We’ve focused a lot in this column about how popular cloud hosting is becoming. We haven’t yet talked much about where you might want to go if you are interested in a good cloud host. It’s about time we attended to this oversight. Below are some of the best cloud-based hosts that we were able to find.
A bit of explanation regarding our methodology is in order. Back in the good old days when we wanted to make a web host comparison it wasn’t that hard. Look at disk space, bandwidth, price, speed and customer service, and you were more or less golden.
Cloud computing, though, has made everything complicated. Trying to measure how effective a host is at using these new ideas is far more complex than just plugging amounts into a formula. So, in our list below, we’re letting instinct be our guide. The numbers are still important, no doubt. Just as important, though, are intangibles like how secure and developed their network feels, how much confidence we have in their expertise, how thought out their offerings seem to be, and so forth. This is still a young technology, so reading between the lines is key.
Taking it all into account, this is where our noses lead us:
The one problem that you could have in registering a cloud hosting account with TerreMark is that you might need to whip out your calculator. Their vCloud Express services are charged on a basis of services used per hour. This is actually becoming more common in the hosting industry. As they pull from a communal set of resources, the needs of cloud users can fluctuate wildly. Still, you shouldn’t feel dumb if you can’t determine off the top of your head whether you need a single VPU with 1.5GB of memory at $0.108 per hour or a double VPU at $0.126 per hour.
Let’s get past the algebra problem, though, to see that this means that they are extremely customizable. If that doesn’t prove it, the fact that their accounts offer an unbelievable 450 different operating system variants should. We just get a really good feeling looking at these guys. Their services look powerful and feel just inexpensive enough to be real.
When we talked above about how we are taking the host’s reputation into account, this is an example of what we meant. Rackspace is a long-established, well-respected web host. They automatically get a little benefit of the doubt when introducing new services.
In this case it seems well earned. Rackspace uses multiple cloud technologies to offer hosting, file storage and load balancing. Keeping to the article topic and focusing on the first item, they also bill most services hourly, but at least are kind enough to include a pricing app on their web site. Among their features are the ability to maintain your cloud easily using iToys of all kinds, a bootable rescue mode and pay-per-use utility pricing.
Advertising their services as “100% uptime reliability, Any App, Any OS, Any Time” can make one rightly suspicious that they might just be stretching it a bit. They have the studies to back them up, though. Just about everyone is taking on Amazon’s EC2 cloud technology. Joyent does so with a slam dunk, posting detailed surveys showing that their services are 2 to 14 times faster than EC2 depending on the operating system and service being measured. It should be noted that among their operating systems supported is SmartOS, a rare distribution of the almost-as-rare Solaris kernel.
Joyent offers a few software packages that indicate that they are playing to the expert webmaster. If you are one, then you might be interested in their support of Percona, an optimized MySQL variant, and Zeus SmartMachine, an application delivery controller that performs a number of efficiency fixes on software without any need for custom coding.
For a lot of the above hosts we’ve focused on pricing. It may seem strange, then, that for this recommendation we are going with a host that will quote you a price for their services upon application. Whereas in many industries that might be the sign of a sham, we don’t feel that at all from StratoGen.
This company explains in great detail the technical benefits of their use of VMware vSphere 4.1 cloud hosting technology. They offer four levels of hosting from fully unmanaged to fully managed. Just about everything that a host can make redundant they have, with multiple data centers, off site replication targets and RAID-based data storage. They go all in with their uptime guarantee as well: 100% or your money back.
There’s no service we found that had so many cloud hosting services to offer and yet made them so easy to understand. Even their hybrid hosting accounts, where they combine features of traditional hosting with cloud add-ons of the user’s specification, were easy to comb through, with example configurations listed. They also offer preset packages if you don’t feel like doing math, though they have a huge array of add-ons for all accounts types.
We normally arch an eyebrow if the host’s presentation of their services is too flashy, but in all areas in which we went through their offerings, GoGrid put real thought into how to create customizable solutions on just about all levels, right up to 16-core CPU clouds. Given that they have the guts to post a comparison chart against both Amazon and Rackspace’s offerings, it’s hard to not to suggest that they’re worth a look.
If even that seems a bit much, though, and you just want to start with something that’s as simple to choose as possible, it doesn’t get much more so than ReliaCloud. It’ll take about 10 seconds to fill out their form in which you specify your operating system, bandwidth needed and a few other items, and are given a monthly rate. After ordering, your cloud server is online in under a minute. Their services don’t seem to suffer from this simplicity, with free load balancing, hardware-based firewall and an easy-to-use web portal.
Their support section includes video tutorials for those who need real hand holding. Again, don’t feel bad if you do. With the cloud, quite a lot of us are discovering that we have more education ahead.