Cloud hosting is probably the best option for something like that. Just keep in mind that their are different types of clouds. I would think for what your talking about you may want to look into cloud servers and not cloud sites or cloud files (CDN). During your peak season you can simply increase the cpu and ram if needed and then drop it back down during the slow times. Your rates will vary depending on the provider and how their system is setup. VPS and Dedicated would be overkill and cost you the same regardless of the resources needed. Shared hosting might not support the traffic during the peak season.
I have used ThePlanet and Rackspace for cloud servers in the past and still use Rackspace cloud for a few things I want off our network. I personally have no experience with any other cloud providers but I am sure you can find several on these forums that may be able to give you more information and more details about which cloud option would be better for your needs.
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Cloud would work good as long as you can scale up and down the service and to decrease costs in periods when you do not need to use to much resources. Otherwise a standard VPS would work good. My suggestions is to calculated costs you'd have for Cloud-based instance and a standard VPS on annual base and to ecide which would work better.
I think a dedicated server would be better for your situation. Get everything setup and running smooth which should make your boss feel better. I would even talk directly with your host you choose and try to work something out, maybe a lower server bill during your off time? There are options for you and the host to work on, just need to find a host that is willing to talk to you and not just call you a number and plan. But if your boss is worried at all I would go higher then trying to make this run on the low end. Need to keep the boss happy and show him good results.
Thanks for the replies, if I went dedicated hosting, what sort of number of simultaneous connections could I look for using a top-end server?
This is not something that is too easy to quantify - it varies a lot based on what those connections are actually doing, etc.
However one thing you should know is that a single cloud server cannot generally scale beyond the specs of a high-end dedicated server - so if you started with a high-end dedicated (e.g. 8-12 cores, 16GB+ RAM, SAS disks, etc.) you'd already have the maximum capacity that a cloud server will typically be able to accommodate when scaled out as well. An exception to this is if you had two cloud servers initially, one for web front-end and another for your database back-end. In that case you could scale out each separately to have more effective resources than a single dedicated server could provide.
In terms of cost efficiency, a cloud server based solution would definitely be better, as you can just max out your cloud server(s) when you anticipate higher traffic (usually this just requires a short reboot of 2-3 minutes with most providers, which you can schedule during off-peak). While the entire setup of a 'cloud' is generally regarded as a fairly new 'technology' it is generally something that is built from many 'tried and true' components. You can definitely experience high reliability out of a cloud server setup, it simply depends on the provider you go with and the type of setup they have. If you go with a premium provider who has quality hardware and proper redundancy built into their setup, I don't think you will be disappointed.
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I'd be grateful for some advice or pointers of where to look. I've been asked to make some recommendations about hosting for a LAMP website.
The issue is that there will be some 23,000 users who will need to login over a 2 week period to submit a small amount of data. This will happen 3 times a year.
During the rest of year there will be small number of users accessing the data.
Cloud computing which seems to offer a solution to needing to expand resources at times of heavy demand, but my boss is very wary of it.
All advice and thoughts gratefully received.
It seems that the ability to throw up a few instances on a cloud system such as Amazon's EC2 (with auto-scaling) each of the three times a year that the additional capacity is needed, destroying them when the need is over, would be just the ticket here.
I understand the boss being wary of putting all of his eggs in a new basket but using the cloud instances for just the data entry should be understandable. The need for temporary, hard to estimate infrastructure is where use of the cloud can save serious money.