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Best cloud hosting services in 2020

Best cloud hosting services
(Image credit: Photo by Lee Campbell on Unsplash)

Cloud hosting has completely revolutionized the way the internet runs. Instead of having your website rely on just a single server, you can tap the power of cloud hosting to distribute your content across an entire network.

The benefit is that your website is now scalable. Want to run a data-intensive project and need more RAM or bandwidth? You can easily add more servers into your cloud hosting network to get the resources your site needs. Upgrading or downgrading just takes a few clicks, and you’ll see your added server power in as little as a few minutes. There’s no downtime to worry about, which removes one of the biggest headaches of traditional hosting.

Better yet, there are cloud hosting services to meet just about every need. You can find managed cloud hosting as well as solutions for hosting email or replacing your business server. Or, small businesses can tap into green cloud hosting to reduce their footprint on the environment.

Considering making the switch to cloud hosting? We’ll highlight the five best cloud hosting services you can turn to in 2020. Keep in mind that most hosts offer free trials, so you can explore the benefits of cloud hosting for your business before you commit.

What is the best cloud hosting service?

While the technology underlying every cloud hosting service is similar, many hosting companies couldn’t be more different. Some are built for Fortune 500 companies that need a massive network of resources. Others are designed to be more nimble and flexible, with affordable and highly scalable plans that can suit a wide variety of small businesses.

With that in mind, there isn’t a single best cloud hosting service for every business. That’s why we reviewed five hosting providers in this guide, each of which takes a different approach to cloud hosting.

For larger companies looking to move an entire server, we recommend Microsoft Azure. The advantage of opting for this large, well-established platform is that you can access the resources you need to keep your business email, internal apps, and website resources all inside a single system. When it comes to scalability, the sky’s the limit for Microsoft Azure—which can’t be said of many other cloud hosting providers.

For small businesses trying out cloud hosting for the first time, 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, DigitalOcean offers a huge library of tutorials to help businesses get started with cloud hosting for the first time.

Best cloud hosting services

(Image credit: Microsoft)

1. Microsoft Azure

Cloud hosting to crunch big data

Supports machine learning
Excellent security
Requires an IT team
Complex

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 to your cloud hosting plan, you can also add machine learning algorithms, bots, and cognitive APIs 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.

Best cloud hosting services

(Image credit: HostGator)

2. Hostgator

Affordable cloud hosting for your website

Simple cloud hosting
Affordable plans
Only supports websites

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 per month for a single domain and 2 GB of RAM. If you need more resources, you can get six CPUs, 6 GB of RAM, and a dedicated IP for just $6.28 per month (although the cost jumps to $17.95 per month after renewal).

Best cloud hosting services

(Image credit: Cloudways)

3. Cloudways

Multi-provider cloud hosting

Choose from five infrastructure providers
Pick your data center location
Pay monthly or by the hour 
Phone support costs extra
Relatively expensive

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 per month.

Best cloud hosting services

(Image credit: Clook)

4. Clook

Cloud hosting with UK-based servers

UK-based data center
Ultra-fast internal connections
24/7 phone support
Expensive plan pricing
No hourly plans

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, 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 10 Gbps 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 1 CPU, 1 GB of RAM, and 500 GB of bandwidth and costs $110.95 (£89) per month. If you need enough computational power to crunch a lot of data—say, 4 CPUs, 8 GB of RAM, and 2 TB of bandwidth—it’ll cost you at least $328 (£263) per month. There’s also no option to pay-as-you-go at an hourly rate.

Best cloud hosting services

(Image credit: Digitalocean)

5. DigitalOcean

Scalable cloud hosting for small businesses

Specialized Droplets enable scalability
Relatively expensive

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 1 GB of RAM costs $5 per 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.

 How to choose the best cloud hosting service for you

Choosing the best cloud hosting service 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.