“First were mainframes, each shared by lots of people. Now we are in the personal computing era. Next comes ubiquitous computing, or the age of calm technology, when technology recedes into the background of our lives” — Mark David Weiser.
Is technology really receding into the background? For some Internet users, the answer is yes. For others, it is not so.
An ever-increasing number of people access the Internet with a mobile phone. Staff members in organisations that have adopted enterprise solutions and a BYOG (bring your own device) policy may access software stored on cloud-based servers using desktop computers or hand-held devices like smartphones or tablets. For these categories of users, web hosting will appear as a utility service that is largely invisible to them.
However, there is a very large user base that host and manage private or company-based websites. To these users, web hosting is very much a relevant issue.
Web hosting made its appearance in 1991
The idea of the Internet was conceived some three decades before web hosting appeared in 1991. In the early days, web hosting consisted of a web server installed and run on an office workstation. Data and physical security was largely non-existent.
As the demand for online services grew, web hosting transitioned to data centres equipped with redundant hardware, fire and access protection. In these data centres, still in widespread use today, system administrators and webmasters manage hardware and software upgrades and data backup. They also monitor and rectify system uptime and provide a customer service desk.
Moving on to virtual servers
Next came virtual servers. On these servers, the operating system (OS) is separated from the physical hardware on which it runs. More than one instance of the same web servers can be installed on one physical server, and several different web servers co-exist on the same computer.
Coupled with virtual servers, data centres use what is called server virtualisation. An administrator can configure one physical server into multiple virtual machines, each one acting like a unique physical device that can run its own operating system.
The transition to cloud servers
The “cloud” is a metaphor for the Internet. The evolution of cloud computing has taken web hosting to a new and superior level. In addition to web hosting, cloud providers offer a wide range of additional services including software applications, security, and business services.
The biggest providers offering enterprise solutions include Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft, IBM, Google, and others. Smaller providers include Dropbox, JustCloud and many others.
A cloud provider supplies servers, data storage, and software applications to an organisation over the internet. In essence, cloud computing means the transfer, creation, and storing of data on the internet. There also is a shared responsibility process that defines what infrastructure components the cloud provider is responsible for.
This diagram of Gartner data published on Forbes.com in 2013 shows the projected growth and relative size of these categories and in 2015 is pretty accurate.
The private or public cloud
Cloud computing is supplied either as a public, private cloud or hybrid cloud, each tailored to meet the specific requirements and security concerns of an organisation.
Private cloud servers are restricted to authorised users and are normally secured by a corporate firewall.
With hybrid cloud hosting, organisations use a combination of in-house data and applications in addition to cloud-based applications and storage facilities. It is becoming a popular solution for many companies.
Forrester Data predicts that public cloud solutions will be the favoured solution for enterprises. Public clouds are those services provides by AWS or Azure and allow for anyone to create account and begin consuming resources. Importantly public cloud provides are secure (see AWS certification here and Azure here). Importantly to note is that public cloud providers are constantly innovating and delivering these benefits to the clients - something you won't generally see to the same level in a private cloud environment.