How to Choose the Right Cloud Provider

How to Choose the Right Cloud Provider

The promise of cloud technology has spawned tremendous innovation by some of the biggest, most powerful companies in the world. Choosing a cloud provider is a very important undertaking. Get it wrong, and you’ll incur big costs, delays, and headaches; get it right, and you’ll position your firm for a more scalable and profitable future.

To make the right decision, it’s critical to understand the differences among the top cloud providers. Each brings a different set of strengths and weaknesses to the table.

Amazon Web Services (AWS)

  • Strengths: With the most cloud services (over 140 and counting) and the longest proven track record, this is the most reliable and fully-featured service provider. And with a deep knowledge base for developers and a robust client marketplace, the chances of finding just what you need for any given situation are high. With a rapid pace of innovation, this is the provider offing the most leading-edge services.

  • Weaknesses: The high volume of innovation can also be a downside when working with AWS, because keeping up with the pace of new releases and best practices requires an investment in developer time. And the breadth of offerings, while a boon, can also be a burden, as it’s easy to get lost in the number of options. Their pricing model is also somewhat more rigid than other providers if you want to take advantage of the best value options.

Azure

  • Strengths: This is the Microsoft cloud, and it therefore leverages Windows technology incredibly well— better than any other provider. Microsoft runs their own infrastructure on Azure, so it’s got a proven track record. And the Azure dashboard is by far the most user-friendly.

  • Weaknesses: If you’re not running Windows technology exclusively, Azure quickly becomes less competitive. The relative youth of the service and the rapid pace of their development shows itself in less reliability (i.e., more frequent outages and bugs) than other service providers.

Google Cloud

  • Strengths: Google has chosen to focus their cloud offerings on containers and machine learning—and they’re a powerhouse in those specific areas. They’re releasing new and useful features at a rapid pace. And they’re often the most competitive on cost.

  • Weaknesses: The narrow focus on certain technologies and “start-up mode” nature translate into fewer bells and whistles (especially with migration services), and less robust offerings outside containers and machine learning.

Although having a lot of choice when contemplating a cloud system is great, it can be hard to know where to start. We’ve found that the most crucial aspect of choosing the right cloud services provider is to align your business needs with the provider’s offerings. Here are four of the most common business cases for a cloud environment, and our assessment of the best choices for those scenarios.

Business need: Migrate from legacy infrastructure

If your IT environment is hosted on premises and you’re ready to move it into the cloud (to reduce costs and increase performance), it’s crucial to choose the provider who will best support not only your initial move, but your ongoing operations and growth. The best provider depends on your existing systems:

  • Azure: If all your existing systems are Windows-based, Azure is your best choice. Azure, of course, runs Windows systems exceeding well, and Microsoft’s licensing structure means you can save money by leveraging your existing licenses.

  • AWS: If you’re running Linux servers or a mix of systems, AWS will be a smart choice. Their incredibly wide range of services—combined with the best reliability on the market right now—allows you to migrate quickly and effectively.

Business need: Rapid ideation and prototyping

Developers often need to quickly build out and test environments—which can be nearly impossible in cases where security or compliance issues require you to operate out of your own data center. A cloud environment is the perfect testing ground developers can use before you buy new hardware to support new features. Best choice:

  • AWS: With tons of developer tools, AWS makes it easy to create templates, test things out, create custom configurations, and turn on and off services—all of which saves money and speeds up innovation.

Business need: Build a full-fledged new application

Choosing the right cloud provider to support building something from scratch depends on the technology your app demands:

  • Azure: If you’re using Windows technologies like .NET or IIS, Azure is a smart choice because it runs Windows technologies so effectively and efficiently.

  • Google Cloud: Google’s emphasis on containers means it’s a great choice if you’re planning to bundle everything you need to run your system (including a micro OS). Containers turn on quickly and are very lightweight—if your app depends on them, Google Cloud is a smart choice.

  • AWS: If you’re using any other technologies—Linux, Python, serverless, etc.—or creating something that’s database-intensive, turn to AWS. The versatility of their tools and sheer number of services means AWS can do it all. And AWS currently has the best track record of reliability and innovation, so your new app is poised for scalability.

Business need: Disaster recovery

Choosing a cloud services provider for disaster recovery can be tricky, depending on your technology, geography, and turnaround time. But there are a couple of clear paths to start your search, based on the tech you already use:

  • Azure: If you’re running Windows services exclusively, Azure is a smart choice, primarily because of the excellent automation that’s already built in.

  • AWS: For any other configuration, AWS is likely to be your best bet, since their services play well with so many technologies. In particular, AWS has excellent automation serves for managing VMware.

Whatever cloud provider you ultimately choose, it’s best to work with a partner who understands the landscape of the cloud as well as your business. That’s why at Metal Toad, we’re constantly working with the latest developments in cloud technology and leveraging them to deliver value for our clients. Get in touch for a free consultation if you’re ready to realize the full power of the cloud for your enterprise.

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About the Author

Nathan Wilkerson, Cloud Operations Manager

Nathan started building computers, programming and networking with a home IPX network at age 13. Since then he has had a love of all things computer; working in programming, system administration, devops, and Cloud Computing. Over the years he's enriched his knowledge of computers with hands on experience and earning his AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Professional.

Recently, Nathan has transitioned to a Cloud Operations Manager role. He helps clients and internal teams interface with the Cloud Team using the best practices of Kanban to ensure a speedy response and resolution to tickets.

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