It’s 2022, and you need a cloud server provider.

Maybe you operate a SaaS startup. Your company is established, but you’re looking to build towards the future. You’re just looking to back up your data.

In any case, everyone with tech infrastructure needs server space. Cloud server providers are often the simplest, cheapest way to go. Here’s a breakdown of how to seek out your perfect cloud hosting service, whatever your business needs may be.

Table of Contents

  1. What is a cloud server provider?
  2. Types of cloud services
  3. What kind of server do I need?
  4. Cloud server provider checklist
Computer server room

The cloud has been used as a metaphor for network activity since the prehistoric days of the internet. Cloud computing, however, has come to refer to the sharing of computer system resources over IP networks. One early innovation was Salesforce; a SaaS company launched in 1999. Another, Amazon Web Services (AWS), was launched in 2002 and remains the most popular cloud server provider.

Cloud servers are beneficial for small companies without brick and mortar locations. Physical in-house servers are more secure, but they require a big investment in space and hardware.

Even if you use in-house servers, backups are always helpful in case of emergency, and cloud solutions can go hand-in-hand with your existing tech.

In a nutshell, these services provide offsite servers that can be used to store data, develop software, or put all your information in one place. Cloud server providers often charge a fee for the use of their servers, which can vary wildly depending on what kind of cloud service you’re using.

Types of cloud services

Computer microchip stock image

For newcomers, a vague description of what cloud computing is might not be enough to help you find what you’re looking for. People and companies at every level are making use of cloud services. The different subsets of cloud computing can be useful for everyone from Fortune 500 companies to people with zero technical know-how.

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SaaS (Software as a Service)

If you’ve been reading up to this point, you’ve at least seen this term. Even if you don’t know what it means, chances are you’re using SaaS in your day-to-day life. SaaS refers to web-based, on-demand services where software is licensed on a subscription basis.

Examples of common SaaS include Google Docs, Canva, and Slack. Google’s suite offers many of the same features as Microsoft Office, but documents are stored in Google Drive’s cloud storage, instead of locally on your computer. Canva similarly uses online storage for designs, with a paid subscription model offering more space and features.

These services are useful for consumers, but there are lots of great SaaS options for businesses as well. Cloud storage is a key component of SaaS offerings, and tools like Basecamp and Asana are used to streamline workflow in the process.

Many license-based software companies have come around on SaaS as well. MS Office and Adobe Creative Cloud both offer online, cloud-based versions of their software. If you’re looking for an accessible way to use software and store data for word processing, document sharing, graphic design, or anything else, SaaS options may be right for you.

PaaS (Platform as a Service)

If you are a SaaS company, or any other company looking to develop software, you may be in need of a PaaS. PaaS refers to services used to develop, scale, and deploy applications over cloud servers.

These services can be an excellent solution for startups looking to quickly build quality software. Existing companies also migrate to PaaS in order to account for growth and automation.

Common PaaS examples include Google’s App Engine, Amazon’s Elastic Beanstalk, Cocaine, and Heroku. These platforms offer simple solutions for building apps and software, albeit with limited features compared to an in-house platform.

This Prezi case study offers some insight into why companies move their backend from their own servers to platforms like AWS. Elastic Beanstalk automatically scales software up and down based on demand, which took a lot of the burden off Prezi’s team as they dealt with rapid growth.

While existing companies need to put in extra work to adjust their software to PaaS systems, they still have plenty to gain from moving their work to the cloud. While some have concerns about security and features, it’s an option worth exploring for developers at any level.

IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service)

IaaS is the ground level of cloud computing and what many are looking for when they seek a cloud server provider. These services deliver servers, networks, storage, and other root elements over the cloud.

A few common examples of IaaS include Microsoft Azure, DigitalOcean, and AWS. These services can be said to offer the best of both worlds: they take care of your storage needs and allow you to build and scale your work on your own terms.

Many companies opt to stick with their own IT infrastructure for ownership and security purposes. It can also be costly and complex to move servers from an on-premise server to a cloud. Still, more and more are turning to cloud solutions for storage and servers to future-proof their business and reduce unforeseen costs by paying subscription fees instead.

While you might not need IaaS for your personal work, it can be a practical solution for small businesses as well as larger ones. Buying and setting up physical hardware can be a headache, and it requires space and labor that your business may not have. Offsetting the cost of servers, storage, networks, and other structural elements can free you up to expand and retain users.

Other types

Cloud services offered on-demand may also include virtual desktops (DaaS), data analytics (also DaaS), integration (iPaaS), mobile backend (MBaaS), and IT management (ITMaaS). It’s possible to handle all elements of your business through cloud computing, especially with full-service options like AWS and Microsoft Azure.

What kind of server do I need?

Cloud computer servers

If you’re looking to store your own documents, a SaaS product like Google Drive or Dropbox should have fulfill your server needs. They have extensive free storage options and affordable pricing plans.

Beyond that, your server needs may depend on things like your budget, the size of your company, how many people use your service, and how much they do with it. If you want to host an app or website through cloud servers, you’ll have to consider your bandwidth needs.

Server use

One of the primary concerns when picking cloud storage services is what you intend to use the server for. AWS, for example, offers a range of services including storage, migration, data, computing, networking, analytics, integration, and developer tools.

For storage, other options include Box, Dropbox, OneDrive, JustCloud, and OpenDrive. Security is a concern when picking a storage provider, so pay attention to features like encryption and two-factor authentication.

For hosting, your plan will scale as your business grows. Specific hosting providers include Hostinger, HostGator, and Cloudways, but you can also host through AWS, Azure, or Google Cloud. What you use may depend on your hosting expertise, but you should also consider your site or app’s monthly usage rates.

For database services, there are tons of great options to choose from. Services like MySQL and MongoDB offer robust indexing options for businesses at every level. Consider the difference between SQL and other data systems when importing your data into one of these programs.

Platform, software, and backend tools come with their own concerns for your business. You may want more features and slick UI from your cloud server provider, or you may just want the most capacity at the lowest price. This checklist will help you determine which provider is right for you.

Cloud server provider checklist

Cloud server provider checklist
  • Use: Personal, internal, external
  • Types of cloud: Public (e.g. Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure), private (Oracle, Red Hat, Azure Private Cloud), hybrid (Amazon VPC, Rackspace, Bluemix)
  • Services: Databases, storage, computing, IP network, development, software, analytics, frontend, backend, etc.
  • Security: Privacy, redundancy, encryption, two-factor, user controls
  • What you need: Bandwidth, IP addresses, compute, migration
  • Compatibility: Ease of transfer, current systems, languages, scope
  • Price range: low-range (AccuWeb, IONOS, Hostinger), mid-range (Digital Ocean, Azure, HostGator), enterprise (Amazon, pCloud, Nextcloud)

This checklist should prepare you to find your ideal cloud server provider. Whether you’re concerned about security, space, or not breaking the bank, there are solutions. The most important thing is knowing what you’re looking for.