Cloud technology, and particularly cloud hosting within web hosting, has revolutionized how the internet operates. Instead of having a site rely on one server, cloud hosting allows you to distribute content across an entire network, and as such many of the industry-leading, best web hosting services offer cloud hosting plans.
Its main benefit is that websites are now scalable: should you want to run a data-intensive project and need more RAM (random access memory) or bandwidth, you can easily add more servers into your network to get the resources your site needs.
It only takes a couple of clicks to upgrade or downgrade, and you’ll see additional server power in just a few minutes. The best cloud hosting removes one of the biggest headaches of traditional hosting too, in that there’s no downtime to worry about.
While the technology underlying cloud hosting is similar, many hosts couldn’t be more different. There are cloud hosting services to meet just about every need, ranging from managed cloud hosting to email hosting, or replacing your business server. Additionally, small businesses can tap into green cloud hosting to reduce their footprint on the environment.
Whether you're a Fortune 500 company that requires a massive network of resources, or a smaller business looking for a nimble, flexible, and affordable plan that's highly scalable, there isn’t one single best cloud hosting service. Each of the five we've chosen takes a different approach.
If you're considering making the switch, we've highlighted the five best cloud hosting services available. Keep in mind that most offer free trials, so before you commit you can explore the benefits of cloud hosting for your business.
Which are the best cloud hosting services?
For larger companies looking to move an entire server, we recommend Microsoft Azure. The advantage of this large, well-established platform is that you can access the resources you need to keep your business email, internal apps, and site resources all inside a single system. When it comes to scalability, the sky’s the limit for Azure—which can’t be said of many other providers.
For small businesses trying out cloud hosting, we recommend DigitalOcean. This platform is incredibly flexible, allowing you to host something as simple as your business website or as resource intensive as cloud-based apps. Plus, it offers a huge library of tutorials to help businesses get started with cloud hosting.
We also looked at the strengths and weaknesses of Cloudways, Clook and HostGator, all of whom offer cloud hosting services for a variety of business types.
The best cloud hosting services available
Microsoft Azure is more than just a cloud hosting service. It’s a massive cloud computing platform, built to handle the needs of the world’s largest companies.
Microsoft Azure shouldn’t be the cloud hosting provider you turn to if you just want to build a business website. But, if you want to crunch through a trove of customer data or build a complex internal app, this platform can provide all the resources you need.
On top of just adding RAM and CPUs (central processing units) to your cloud hosting plan, you can also add machine learning algorithms, bots, and cognitive APIs (application programming interfaces) into your Azure application. Another plus to Microsoft Azure is that it’s one of the most secure cloud hosting solutions on the market.
The platform is favored by government institutions, including the Pentagon, and it boasts compliance with a number of brand-new cloud security standards. Small businesses might be tempted to shy away from Microsoft Azure, since you’ll need a savvy IT team to get the most out of this cloud hosting service.
But, if your company collects a lot of data and is willing to pay for third-party help, it can still be a very attractive option. Learn more by reading our Microsoft Azure hosting review.
Cloudways takes a different approach to cloud hosting than most of the other platforms on the market. Instead of offering its own network, Cloudways connects you with one of five top cloud providers including Amazon, Google, DigitalOcean, Linode, and Vultr.
Cloudways then layers its own management and security framework on top of this computational infrastructure. This approach works well for a wide variety of businesses, not least because you get flexibility in pricing. Cloudways offers multiple plan options for each infrastructure provider, and you can choose to pay either hourly or monthly depending on the scale of your project.
You can also decide exactly where your data center should be located, to ensure you get the best performance for your business and customers. Between the five providers, there are more than 60 data centers spread across 25 global cities.
On top of that, Cloudways’ managed hosting platform is designed to meet a wide variety of demands. It includes Nginx, MySQL, PHP 7, Apache, Memcached, and Varnish Cache, among other core systems. Git is integrated to promote collaboration among app developers, and you can easily clone, back up, and restore a repository with just a single click.
One major downside to using Cloudways for your cloud hosting is that support costs extra. Every plan includes 24/7 live chat, but if you want to talk to tech support by phone, you’ll need a Premium support subscription for $500 a month.
Read our Cloudways review to find out more about the provider.
