By COLIN STONER
One of the most overused terms I hear throughout my day is “the cloud.”
It has the mystique of a genie in a bottle that can magically make a business better, faster, and stronger. Usually when I hear a person use the word, I assume they don’t know what they’re talking about. I think that’s the right assumption 70% of the time the word gets dropped, especially in a Microsoft commercial.
I don’t know why the cloud obsession began, but I can only assume people got sick of saying “the Internet”. Or maybe that wasn’t sexy enough? After all, my industry is obsessed with buzzwords: dotcom, Web 2.0, SaaS, just to name a few. The cloud essentially refers to services (SalesForce), computers (this website), and storage (Dropbox) that exist on the Internet and can be accessed from anywhere, but don’t tell anyone I told you that.
Even though I despise the word, some amazing things have happened in the tech world since the cloud started appearing in daily conversations. The most recognizable one to most of you will be the plethora of apps and services installed on your phones and tablets that enable you to do anything from anywhere.
The biggest difference for me has been the ability to create virtual servers attached to the Internet in minutes.
Not so long ago, when you wanted to build a dynamic website with a sizeable database backend and decent site traffic, you had to own or lease the physical server. On top of that cost, you needed to pay monthly fees to keep that server in a secured colocation facility that could provide you with ample bandwidth for your needs. You had to maintain the hardware of the server, add hard drives if you ran out of space, and upgrade the RAM when required.
Now, thanks to cloud hosting, you can host a virtual version of that server for a fraction of the monthly fees charged by the colocation provider. Major providers like Amazon and RackSpace allow you to configure a server to your liking and get it online in a matter of minutes. These instances have reduced capital costs for businesses everywhere, while also enabling them to provide services and reach customers that may not have existed before.
Even more, you can use cloud hosting to scale your business on the fly without having to purchase and configure more clunky servers. Hosting with Amazon and RackSpace are done on an hourly basis, and much like a physical server, you can simply turn the instance off when you’re not using it. This saves your business money, while allowing it the flexibility to look like a web powerhouse when needed.
I’ve been quite loyal to Amazon Web Services (AWS) since their inception and have not looked back. I’ve created cost management applications for a large general contractor, a simulated sportsbook for Facebook users, and most recently a fundraising site for newlyweds who don’t need traditional gifts. All of these are Linux-based instances with AWS and they each cost drastically less than my last monthly colocation-hosting bill.
If you’re struggling with slow load times, increased traffic, or sick of the shared server world, give cloud hosting a try.
Just don’t add the dreaded “C” word to your vocabulary.
Colin Stoner is a Missoula IT consultant and entrepreneur. He has worked in almsot every aspect of IT, and loves most of them that don’t involve Microsoft. He is a Linux nut, a Python hack, and a lover of the cloud. When not stuck behind a monitor wall, you can find him enjoying a beer at one of our many breweries, skiing anywhere but Snowbowl, or playing handball at the Peak.