AWS vs Azure vs Google – Which Cloud Service is Best?

AWS vs Azure vs Google cloud blog cover image2
The ability to store, edit, and access data around the world has revolutionized the way people and companies operate — Cloud services are no longer considered a luxury — they’re the cornerstone of a firm’s coherent and competitive IT strategy.

Three giants dominate cloud services:  AWS (Amazon Web Services), Azure (Provided by Microsoft), and Google Cloud.

What’s the right cloud solution for you? Well, that depends on the specific needs of your business, including: the apps you use, the amount of storage you need, and how many employees you have. You should consider the following major areas when choosing your cloud service.

Price

Although one should never make a purchasing decision solely on price, it’s worth comparing the cost of these services. However, this can be a challenge — Tech companies sell cloud services a la carte, so you must tailor a package to suit your needs before you can figure out the price.

However, a quick and easy way to compare overall pricing is to look at storage prices. For 1,000 GB, you will pay £16.17 with Azure, £20.22 with Google Cloud and £17.88 with AWS as of the time of writing (February 2019). This would suggest that Azure is cheaper on the whole, but to get the true price, you need to dig deeper. All three services provide calculators that allow you to add services, tailor a custom package, and determine the cost. Prices fluctuate over time, and you may find that when you check things have changed.

Features

All three services provide basic cloud services. Basic services include:

  • Storage for data and backups
  • Cloud-based applications
  • Databases
  • Networking features.

However, if you have certain edge uses, you might end up pushing towards one over the other two. For example, Google Cloud is integrated with G-Suite, which provides Office-style collaboration services. If you are already using Office 365, however, this might not be a determining factor. Also, Google Cloud does not handle large-scale parallel batch computing, but their App Engine is awesome for developing applications.

Does your business have special needs? Well, each of the Cloud offerings has special services that could make a big impact on your business:

1) Both Azure and AWS tend to be more scalable at a rapid timescale.

2) Azure has specialist AI for sequencing genomes, useful for a biotech company.

3) AWS has the best specialist blockchain capabilities, but has its own database service rather than using SQL, which could be good or bad.

4) Azure has been specifically designed to work with Windows Server, and while it does support Linux, it does not do so as well.

Security

One of your biggest concerns about moving stuff to the cloud is likely to be security. All three cloud services provide a good standard of security — with their underlying infrastructures complying with the ISO 27001 information security standard.

However, there are key differences between the services and these will impact your security strategy and the resources you’ll need to keep your information secure.

Google Cloud is a very closed system, giving little flexibility in the use of applications and processes — and by its very nature, a closed system is more secure. Google also offers high-level encryption of all data, excellent privacy and GDPR compliance — their privacy policy also includes a promise not to use business’ information for any purpose without permission.

Azure and AWS, unlike Google, provide absolute flexibility in terms of the applications and processes which can be deployed and, as a result, have to leave many aspects of security to the system administrator.

Aside: If you’re a Macnamara IT Support customer, we manage all your security processes for you!

Like Google, Microsoft (Azure) offers excellent GDPR resources. Microsoft even provides documentation, tools, and checklists that can help your own business comply with GDPR.

All three cloud services offer Virtual Privacy, but Amazon lacks the full VPN capability of the other two. The one area where Google Cloud falls down for security is the lack of a specialist DDoS protection service. If your cloud service is attached to a public facing website, this is particularly important. All services provide the option of multi-factor authentication, which you should consider using with your cloud services.

One downside to AWS is that it does not support Hybrid Cloud as well as the others. Hybrid Cloud is when you keep data and information in the cloud, but continue to store highly sensitive or high-availability data in-house, whilst integrating access so that the data all appears to be in the same place.

Performance

Performance and speed of access are vital for productivity. Ideally, you should not be able to tell the difference between data stored locally and in the cloud. A key measure is latency. ThousandEyes, a network intelligence specialist, did a full comparison of performance across the three services in 2018. Their report was global and showed that AWS performance is poor in Asia, and Google Cloud Platform performance is poor if you are connected in Europe and India. However, the three are comparable in reliability and multi-cloud performance. It’s worth noting that AWS relies much more on the public internet to move your data than the other two, due to not having invested in infrastructure for these purposes.

If you are moving data globally, location of cloud centres will be important to your business. Ideally, you want a cloud centre that is close enough to your office to keep latency down and far enough away that both locations will not be affected at the same time by extreme weather, power outages.

If cloud performance is a critical factor for your business, you should trial each service before making a long-term investment.

Reliability is also key, and although all three providers have decent reliability, it’s wise to check recent records before making your final decision.

Ease of Use

Ease of use is important, especially if you have numerous employees. You need to minimise the time spent on training and looking through user manuals.

AWS provides the best documentation, mostly because it has been around the longest.  Azure offers a dedicated education portal and learning pathways for specific end users. All three offer management tools that include deployment templates and monitoring. Google lacks full server management and automation services, which might cause your IT team to spend more time on server management.

Because AWS has more features, it can get complicated and be difficult to navigate.  Worth remembering, especially if you don’t need all those extra features.

Get Started with a Trial

Free trials and tiers are a good way to test a service and ensure you are making the right choice for your company.

Aside: Check that your chosen cloud service is a good fit with your pre-existing IT strategy and infrastructure. This will help you maximise the benefits of the cloud and minimise disruption to your business.

Google Cloud offers an attractive ‘free trial’ option with its Always Free tier; however, Azure’s free tier offers machine learning services. Last but definitely not least, Microsoft Azure offers 12 months of free services, including: File Storage, Virtual Machines, and Compute Functions.If you‘re struggling to make a choice and need clarity, it might be time to seek expert help and advice — Contact Macnamara IT Support today — get the expert cloud advice and IT support you need!

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