A guide to managed cloud hosting: what is it and how can it help your business?
Get all the advantages of cloud computing without having to worry about the day-to-day running
The benefits of cloud computing are well-documented at this point, from the highly elastic capacity to the potential cost savings. However, there are still some drawbacks that hold businesses back from embracing public cloud infrastructure. For many organisations, the high level of technical expertise that is required to set up and operate an enterprise-level public cloud system in a secure and efficient manner makes the task too expensive or burdensome.
Fortunately, this is not the only option. For companies in this scenario, managed cloud hosting offers a way to take advantage of all of the benefits of cloud computing without shouldering the complexity of administrating it on a day-to-day basis. Public cloud systems traditionally operate in a ‘self-serve’ model, which means that customers are responsible for designing their own architecture, monitoring its performance and keeping it properly secured.
This can be surprisingly resource-intensive, and larger companies may require multiple full-time operations personnel to support it. Managed cloud hosting services like Cloudways, on the other hand, offer a much more guided experience, helping customers during the setup phase and bringing simplicity in handling the management, operation of popular applications and CMSs (like WordPress, Magento, Laravel, etc) once they’re up and running. This allows SMBs to focus on business growth rather than server administration. Cloudways also gives you the option to choose from a variety of IaaS providers, namely Amazon AWS, Google Cloud, DigitalOcean, Vultr and Linode.
The benefits of managed cloud hosting
This allows businesses to focus on extracting strategic advantages from their application, rather than having to concern themselves with operational overheads. It also means that they don’t have to recruit new talent to provide the necessary technical skills for cloud projects, as the hosting provider will take care of this element. Managed cloud hosting also allows businesses to easily leverage services from multiple public cloud providers for maximum flexibility, without having to manage it themselves or familiarise themselves with multiple competing technologies.
Utilising public cloud can be great for reducing infrastructure costs, but it does have a few financial downsides which managed cloud hosting can help address. One issue is predictability; although the extreme scalability that public cloud offers is useful, if consumption costs are not carefully monitored, customers can end up getting unexpectedly stung with high bills.
Managed cloud providers like Cloudways offer tiered payment plans, which strike a balance between predictable costs to keep business budget-holders happy while providing the flexibility and headroom that cloud applications need. Cloudways also offers longer-term monthly contracts in addition to the standard hourly payment, for businesses that want to plan further in advance.
Another area where managed cloud offers a financial benefit is in headcount. Because the hosting partner is doing the heavy lifting from a technical standpoint, customers don’t need to foot the bill for expensive training programmes or recruitment to bring in the capabilities needed to manage complex cloud deployments. Instead, the hosting partner acts as an extension of the organisation’s existing IT capabilities, taking care of things like maintenance and optimisation as part of the contract.
Cloud security can be a challenge; misconfigured or poorly secured cloud resources have been the catalyst for numerous data breaches and security incidents. With managed cloud hosting, organisations can offload the complex and ever-changing task of keeping their cloud applications up to date, patched and locked down to their provider. Thanks to their deep subject knowledge and specialised focus on cloud platforms, managed cloud providers will be much better equipped to defend their customers than the customers themselves.
If businesses are unlucky enough to suffer some form of security incident, however, having a team of specialists on hand to mitigate the impact, restore operational functionality and minimise business risk in the aftermath can be extremely helpful. This is especially true for those organisations that may not have an extensive security team or SOC, and may not be prepared to handle a major cyber attack.
Monitoring and maintenance is often the biggest pain point for organisations running their own public cloud infrastructure; the 24/7 nature of modern business means that an outage of a few hours can have a disproportionate impact on revenue and productivity, and if something happens to your application outside of business hours, getting it up and running again has to be a priority.
Rather than having to have an employee constantly on call and monitoring your application round the clock to ensure uptime, opting for a managed cloud provider ensures that you’ll have a team of experts keeping a watchful eye on your application stack to ensure that everything’s running smoothly. Advanced real-time monitoring tools ensure that any problems are quickly identified, and services like Cloudways also provide 24/7 live chat and phone support, and even a dedicated Slack channel to ensure that you’ll always have access to expert support when you need it.
More than ease of deployment or cost reduction, scalability has always been the public cloud’s ace in the hole. The demand placed on applications is rarely static, and the cloud enables infrastructure to flex in accordance with demand levels, automatically spinning up new servers to cope with spikes in traffic and shutting them back down when things get quieter.
Application performance is fundamentally governed by the hardware on which it’s running. In a traditional on-premise environment, the only way to increase capacity is to upgrade the components of your infrastructure, or spend thousands on adding additional servers to your data centre. With cloud infrastructure, however, capacity can be remotely increased in minutes, using rules-based structures to automatically grow or shrink your resources depending on the need.
What this means in practice is that your application is never going to struggle under the weight of high traffic volumes. If performance starts becoming strained, the server capacity on which it’s running can be instantly increased in order to cope. When that increased performance no longer becomes necessary, those additional servers can be shut down to avoid paying extra for unneeded capacity.
Managed cloud hosting in action
E-commerce is one area in particular where the value of managed cloud hosting is thrown into sharp relief. Many businesses rely on their online storefronts to reach large numbers of customers, but with an often vast range of alternative options available to online shoppers, store pages need to be highly responsive – which can be tough for a smaller business that isn’t a technology specialist.
This was a problem faced by many of Limesharp’s clients, a web development and design firm which specialises in setting up and hosting Magento stores for its clients. The existing architecture it was using was rigid, inflexible, and prohibitively expensive to scale, meaning its customers’ websites were struggling to cope with increased traffic during busy shopping seasons.
“If we wanted to add an extra server for Black Friday, this would entail weeks of getting a server into the stack, testing, configuring, paying for a whole month’s usage just for two days of peak traffic,” says Limesharp director Ed Bull.
The firm also wanted to improve the page load times for its customers via full-page caching. Despite the fact that at the time, the received wisdom was that Magento ran best on bare metal, Limesharp chose to explore cloud solutions. It eventually settled on using Cloudways as a managed cloud hosting provider to power its customers store pages, driven by Cloudways’ rapid scaling, comprehensive support and strong Magento performance, provided via Amasty’s full-page cache technology.
“Magento on a whole is pretty slow out of the box, it needs to be hosted on a stack configured and optimised specifically for that application. With Cloudways we get a highly optimized stack which changes depending on the application you are launching which I think is a brilliant feature,” says Bull. “Moreover, Cloudways engineers are fully trained on Magento and Wordpress so will happily jump-in to help fix issues. That level of support for us has been incredible so far.”
To explore how managed cloud hosting can help streamline your IT, contact Cloudways today