When we hear talk about cloud hosting generally what people refer to is more along the lines of cloud storage. Things like Amazon Cloudfront, Dropbox, Google Drive, MaxCDN, and a number of others come to mind. You may have heard the term CDN (Content Delivery Network) when referring to the cloud.
You will also see people talking about how it can boost your website’s performance and speed. This is true to some extent, but it depends on the type of cloud setup and configuration they are talking about and more importantly if everything is running optimally.
Most websites that use a cloud based service use it to store images for free or fairly cheap. This can be helpful, but it does not guarantee better performance or 100% up time.
Cloud base storage won’t help if the particular server that your website happens to be on is running slow, or is down (offline). It is only beneficial if your server happens to be running normal and smooth.
If your site/server happens to be running slow your content stored in the cloud will also load much slower. If your site/server happens to be down completely your content stored in the cloud will not load.
Here is what happens…
Assuming your website is hosted on a traditional cheap shared web hosting platform.
Someone enters yoursite.com in their web browser, or they click on your site/page after performing a Google search, etc.
A quick DNS lookup happens and it says go find that site or page in X-Datacenter on X-Server.
The server fires up PHP and MySQL (database). PHP processes and renders the output which loads the content, images, etc. of the particular website. As the page or site loads and some of your images are stored in the cloud your browser will get them from there and in most cases it can speed up the load time.
That is a brief example of how it would happen under normal and ideal circumstances.
If your server/site is loading slow…
Everything contained on your slow loading server will be slow. Once it has loaded enough to know where to get the cloud images they will load fast, but all your content stored on your server will continue loading and processing slow.
If your server/site is down…
In the event that your server/site is down completely a basic simple cloud storage setup won’t do you any good. The images you have stored in the cloud won’t load at all because your site/server needs to tell the end user’s web browser where to get them. If your server/site is down there would be no way of telling a browser/user where to retrieve them from.
In the event that this happens when using this type of cloud it will not help at all.
(Left) Traditional scheme of distribution (Right) Cloud/CDN scheme of distribution
Ideally you may want to use a full featured cloud hosting service, which would include a web server, PHP, MySQL (database), etc. Basically everything would be stored and processed in the cloud. All your images, template, php files, the database, etc. would all be powered by the cloud. However, these are much more costly and can even be confusing not only to set up, but to pick the right plan or resources your site may need.
What it comes down to is it really depends on the type of cloud service you are talking about and using. Most of the ones people commonly use and refer to are for simple image storage, which is great when everything is running normal. Not so good when things are not.