Executive Corner

Cloud Hosting Series, Part 4: With Cloud, the Era of Overselling is Over

In my last blog post for ServInt’s Cloud Series I talked about some of the true potential of Cloud Hosting. But how do you know if the Cloud hosting provider you’ve chosen will be able to make good on their promises for scalability, bandwidth, reliability, etc.?

One of the reasons non-Cloud hosts fall short in our industry is overselling. Not all hosts oversell their products—ServInt never has and it never will. But many hosts, especially in the shared space, buy resources and then resell multiples of those resources under the assumption that most people weren’t going to use everything they were being sold.

And for the most part, shared hosts can get away with overselling by simply dumping customers who push the limits of their infrastructure. Every VPS host out there has stories to share about customers calling them up and asking for a solution because one of the big shared hosts has just turned off their server and told them to find another provider. These successful customers—the customers that need and demand the “unlimited” offerings many shared hosts brag about, are the customers the hosts don’t want. Because overselling and customers with serious hosting needs don’t mix.

Until recently, most of those customers ended up in VPS land. And it was—and continues to be—a great choice for many of them. A quality VPS host partitions hardware and sells the discrete blocks to customers with guaranteed minimum performance and burst resources to boot.

But some less-reputable hosts also oversell in the VPS environment. With the resource needs of VPS customers—not to mention the prices being paid for service—a customer expects what they’ve paid for, and rightly so. But all too often promises of CPU, RAM and bandwidth fall short when a shady VPS host oversells packages on its network.

As Cloud Hosting continues to mature as a movement, that’s going to change drastically. Hosts used to overselling who get into Cloud Hosting will quickly learn that Cloud just doesn’t work that way. Where some hosts can hide their overselling with VPS, Cloud hosting’s very nature doesn’t allow this.

I recently had an interesting conversation with a friend of mine in the industry. He shared an analogy with me that I want to pass along, as I think it helps illustrate the major technological differences between traditional hosting and Cloud hosting on the back end—the part that few customers actually see.

He described the following three models:

  • Shared Hosting
  • Dedicated Hosting
  • Cloud Hosting

He said that if you think of hosting infrastructure as being like seats on an airplane, in a Shared Hosting environment you could oversell—you could have 500 seats on a plane and sell them to 700 passengers, knowing not everybody would show up for the flight.

In a Dedicated environment it’s one to one—meaning that if you have 500 seats you can sell them to 500 passengers.

In a Cloud environment, if you have 500 seats you can sell them to… maybe 400 passengers—because some of those passengers might need more seats mid-flight.

Cloud brings in an era of UNDERselling!

Now here’s the thing: in today’s environment as a host, overselling doesn’t mean you suck, but if you suck there’s a good chance you oversell. As more and more hosts move to the Cloud, the hosts that suck now will really suck then.

A well-run Enterprise-class VPS infrastructure is the closest parallel to a well-run Cloud—more so than Dedicated and much more so than shared. Because a host needs to have inventory available for customers to quickly scale. They—we—need to have ample burst resources available at all times so that when customers need more power in the middle of a busy day, or when one gets on the next Oprah, we’ve got it covered.

True Cloud hosting provides—among other things—even quicker scaling than VPS, therefore spare resources need to be available in even greater quantities to handle that. A VPS or shared host that has trouble helping customers scale now will have more trouble in Cloud. Underselling is not new, but it is a fundamental element of the Cloud Hosting model.

So what does this mean to you, the customer?

It’s important for customers to understand what kind of investment a hosting provider is making when it offers a Cloud solution. Does this company have the infrastructure and expertise to back up their new product? Do they have a track record of providing new technologies that aren’t just techie-cool but are also functional from a user perspective, scalable and there when you need them?

And make no mistake, while the hardware and software are new, they run over the same network infrastructure that VPS and dedicated run over. So evaluating the capacity—and competency—of a Cloud hosting provider’s network and support for VPS (or dedicated) will give a customer a good sense of how robust this new Cloud solution will be.

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  1. ServInt is always focused on how it can leverage new technologies to solve problems for our customers. We are working on all sorts of things and some you would probably call Cloud. But our goal isn't to reign in early adopters with any immature technologies, it is to build real solutions for real businesses, the way we have with our VPS platform. I can tell you that as the next gen tech becomes ready for most businesses we'll be there to drive it.
    Christian Dawson /
  2. Is ServInt going to be offering similar cloud services in the future? I'm aware of ServInt's public defense of RackSpace a while back, but with all the cloud articles here I'm curious. Thanks for any feedback, even if the statements are "forward looking" etc etc
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