If your company needs to establish a stronger digital presence in the UK, Clook is one of the best options available. This cloud hosting provider operates a single data center in Manchester, England, which makes for fast connections for London-based offices and customers.
Whereas many cloud hosts leave you on your own once you sign up for their service, Clook puts its customers first. Every plan comes with 24/7 phone and email support from experienced technicians, who understand how the company’s servers are set up and how you can leverage them to meet your business’s needs.
Those same technicians are in charge of monitoring Clook’s network, and they do an excellent job of it. The company boasts more than 35 monitoring services that work around the clock to detect security threats, hardware failures, and any other issues that could impact the cloud’s performance. Clook also stands out for using ultra-fast 10Gbps connections for all internal storage nodes and hypervisors.
Of course, a cloud network built and maintained by IT experts doesn’t come cheap. An entry-level cloud hosting plan includes just one CPU, 1GB of RAM, and 500GB of bandwidth and costs $110.95 a month. If you need enough computational power to crunch a lot of data—say, four CPUs, 8GB of RAM, and 2TB of bandwidth—it’ll cost you at least $328 a month. There’s also no option to pay-as-you-go at an hourly rate.
DigitalOcean is one of the largest cloud hosting providers in the US, but the company caters equally to small businesses and enterprises. Whether you want to speed up your website, develop a cloud-based app, or crunch through massive amounts of data, DigitalOcean has highly flexible options you can turn to.
The key to this versatility is DigitalOcean’s system of Droplets. Instead of signing up for a single plan with a set number of CPUs or RAM, you can purchase as many Droplets—virtual CPUs—as you want from the company. Better yet, you get to decide whether you need general purpose Droplets for tasks like web hosting or memory-optimized Droplets for storing and accessing a massive database.
Every Droplet can be deployed with any of six Linux distributions, as well as apps like Docker, MySQL, and Node.js. Plus, performance monitoring and system-level backups happen at the level of individual Droplets, so that you never have to worry about a single bad server slowing your business down.
DigitalOcean isn’t the cheapest cloud hosting service on the market. A single general purpose Droplet with 1GB of RAM costs $5 a month. But, the scalability means that you’ll only pay for exactly what you need, and the company offers hourly pricing options for short-term development projects. Read our DigitalOcean review to find out more about this web host.
Looking for a better way to host your website rather than a solution for processing mountains of data? HostGator’s relatively simple, website-first cloud hosting service fits the bill exactly.
With HostGator, your website is spread over multiple servers to give you redundancy, speed, and adaptability. The provider advertises that its cloud hosting packages can cut your site’s loading time in half compared to its traditional hosting options. Plus, you don’t have to worry about your website being taken offline by a hardware failure since your data is mirrored on multiple servers.
Best of all, though, is the fact that you can adjust the number of CPUs and the amount of RAM devoted to your website in realtime. Is your website overflowing with traffic after a big announcement or a sale? HostGator’s cloud hosting service enables you to quickly and seamlessly adapt to the spike in visitors.
Another plus for small businesses is that HostGator’s plans are very inexpensive. Cloud hosting starts at just $3.13 a month for a single domain and 2GB of RAM. If you need more resources, you can get six CPUs, 6GB of RAM, and a dedicated IP for just $6.28 a month (although the cost jumps to $17.95 a month after renewal).
To learn more about the company, its services and its various features in more detail, read our HostGator review.
How to choose from the best cloud hosting services
Choosing one of the best cloud hosting services for your business ultimately comes down to what your goals are. The demands you’ll place on your cloud provider when hosting a website are very different from the demands of app development or managing a massive database.
Carefully consider whether you need the ability to scale your resources up and down at any moment and whether RAM, bandwidth, or built-in storage are most important to you. You’ll also need to think about what type of software infrastructure you need. While most cloud hosting services are based on Linux, some offer pre-installed apps like Node.js or Git to help jumpstart app development.
You may also be able to get access to advanced machine learning algorithms for data analysis depending on your cloud hosting provider. Of course, you should always take the time to check out a prospective service’s performance history.
If your cloud host isn’t reliable, you lose out on many of the benefits of turning to distributed computing in the first place. Make sure your cloud hosting service is managed by IT professionals who understand the network and monitor it around the clock.