When it comes to enterprise content management, there is hosting, and then there is the cloud. While there are similarities between these two computer networking environments, which we will discuss briefly, it is ultimately the differences that are most important to understand in today’s competitive business market.

Starting with the Similarities

Both hosting and cloud environments utilize a hypervisor run by clusters of rack or blade servers, and both enable users to access and store documents, collaborate on projects, share data and complete other essential tasks in a virtual environment. Both are affordable and easy to maintain, and both are known for optimal reliability when compared to file-sharing systems on physical servers. That, however, is where the main similarities end.

What Makes Cloud Computing Unique?

What is it that makes cloud computing so unique compared to hosting? According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology, there are five characteristics:

  1. Broad Network Access
  2. Measured Service
  3. Rapid Elasticity
  4. Resource Pooling
  5. Self-Provisioning

In terms of broad network access, cloud computing is certainly different than hosting. This type of configuration usually offers APIs or a web portal that enables users to access virtual machines from any location and through any computing device, including a laptop, smartphone or tablet. Hosting, on the other hand, often offers a “web client” that most laymen can’t use.

When it comes to measured service, cloud environments offer the advantage of cutting costs by reducing virtual machines, and thus reducing the amount of resources consumed and money spent. When you use less hardware and rely on an efficient system of software and mobile technology, you can reduce service costs dramatically.

Cloud computing also offers the advantage of rapid elasticity, which again differs from hosting. When you’re working in the cloud, it’s fast and easy to increase capabilities and capacities when necessary, without a large additional cost. With a hosting environment, on the other hand, it might be necessary to scale up large pieces of hardware, and that just might not be possible due to the massive costs of purchasing such new pieces of equipment.

Hosting environments do now offer the option of resource pooling thanks to some infrastructure sharing capabilities that were developed in recent years for this technology, but cloud computing pools resources at another level. The cloud enables organizations to present virtual machines to their users that pool together storage, memory, networking and computing into one unified, cost-saving system. It’s a requirement for a technology to pool these resources to even be considered cloud computing.

One of the nicest things about cloud computing is that it is self-provisioning. Cloud providers present users with a web portal that displays virtual machines, which offer a centralized and self-provisioning hub to maintain and administer the environment. Ultimately, this type of environment requires very little in the way of maintenance, and offers a great number of benefits to the users who rely on it.

It is true that hosting and the cloud are both cost effective, both offer multiple tenancy and both offer useful features such as the ability to monitor performance, consolidate data and access application program interfaces. Both of these environments function as a file-sharing system that manages data without hurting the organization’s bottom line. The main differences with the cloud, though, are its accessibility, consumption-based model, scalability and self-provisioning characteristics. If you’re considering which one of these environments is right for your organization, you may want to think about speaking with a consultant about the possibilities of moving to the cloud. It can make all the difference when it comes to efficiency, collaboration, cost effectiveness, better products and services and reduced time to market.

Co-Authored by: Brian Jones