Best cloud hosting services in 2021 – Tom’s Guide

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Cloud technology, and particularly cloud hosting within web hosting, has revolutionized how the internet operates. Instead of having a site rely on one server, cloud hosting allows you to distribute content across an entire network, and as such many of the industry-leading, best web hosting services offer cloud hosting plans.

Its main benefit is that websites are now scalable: should you want to run a data-intensive project and need more RAM (random access memory) or bandwidth, you can easily add more servers into your network to get the resources your site needs. 

It only takes a couple of clicks to upgrade or downgrade, and you’ll see additional server power in just a few minutes. The best cloud hosting removes one of the biggest headaches of traditional hosting too, in that there’s no downtime to worry about.

While the technology underlying cloud hosting is similar, many hosts couldn’t be more different. There are cloud hosting services to meet just about every need, ranging from managed cloud hosting to email hosting, or replacing your business server. Additionally, small businesses can tap into green cloud hosting to reduce their footprint on the environment.

Whether you’re a Fortune 500 company that requires a massive network of resources, or a smaller business looking for a nimble, flexible, and affordable plan that’s highly scalable, there isn’t one single best cloud hosting service. Each of the five we’ve chosen takes a different approach.

If you’re considering making the switch, we’ve highlighted the five best cloud hosting services available. Keep in mind that most offer free trials, so before you commit you can explore the benefits of cloud hosting for your business.

The top 3 best cloud hosting services available

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Which are the best cloud hosting services?

Our pick for the best cloud hosting is Cloudways, which connects you with top providers including Amazon, Google, DigitalOcean, Linode, and Vultr. It layers its own management and security framework on top, offering flexible pricing via hourly or monthly charges depending on your project. 

You can also decide where your data center will be, to get the best performance, and its managed hosting platform is set up to meet even the most demanding requests.

For small businesses trying out cloud hosting, we recommend DigitalOcean. This platform is incredibly flexible, allowing you to host something as simple as your business website or as resource intensive as cloud-based apps. Plus, it offers a huge library of tutorials to help businesses get started with cloud hosting.

For larger companies looking to move an entire server, we recommend Microsoft Azure, which takes advantage of being a large, well-established platform by offering you access to the resources you need to keep your business email, internal apps, and site resources all inside a single system. When it comes to scalability, the sky’s the limit—which can’t be said of many other providers.

If you wanted a simple, site-first cloud hosting service, HostGator’s the provider for you. It spreads your site over multiple servers for increased speed, protective redundancy, and adaptability to issues, while server mirroring and customizable levels of CPUs and RAM are great for scalability.

Finally, UK-specific cloud hosting comes from Clook, which has one data center in the UK and offers top-notch, 24/7 customer support from its experienced staff. It also utilizes over 35 monitoring services to detect threats, failures, and other potential issues that may impact your site.


The best cloud hosting services available

Cloudways logo

(Image credit: Cloudways)

Multi-provider cloud hosting

Reasons to buy

+Easy to set up+Free trial with no credit card+Selection of platforms

Reasons to avoid

No domain namesEmail not includedUnfamiliar control panel

Cloudways takes a different approach to cloud hosting than most of the other platforms on the market. Instead of offering its own network, Cloudways connects you with one of five top cloud providers including Amazon, Google, DigitalOcean, Linode, and Vultr. 

Cloudways then layers its own management and security framework on top of this computational infrastructure. This approach works well for a wide variety of businesses, not least because you get flexibility in pricing. Cloudways offers multiple plan options for each infrastructure provider, and you can choose to pay either hourly or monthly depending on the scale of your project.

You can also decide exactly where your data center should be located, to ensure you get the best performance for your business and customers. Between the five providers, there are more than 60 data centers spread across 25 global cities.

On top of that, Cloudways’ managed hosting platform is designed to meet a wide variety of demands. It includes Nginx, MySQL, PHP 7, Apache, Memcached, and Varnish Cache, among other core systems. Git is integrated to promote collaboration among app developers, and you can easily clone, back up, and restore a repository with just a single click.

One major downside to using Cloudways for your cloud hosting is that support costs extra. Every plan includes 24/7 live chat, but if you want to talk to tech support by phone, you’ll need a Premium support subscription for $500 a month. 

Read our Cloudways review.

DigitalOcean logo

(Image credit: DigitalOcean)

Scalable cloud hosting for small businesses

Reasons to buy

+Specialized Droplets enable scalability

Reasons to avoid

Relatively expensive

DigitalOcean is one of the largest cloud hosting providers in the US, but the company caters equally to small businesses and enterprises. Whether you want to speed up your website, develop a cloud-based app, or crunch through massive amounts of data, DigitalOcean has highly flexible options you can turn to.

The key to this versatility is DigitalOcean’s system of Droplets. Instead of signing up for a single plan with a set number of CPUs or RAM, you can purchase as many Droplets—virtual CPUs—as you want from the company. Better yet, you get to decide whether you need general purpose Droplets for tasks like web hosting or memory-optimized Droplets for storing and accessing a massive database.

