complex management needs. Most website owners are used to simplified web hosting models like shared hosting.

These scenarios lead to “spoon-fed” results whereby many web hosting users lack the technical skills to manage Cloud hosting environments. You can solve this problem by either learning the needed skills or hiring staff who have them.

However, there is a Plan C, and that is to look toward an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) provider. One of the best examples I can think of in this scenario is Cloudways

Instead of offering Cloud hosting, Cloudways provides a management interface that works with several different Cloud hosting providers. These include Digital Ocean, VULTR, AWS, and Google Cloud.

The result is a shared hosting-like experience with all the advantages of Cloud hosting. While the service bumps prices upward, it's nowhere near what you'd have to pay to onboard new talent.

Conclusion – Be Aware of Your Web Hosting Needs

It's clear that web hosting and Cloud hosting have a lot in common. After all, they're essentially the same thing, albeit with different characteristics. Ultimately, we're back to answering the same question – which is better for your website?

By now, you can tell that you must have web hosting and that Cloud hosting is an excellent choice. The Cloud today is highly affordable and, thanks to IaaS providers like Cloudways, simple to use.

While I don't recommend Cloud hosting to absolute beginners, it isn't as impossible to use as it used to be in the past.

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Article by Timothy Shim