To be available to their users, all websites need to be on a computer somewhere, connected to the internet and world wide web. You can either organise this yourself, or let a hosting provider do some or all of it for you. The degree to which the provider does this, is what differentiates the types of hosting you can buy.
Hosting, your way
This is where things have got really serious, we’re not just talking about a single website now. We’re in to the realms of lots of sites, or one very busy and complex website. You’re no longer limiting yourself to a single server now, but multiple servers (both virtual and physical).
Hassle or hassle free?
Just like with a cloud/virtual server, this is where things can become a hassle, broadly speaking there are two classes of management you can expect with a dedicated server:
Un-managed – Bar installing the OS, it’s all up to you to install the software you need, keep up to date with security and fix any problems
Fully Managed – The provider will take care of everything for you with the caveat that “everything” differs between providers!
If you’re just moving on from virtual or reseller hosting then you’re probably going to want a fully managed solution unless you’re familiar with running your own servers – do you really want to be learning on the job with your live apps/sites?
Hosting as a holiday
Imagine for a moment that each type of web hosting is like holiday accommodation, a private cloud would be like having your own apartment complex with a pool. You’ve got no one else using your complex or pool (hardware, shown in pink), it’s up to you to decide how big (how many resources, CPU, memory etc.) the apartments (virtual servers, WordPress Server, Cache Server, Database Server etc.) are and the only people using staying in them are the people (customers) you’ve invited (hosted) to holiday with you.
If you want to take up the whole of each building (bare metal server, in pink) for just a single apartment, then you can. If you want to fill the pool with a dozen giant pink inflatable flamingos then that’s up to you, it’s your pool after all.
Of course that does mean you’re responsible for all of the upkeep and costs related to your apartment complex (private cloud), including make sure you’ve got some rooms spare (capacity) just in case someone burns one of your apartment buildings down (the hardware crashes or fails).
Private Cloud Hosting
What does it look like really?
Everything bordered in teal, is your responsibility to pay for as well as to install and maintain when it comes to software components – your provider should maintain the physical hardware. Everything in purple is your providers responsibility to maintain and will be split between all customers using it.
Is a private cloud right for my business?
The answer for most people reading this, is probably not. If however you need an allocation of CPU, memory and storage resources that you can do as you please with, be they on varying degrees of shared to completely private infrastructure then yes, it might be what you’re looking for.
We’ve rated each of the areas out of 5 based on our own services to help you quickly compare the different types of hosting available. There’s going to be a huge amount of variation not just between providers, but also between the levels of offering from each provider, ourselves included, so take these as a bit of a “worst case”.
Ease of use
When it comes to hosting having your own private/semi-private cloud is a big step up from virtual hosting and a step up from dedicated servers. If you’re opting for a cheaper un-managed solution you’ll need to know about managing servers, database software, firewalls, security updates etc. and on top of that you’re probably going to start to need to know about networking as well.
If you’re opting for a fully managed solution then it might not be any different to using dedicated servers, but that really is down to exactly what you’re paying your provider for, and it’s always worth double checking exactly what any service/support limits are.
We’ve given this 2 as it can really be anything from 1 to 5 and requires some more knowledge over and above using dedicated servers, and we offer both un-managed and fully-managed options depending on your needs.
This is where a private cloud really can excel compared to other forms of hosting, as you should be able to keep adding more servers with extra CPU, memory, GPU and storage and growing your cloud. You may even be able to tweak some of those independently of each other without adding a whole server. 100s of CPU cores, TBs of RAM and storage are the norm here.
Just like with a dedicated server, this is probably the area where providers vary the most. Some will talk the good talk with lots of mentions of “fully managed” etc. whilst not walking-the-walk so it’s important that you check what your chosen provider will actually do:
Are they providing any support at all? (Managed vs. un-managed)
Are they providing support for the software you need to use? Or only software they originally installed for the service?
Are they proactive or reactive with issues?
Are they monitoring your sites/apps to make sure they are functioning?
Are they managing the virtual infrastructure you’re creating?
Will they provide advice on your infrastructure?
Above all, it’s important not to make any assumptions when comparing providers, always check that you will get the support you need as providers vary enormously in their definitions of managed/fully managed services and that includes the software they will support as well.
Just like with a dedicated server, it’s up to you what you do on the software side of things:
Need a different system/service configuration? No problem.
Need a specific piece of software to run your sites/apps? No problem.
Need to run jobs that take a couple of hours? No problem.
Not only can you play around with the software, but now we’re looking at hardware as well, with the ability to grow your private cloud by adding new physical servers to it:
Need less CPU but more memory? No problem, add servers that take more memory.
Need more CPU but not a lot of storage? No problem, use AMD Epyc 64 core processors.
Need lots of lightning fast storage? No problem, use hardware with 20 x NVMe flash drives.
Need GPU? No problem, add servers that take GPU.
Of course the caveat again, is that if you want a truly fully managed service you’ll need to check with your provider if they’ll support what you want to do.
As 100% of the hardware is dedicated to you, that also means so are 100% of the costs, including any software licensing and advanced networking, so a private cloud is going to cost more than a similar dedicated server will.
Just like with a dedicated server you need to bear in mind is the cost of any extra software e.g. control panel, enterprise software, security software etc. which can often add 10-25% on to the monthly cost depending on the software.
What your monthly payment pays for
The above graph shows what your monthly charge covers in terms of providing your service, the exact figures for the virtual, reseller and cloud will depend what service you’ve chosen, as larger packages will contribute to more of the overall costs.
With virtual hosting for example, you’re sharing all the costs of:
Server management time
With all the other customers on the same server, so you might pay 1% of those costs. With a cloud server, you’ll pay perhaps 10% of the hardware costs and the licensing for the underlying platform, but you’ll pay 100% of software licensing costs for your cloud server e.g. If you have a control panel, security software (Imunify360 etc.) etc. you’ll pay a proportion of the management time for the platform, and 100% for management of your cloud server.
With dedicated and private cloud, you’ll pay 100% towards all of the costs, as it’s all dedicated solely to you and your usage.
Potential downsides and issues
A key part of our ethos is honesty and integrity, and that means we need to point out some potential downsides to dedicated servers. That’s not to say they will be a problem for you and your customers, just that they could be depending on circumstances.
There’s no avoiding it, a private cloud can be a pretty complex system, and whilst you can engineer for high availability on such a system, there are simply more things to go wrong, and when they do, they can be more complicated to fix.
The complexity also results in increased costs. Most customers are better served in their early days by a more traditional approach using dedicated web/database servers.
Excess capacity / failover
With a completely dedicated private cloud, you’re going to be in charge of making sure you have enough free capacity to cope with any hardware failures so if you have 4 bare-metal servers in your private cloud, then you can only use the capacity of 3 of them if you want to maintain the ability to cope with one of them crashing/failing/needing maintenance.
On top of this, you’re probably also going to have some excess unused capacity to allow for rapid addition/growth of customers, rather than having to wait for a new bare-metal server to be added to your cloud.
Highly configurable, both software, hardware and networking
Huge range of resource offerings from 24 to 1000s of cores, GBs to TBs of RAM etc.
It’s all yours, no sharing with anyone else
Your own IP addresses
The most expensive form of hosting to get started with
Paying for excess capacity to grow, and to manage hardware maintenance/failure
Complex, may take longer to fix major issues, needs more management time
Private cloud is the ultimate in hosting, letting you customise your environment in great detail and have full control over what services/customers get allocated what resources and how they all connect to each other, that control and flexibility does come with costs though and needs careful consideration and planning.
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