Call it Web hosting for the virtualization era.
ElasticHosts, a U.K.-based company that recently made its entry into the U.S. market, offers a scalable, on-demand cloud hosting service that delivers a high level of flexibility that the company says can translate into significant cost savings.
"Businesses small and large continue to battle through a very tough economic climate," said ElasticHosts CEO Richard Davies. "They can't afford to pay for services they 'might' need, while at the same time they recognize the need to ensure online services such as e-commerce sites have peak performance."
ElasticHosts offers use of its virtual cloud servers through an on-demand model, with capacity billed by the hour. The company provides a Web-based interface that enables users to rapidly provision more -- or less -- server capacity to suit their computing requirements.
Additionally, users can independently scale their CPU, RAM and disk space to meet their needs, liberating them from the preset strictures of a traditional hosting agreement.
With its January launch in North America, ElasticHosts now maintains two data centers in London and one each in Toronto, Los Angeles and San Antonio, Texas. With that geographical spread, ElasticHosts offers its customers the choice of where to locate their websites or applications for optimal performance. For customers with users spread over North America and Europe, ElasticHosts offers mirroring and load balancing services to ensure optimal availability.
Additionally, the company notes that by compartmentalizing among its five data centers, businesses that are interested in on-demand cloud hosting, but wary of U.S. privacy laws, can still take advantage of the ElasticHosts service while remaining outside of the jurisdiction of U.S. law enforcement. The authorities provided under the Patriot Act have become a flashpoint in the European privacy debate, with some government officials and European cloud companies warning that U.S. law enforcement agencies can obtain data that American companies store in the cloud in data centers located in the European Union without seeking permission from the owner or having to provide notification.
ElasticHosts offers an API and a Web interface through which customers can manage their virtual servers, providing the flexibility both to make decisions about the machine's operating system, applications and configuration and to scale the machine up or down to ensure adequate capacity.
"Over the years we have seen numerous incidents of websites failing or performing slowly as their servers could not cope with unexpected increases in visitor numbers. At the same time, many customers have only needed computing power for a few days a month to run batch processing jobs such as payroll," Davies said.
"Traditional hosting based on monthly contracts was not flexible or agile enough to enable business to address this problem. If they wanted extra server capacity to deal with an increase, they might have to wait days for this to be provisioned, while also having to sign up to a contract for that capacity," Davies added. "The result has been businesses gambling on capacity needs or paying for capacity they don't need just in case of a surge."
ElasticHosts uses Linux KVM as its virtualization platform, which the company argues is superior to alternative offerings such as those available from VMware and Xen for its architecture geared for virtualization on modern processors.
ElasticHosts offers a free, five-day trial of its hosting service, and then begins pricing at six cents per hour, or $44 a month for a basic virtual server. At the higher end, ElasticHosts' offerings cap out at eight cores, 8 GB of memory and 2 TB of disk space.
Kenneth Corbin is a freelance writer based in Washington, D.C. He has written on politics, technology and other subjects for more than four years, most recently as the Washington correspondent for InternetNews.com, covering Congress, the White House, the FCC and other regulatory affairs. He can be found on LinkedIn here