In 2013, things are about to change in a pretty big way. The advancing dominance and speed of broadband Internet connections, as well as always-on mobile data services, means that web hosting will increasingly be used to deliver services as well as content. This will be true for both consumers and enterprise customers. Web hosting will continue to evolve in other ways, as well, improving backend architecture and frontend delivery for customers of all types. As 2013 kicks into gear, there are a few reasonable predictions that can be made about the course of the industry over the next twelve months.
Software as a Service Will Continue to Dominate the Industry
Over the past two years or so, cloud computing has gone from being a niche industry at leading technology firms to a mainstream consumer product. As part of this transition into a mainstream idea, cloud computing has brought with it the idea of "software as a service," or SaaS. Simply put, software as a service involves taking key software applications off of the typical hard disk, and away from the desktop, in favor of placing those applications online. Customers can then access their apps via a web browser, allowing a remote company to perform all of the maintenance that is typically associated with actually owning an app.
This is one of the biggest trends in cloud-based computing, and it will become a key part of the web hosting industry. Already in 2012, leading web hosting companies were developing "application hosting" packages that were designed exclusively to host remote software packages delivered to a large number of users simultaneously. These hosting packages combined the distributed nature of cloud computing with the easily accessible nature of a unified domain name and basic, database-driven login for end users.
In 2013, the number of application hosting packages will rise dramatically as even smaller businesses turn to a cloud-based mechanism for distributing their applications. Universally accessible applications permit developers to move away from platform-specific development. Instead, they can target broad swaths of desktop, smartphone, and tablet users, without creating a separate application for each platform, operating system, or even web browser.
Server as a Service Becomes a Mainstream Notion
Virtual private server hosting has been around for the better part of a decade. One way to think of this hosting option is "server as a service." Instead of requiring direct, hands-on management by IT professionals, these servers are often remotely managed and maintained. They offer the power and convenience of a dedicated server with the convenience and outsourced maintenance of a shared hosting package. In 2013, their prominence will increase in a rather big way. That's because even those customers new to web hosting are looking for more powerful packages that allow them to centralize their website or blog, their cloud-based data services, and their social media accounts, in a central place.
Virtual private server hosting is the best way to accomplish these goals without requiring multiple hosting accounts and multiple monthly subscription fees. As more people come to this realization, it's likely that VPS options will increase in number while decreasing in price. Traditional shared hosting, meanwhile, may suffer from demand for the first time in its long history.
"Green" Will Become a Major Hosting Selling Point in 2013
A number of larger hosting companies began testing the waters of so-called "green hosting" in 2011 and 2012. In the coming year, green web hosting options will become the most desired ones available to consumers and businesses alike. That's because consumers are increasingly conscious of the environmental cost of their online operations. They'll look to offset their carbon footprint, and their environmental guilt, but choosing a company that can derive some or all of its power from wind and solar sources.
Look for companies like GreenGeeks and others to emphasize their environmentally friendly credentials. They'll explain how green hosting benefits their company, the environment, and all of those customers who choose to go with an eco-friendly solution for their online presence. More and more companies will begin bragging about their solar and wind energy sources, as well as their ability to actually feed energy back into the grid.
Datacenters Will Become the Hottest Real Estate Buy Available
It's no secret that the real estate market has taken a pretty sizable hit over the course of the past half-decade, at least in the United States. While the market has begun to recover slowly and slightly, it has not yet regained the kind of major momentum that it experienced during the earliest years of the 21st century. While residential real estate may still struggle to full recover this year, high-tech options will likely go through a sort of mini-boom.
Specifically, datacenter sales will be on the rise this year as cloud computing gains critical mass. Everyone is going to want a piece of the cloud computing economy, from small businesses to enterprises like Microsoft, Apple, Google, and numerous others. Already, many of the largest companies are building state-of-the-art datacenter facilities to accommodate their burgeoning cloud services and SaaS initiatives. That will trickle down, and even the smallest businesses or web hosting companies will be on the hunt for newer, larger, and more sustainable datacenter facilities.
In an economy where one can never have too much room for servers and racks, datacenter property will get more expensive and will be one of the hottest forms of new construction. It may also become a leading form of employment, both because of construction needs and because someone has to manage the scores of servers housed in these facilities both day and night.
Mobile Account Management and Access for Consumers
Web hosting companies are virtually required to maintain online account management, or OLAM, services for their customers. After all, they need to provide some form of billing and service management that doesn't involve 24-hour hotlines. Where they have lagged, however, is the mobile segment of the market. A large number of web hosting companies, even those with the biggest names and the largest number of subscribers, have thus far failed to unveil mobile-friendly account management solutions.
In 2013, that's likely to change. After all, most of these companies will begin selling web hosting products that are specifically designed to host mobile apps and services. Look for companies large and small to unveil account management apps for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone; keep an eye out for mobile-friendly versions of account management websites, too. This year, no stone will be left unturned as web hosting companies look to make sure that their customers experience the highest level of convenience, even when their screen size is pocket-sized.
It Might Get Quite a Bit More Difficult to Switch Hosting Companies
One of the things that has characterized the web hosting industry since its inception is that moving between companies and domains has been relatively easy. Typically, this involved backing up one set of files, moving them to the next web host, and changing a few DNS servers. That process remains, but it will be a bit more difficult as cloud computing becomes the de facto hosting choice of most consumers.
In a cloud-computing environment, files are distributed across scores of servers. In many cases, each file is maintained multiple times in a type of "versioning" scheme, just in case an older copy is needed to replace a newer version with typos or other errors. This means that moving between web hosting companies will involve packing up either all file versions, or just the most recent, and moving them to a new cloud without a second of downtime. It's a tall order, and it's one that most businesses are likely not prepared to meet as the year gets underway.
Over the course of 2013, look for web hosting companies to offer all kinds of new assistance to customers who are migrating from another cloud-based hosting option. These services may be free or premium, but they'll almost certainly be required by every customer who has opted for a cloud-based hosting solution in recent months.
Web Hosting Continues to Make Big Strides Forward
The web hosting industry, though often forgotten, is nowhere near a point of stagnation or saturation. Increasing demands for service-style software and cloud-based data access have allowed web hosting to become one of the hottest commodities available. Datacenters, too, are some of the most vital and sought-after pieces of real estate in the entire tech industry. Look for eco-friendly, cloud-based hosting to become the key driver of growth in this industry for at least the next twelve months.