How The Landscape Has Shifted In The Last 5 Years
Over the past 5 years technology has changed in a lot of ways. From the rise of smartphones to an increasing number of touchscreen mobile devices, the advances in consumer technology are clear. Even in business, cloud storage is taking the place of file servers, enabling the seamless sharing of documents along with easy collaboration. One of the largest areas to be affected by changing technology, however, is nearly invisible to the consumer. Internet hosting providers have grown and changed over the last 5 years, upgrading their servers, operating systems and software, and increasing the range of services they offer.
One of the most obvious areas of change has been in the hardware market. In the past 5 years the cost of multi-core processors has fallen while their speeds rise. Coupled with the recent decline in the cost of RAM memory, the servers that are the lifeblood of web hosting are getting cheaper and faster. To the end-user, this means that the cost of dedicated hosting has dropped, transforming what used to be a premium service into an affordable option for nearly everyone.
It’s not just dedicated hosting that’s been effected though, the falling cost of server hardware has opened the way for web hosts to add new features, such as VPS. VPS, or virtual private servers, combine the low-price of shared hosting with the security and reliability of a dedicated server. VPS servers host your website inside of a virtual machine sandbox, guaranteeing your website a certain allotment of RAM memory, disk space, and bandwidth with no chance of slowdowns due to increased activity on another website that shares the same physical server.
Beyond RAM memory and processing power, server storage has gotten cheaper and faster since 2009. While this doesn’t directly effect the performance of most websites, it does mean that database response times have improved and it’s now easier than ever to build a responsive website that’s driven by a SQL back-end. Also, with improvements in hard disk hardware and the networking technology that links arrays of them together in the data center, the price of storage space is falling rapidly.
Improvements in hardware have made it easier for web hosts to reduce their energy needs. Modern processors are more efficient than they’ve ever been, benefiting from improvements in design that go far beyond increasing performance. As a result of this, more web hosts are looking at green energy alternatives to power their data centers. While it hasn’t received the same publicity as computing technology, the cost of solar cells have fallen by as much as 50% since 2009, leading many electricity-hungry larger web hosts to consider them as a supplement to traditional grid power.
On the software side, things have been developing just as rapidly. Possibly the largest development in the last 5 years in the rise of Nginx. This all-in-one package deploys easily on Linux-based servers and provides an array of solutions that, until recently, were difficult to implement. Proper load balancing, for instance, used to be a challenge for smaller web hosts to provide. Nginx has been such an effective tool for web hosting companies that, as of today, nearly 16% of web pages runs on a server with Nginx installed.
Ease of management is another area where software has transformed web hosting. In the past, many hosts used custom control panel suites in order to allow users to configure and manage their accounts. Since 2009, software such as cPanel and PHPMyAdmin have matured to the point that most hosts have stopped providing their own control panels in favor of a pre-made packages. The broad adoption of standardized control panel suites means that it’s easier than ever for subscribers to find resources and support information.
Finally, the cloud has come into its own in the past 5 years. This hybrid of software and storage hardware makes it very easy for web hosts to mirror customer information across multiple data centers. In the past, having a daily offsite backup was a huge selling point that only the largest web hosts could provide. Now, regional hosts can keep your data secure and safe, and offsite backups have gone mainstream.
While there’s no telling exactly what the future will hold, many engineers believe that the next revolution in web hosting will come with the rise of HTML5 and IPV6 technologies. Innovation in web hosting for the foreseeable future will likely focus on the mobile web, with HTML5 delivering dynamic content across multiple platforms and IPV6 providing the necessary address space for more and more internet-enabled devices. Web hosts will continue to sell their disk space and bandwidth, but how we utilize it going forward is anyone’s guess.