infoTECH Feature

February 21, 2014

Small Business Websites: In A Fog About Cloud Hosting?

There's plenty of commentary about cloud hosting solutions. Unfortunately, much of it appears to be aimed at people who already know all about it!

Medium-sized companies will almost certainly have an individual responsible for staying current and advising decision-makers. Large concerns probably have whole departments tasked with it. Solopreneurs and small businesses have endless demands on their time. Often it's the easiest or cheapest option that's taken because it's expedient to do so - however costly that might eventually become.

Talking Klingon

Part of the challenge is the language. Every trade has it's jargon, but it can create unnecessary barriers. Peter Pollock (author of Web Hosting for Dummies) put it succinctly at last years Cpanel Conference: "Our customers are stuck not knowing the things that we find extremely basic. We try talking in simple language to them, but we’re actually talking way above their heads. We might as well be talking Klingon.”

The problems are exacerbated by some of the larger suppliers and service providers. During the recent ITEXPO (News - Alert) it was revealed that Cisco was dropping its entry-level desktop IP phones because the SMB market - at "only" $600 million - was too small!

When focus is so often on those that understand the challenge anyway, is it any surprise that the small companies (who, incidentally, still account for over half the US workforce) are left wondering what's going on?

Clearing The Mist

Cloud web hosting certainly offers some interesting possibilities but, before we get into that, let's have a quick look at "the cloud" in general.

Put as simply as possible, when you access the cloud all you're really doing is working on a bit of hard disk space somewhere else. Instead of on your computer (or cell, or tablet), it's in a big air-conditioned warehouse on an industrial complex. Chances are, these "servers" (a box with a big hard drive in it) are linked to each other in such a way that if one stops, others take over (redundancy, if a little jargon helps). If it's working as it should, you never even know it happened.

In a nutshell, that's it. There are all kinds of complicated doodads and doohickeys that do other stuff, but if it works do you really need to know how? If you're using the cloud for storage or collaborative applications (and that covers the majority) you need to know that it's reliable and cost-effective. End of story.

The Forecast Says More Cloud

Cloud web hosting has actually been around for some time, but it's getting the headlines now because it is (a) realizing its potential, and (b) becoming much more affordable.

The advantages can be numerous. It's largely a software solution - rather than a hardware one - so set-up, management and expansion should all be easier. The same is true of upgrades or implementation of additional services.

Which sounds great - but what's the impact in practical terms?

For small businesses at the moment, arguably none. If you want to put up a website, the current range of Linux and Windows web-hosting offers will almost certainly provide you with exactly what you need. They are established technology. They deliver an economical solution.

A Change In The Weather

Most entrepreneurs start off with "shared hosting." As the name suggests, you share server space with numerous other companies. It's cheap and it works well when you're starting out - indeed some business never need more. Currently it will cost you $5 a month, or less.

The cheapest cloud hosting will cost you around three times as much - and (at this point in time) offers no clear advantage. That argument is not necessarily the same for larger enterprises. For those with high traffic levels and/or the need to run their own software on dedicated servers, there may already be considerable benefits.

But one thing that's absolutely certain is that the situation will change. Cloud's impact on the hosting companies themselves makes it virtually certain to become their dominant technology eventually. Prices will continue to drop, new services will become available. It's an area you need to stay informed about.

You can do it by following the news at and by checking host company blogs or small business sites. It might be onerous, but you need to stay on top of developments. Adopting an "if it ain't bust, don't fix it" approach is a recipe for disaster.

As business people there's a tendency to think of web hosting and websites themselves from our own perspective. What we should actually do is look at it from our customer's point of view. When cloud offers them a discernibly better experience, that's where you need to be.

Edited by Cassandra Tucker

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