Most that work in web development field have heard the term “cloud computing.” Its a great new tech buzzword that evokes pictures of serene skies and flight, but what does this new concept really do and how can it help your agency and your clients? One of the largest direct up sides for companies is hosting cost savings.
There are millions of web servers using less than 10% of their resources, purely because IT personnel have to worry about the worst case scenarios. For that one day rush on your website, you pay 364 days of unnecessary costs to keep a “maximum capacity” server running that is dedicated to your site. Cloud computing allows far more scalability and a “pay as you use” model. The limitations of a single machine’s hardware, size of a single hard drive, and other current hardware specific problems also become far less of an issue.
Without Cloud Hosting
Let’s start with a real world example. About 2 years ago, before many of the current cloud tools were fully ready for prime time, we had a client that had highly variable website traffic due to various promotional efforts. Their website traffic could very low on one day and then increase by 1000% or more after a day of heavy promotion. Because of the demand on processors the best option was a rack of servers (8 processors each) to keep up with demand. These 8 CPU boxes cost the client about $500+ per month, and we needed 40 to keep up with the peek demand we anticipated. Since most hosting facilities require at least a 6 month contract to provision this many boxes, that meant we were looking at an average of $20,000 per month, or $120,000+ just in hosting fees for the campaign. Not only is this costly, but its budget that is not going towards improving the end product, just running it. On most days no more than 2-3 machines were even processing visitor request. The extra machines only had to be there to be able to handle peak traffic.
With Cloud Hosting
Fast forward to today and lets look at the same example with cloud options. In a cloud setup we only pay for a virtual machine as we use it. If its 3 AM and no one is on the site, we may only need 1 machine to be running. If its noon and a promotional campaign just went live our 40 machine setup might not even be enough to handle the sudden spike in demand. The cloud setup can scale as needed so that we can go from 1 machine to 100 in minutes and scale back down an hour later if the demand dies down. We also are not locked into a 6 month contract on a 3 month project. The best part, is that this can be automated so no one is tied in to watching the site usage; the system simply scales as needed.
Low hourly cost
Lets say we go with the fastest VM’s offered, all the options, all the monitoring, all the bells and whistles. We are looking at less than $1.50 per hour per machine to run! Each machine can run the same load as out static servers, but we can turn them on and off at will, and the system can even do this for us. So some simplified (and even rounded up) math paints this picture…
Average load would need 2 servers at $1.50 per hour for 180 days, or $12,960
Lets assume that this really takes off and for 3 days straight we need to run 100 servers 24/7. That’s a lot of usage, but the math works out as follows…
3 days * 100 servers = $10,800
So using this example we can handle FAR more capacity and scalability, the user experience is better as the backlog never gets too long, and the total out of pocket cost was $23,760, a savings of almost $100,000!!!
Granted this is an extreme (but very real) example so we maximized savings, but the cost benefits are clear. In addition to raw cost savings there are other benefits…
- Data is backed up on multiple locations at all times so potential for loss is significantly decreased
- If a server goes down another one can be started in minutes reducing the possibility of down time, even with a catastrophic server crash
- If one entire facility were to go down, the server could be restarted remotely at another facility. This removes a single location being a point of failure.
- If your hard drive is full on a traditional server, serious problems in functionality and data loss can pose a huge problem, but the cloud can have unlimited file storage
- If a central database server crashes in a traditional environment it can take down the site. With proper configuration in the cloud it can automatically switch over to an “up to the second” backup server.
So why not move everything over now? Quite simply, cloud hosting is not for everything. It works best for potentially highly variable traffic such as the traffic that is generated by focused promotional efforts. Hosting one small site will likely not see much, if any, cost benefit. Privacy and company policies on some systems prevent using any outside facility to run some applications. Additionally, legacy sites that are programmed to access local files on the hard drive may need to be adjusted to work correctly in their new cloud home, so there is a cost to move and update.
The cloud movement is here though, and growing fast. Services are emerging that once were out of reach due to hardware limitations. Online video converters, complex calculations, cheap mass storage and more are available thanks the cloud movement. We’ll cover some of these in later articles, but I hope this has helped give you a brief overview of what cloud computing is and what it can do for you.
Please contact us if you’d like to discuss cloud hosting for any of your campaigns or clients.