Every Droplet can be deployed with any of six Linux distributions, as well as apps like Docker, MySQL, and Node.js. Plus, performance monitoring and system-level backups happen at the level of individual Droplets, so that you never have to worry about a single bad server slowing your business down.

DigitalOcean isn’t the cheapest cloud hosting service on the market. A single general purpose Droplet with 1GB of RAM costs $5 a month. But, the scalability means that you’ll only pay for exactly what you need, and the company offers hourly pricing options for short-term development projects. 

Read our DigitalOcean review.

Microsoft Azure logo

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Cloud hosting to crunch big data

Reasons to buy

+Scalability+Pay-as-you-go

Reasons to avoid

Costly tech support plansNo live chat support

Microsoft Azure is more than just a cloud hosting service. It’s a massive cloud computing platform, built to handle the needs of the world’s largest companies.

Microsoft Azure shouldn’t be the cloud hosting provider you turn to if you just want to build a business website. But, if you want to crunch through a trove of customer data or build a complex internal app, this platform can provide all the resources you need. 

On top of just adding RAM and CPUs (central processing units) to your cloud hosting plan, you can also add machine learning algorithms, bots, and cognitive APIs (application programming interfaces) into your Azure application. Another plus to Microsoft Azure is that it’s one of the most secure cloud hosting solutions on the market. 

The platform is favored by government institutions, including the Pentagon, and it boasts compliance with a number of brand-new cloud security standards. Small businesses might be tempted to shy away from Microsoft Azure, since you’ll need a savvy IT team to get the most out of this cloud hosting service. 

But, if your company collects a lot of data and is willing to pay for third-party help, it can still be a very attractive option. 

Read our Microsoft Azure hosting review.

HostGator logo

For affordable cloud hosting, HostGator is hard to beat (Image credit: HostGator)

Affordable cloud hosting for your website

Reasons to buy

+Simple cloud hosting+Affordable plans

Reasons to avoid

Only supports websites

Looking for a better way to host your website rather than a solution for processing mountains of data? HostGator’s relatively simple, website-first cloud hosting service fits the bill exactly.

With HostGator, your website is spread over multiple servers to give you redundancy, speed, and adaptability. The provider advertises that its cloud hosting packages can cut your site’s loading time in half compared to its traditional hosting options. Plus, you don’t have to worry about your website being taken offline by a hardware failure since your data is mirrored on multiple servers.

Best of all, though, is the fact that you can adjust the number of CPUs and the amount of RAM devoted to your website in realtime. Is your website overflowing with traffic after a big announcement or a sale? HostGator’s cloud hosting service enables you to quickly and seamlessly adapt to the spike in visitors.

Another plus for small businesses is that HostGator’s plans are very inexpensive. Cloud hosting starts at just $3.13 a month for a single domain and 2GB of RAM. If you need more resources, you can get six CPUs, 6GB of RAM, and a dedicated IP for just $6.28 a month (although the cost jumps to $17.95 a month after renewal).

Read our HostGator review.

Clook logo

For those with a need to host in the UK, Clook is a top option (Image credit: Clook)

Cloud hosting with UK-based servers

Reasons to buy

+UK-based data center+Ultra-fast internal connections

Reasons to avoid

Expensive plan pricingNo hourly plans

If your company needs to establish a stronger digital presence in the UK, Clook is one of the best options available. This cloud hosting provider operates a single data center in Manchester, England, which makes for fast connections for London-based offices and customers.

Whereas many cloud hosts leave you on your own once you sign up for their service, Clook puts its customers first. Every plan comes with 24/7 phone and email support from experienced technicians, who understand how the company’s servers are set up and how you can leverage them to meet your business’s needs.

Those same technicians are in charge of monitoring Clook’s network, and they do an excellent job of it. The company boasts more than 35 monitoring services that work around the clock to detect security threats, hardware failures, and any other issues that could impact the cloud’s performance. Clook also stands out for using ultra-fast 10Gbps connections for all internal storage nodes and hypervisors.

Of course, a cloud network built and maintained by IT experts doesn’t come cheap. An entry-level cloud hosting plan includes just one CPU, 1GB of RAM, and 500GB of bandwidth and costs $110.95 a month. If you need enough computational power to crunch a lot of data—say, four CPUs, 8GB of RAM, and 2TB of bandwidth—it’ll cost you at least $328 a month. There’s also no option to pay-as-you-go at an hourly rate.


What is web hosting, and why do I need it?

Web hosting covers the servers and infrastructure that store site files and deliver them to visitors to a given website. Any site is, at its root, a patchwork of files, including text, code, images, and more. When these are all linked together, they create an attractive, highly-functional website. 

However, these files must be stored somewhere, so that they can be loaded when people visit the site. Hosting providers offer storage for, and access to, these important files on their web-connected servers: meaning that when someone loads your website, all of the files are delivered to their device.

How to choose from the best cloud hosting services

Further reading on web hosting

Learn why regional cloud hosting matters when it comes to the best cloud hosting services; and if you’re looking to find out more about which hosting is cheapest, or offers the fewest restrictions on resources, check out our guides to the best web hosting for cheap (updated monthly with the best deals) and the best unlimited web hosting.