We started discussing cloud services in our blog this August as an important tech trend for small businesses for the rest of 2014.
Here’s where we left off, since the two terms might become confusing as you keep reading:
Cloud computing is using a network of remote servers hosted on the Internet to store, manage, and process data (rather than a company’s own on-site servers, or a personal computer).
Next are cloud services: services made available to users on demand via the Internet from a cloud computing provider’s servers, as opposed to being provided from a local server (or computer, too). Cloud services are designed to provide easy, scalable access to applications, resources and services, and are fully managed by a cloud services provider.
The cloud computing idea is tempting because the cloud offers many advantages. There are no utility bills, no server room staff, and no tax issues for amortising the cost of the machines. The process is also simple: a credit card grants you the room you need, often within minutes.
Knowing that sometimes the best way to understand a whole element is to break it in smaller pieces, we’ve deconstructed each service in terms of what they are and the services they provide, and then move to compare the two.
First, the individual look:
What it is.
Azure is Microsoft’s cloud computing platform for building, deploying and managing applications and services through a global network of Microsoft-managed datacenters. It supports many programming languages and tools, including Microsoft-specific and third-party software.
Relevant: software deployment is all of the activities that make a software system available for use. A datacenter is a large group of networked computer servers used for the remote storage, processing, or distribution of large amounts of data.
Services it provides.
- High density hosting of web sites
- Virtual machines
- Cloud services (the focus in this post)
- Data management
- Business analytics
- Mobile services
Amazon Web Services (AWS)
What it is.
AWS is a collection of remote computing services that together make up a cloud computing platform, offered by Amazon.com. The most central and well-known of these services are Amazon EC2 and Amazon S3.
AWS are advertised as providing a large computing capacity (many servers), much faster and cheaper than building a physical server farm.
Relevant: a server farm (or server cluster), is a collection of computer servers usually maintained by an enterprise to accomplish server needs far beyond the capability of one machine.
Services it provides.
- Private servers
- Network connections
- Database services
- Deployment and management of applications
Comparing the two: a quick review on Presence, Price and Performance
Amazon owns the largest data centers in the world, and whereas Azure is not near the size of AWS, Microsoft has been working hard to match Amazon’s services and flexibility.
Pricing for cloud services is notorious for its difficulty when trying to do an apples-to-apples comparison. The reason for this is the differences in configuration and measuring of computing units, not to mention the differences in the services offered.
Azure seems to be more expensive than AWS, but the former also offers good discounts for upfront, long-term payments.
Since in reality you’re renting a machine by the hour, even when you look at price lists, you can’t simply choose the cheapest machine and feel secure in your decision. The only way you can tell if you’re getting what you’re paying for is to test; only then can you make a decision about whether the light, airy simplicity of a cloud machine is for you.
The same comparison difficulty also affects performance, though to a lesser extent. Performance comparison is also affected by the location of the vendor’s nearest data center in relation to the tester. This is good news for Amazon with its several strategically placed data centers worldwide, and especially in North America.
The CSW Solution’s team is a great start to get advice on how to proceed if you’re curious about cloud services, now that you have more basic information on the topic. Yoel or Ray can guide you through finding if either of these solutions is right for you, and how it’d support your business in more detail. Get in touch!