cloud computing representation

How do the largest cloud providers stack up?

Adoption of cloud computing is one of the fastest-growing trends in business today. To stay competitive, control costs, and enhance productivity, the cloud is offering a variety of solutions for all stages of business.

That said, there are a lot of cloud companies offering their services. So it can be overwhelming trying to decide where to start, what you need, and who can serve your best interests. As with any important business decision, research is essential.

Here we highlight four of the largest names in cloud computing – all instantly-recognizable with established histories and reputations. But how do they stack up when it comes to what they can actually offer you?

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At your service

When researching cloud service providers, you’ll see three terms fairly often: Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS). Before you go too deep into your research, it’s helpful to understand these terms.

Infrastructure-as-a-Service

Clients subscribe to a pay-as-you-go service in which they can access storage, network, server, and other cloud-related resources. Users save money on hardware and the service is scalable to their current needs.

Software-as-a-Service

Subscribers use cloud-based applications and work within the cloud versus having to locally install or update applications on end-user devices. As with IaaS cloud computing, it’s a scalable service. Because data is stored in the secure, access-controlled cloud, it is better protected and applications are always current. Mobile users have decided advantages, as applications can be accessed from any internet-connected device.

Platform-as-a-Service

The perfect service for software developers, PaaS provides a platform of tools to develop and test applications in a single environment. Infrastructure requirements are handled for everything needed, including operating systems, server software, security, and backups. The nature of cloud-based development software encourages collaboration, as well as separate testing and production environments. And the high-availability environment can lead to increased productivity.

Azure

Microsoft Azure

Of all of the public cloud service options available, Microsoft Azure is the best known and most widely used. Nearly every computer interacts with Microsoft in some way, so Azure has a large client base. It offers all three popular platform options – IaaS, SaaS, and PaaS and supports various programming languages. It’s ideal for software development, supporting the full range of Microsoft-specific software as well as a number of third-party applications.

While Microsoft Azure is versatile and scalable to specific user needs, the subscription model may seem expensive for some budgets. And despite a fairly easy setup, the number of services available may seem overwhelming at first. There will likely be a training curve for your IT staff. It also doesn’t migrate well to other cloud systems.

While Azure will cover all of your needs, you’ll want to consider your long-range planning and do some additional research before committing.

AWS

Amazon Web Services (AWS)

It’s no surprise that online giant Amazon has invested – and found success – in the fast-growing technology of cloud computing. Amazon Web Services supports IaaS and PaaS platforms and a number of featured services like high-level backups, data transfer, messaging and notification, security management, and encryption.

AWS is a scalable service, so you can use as little or as much as you need. Compared to other services, AWS data storage costs are low. Its application programming interface (API) support means it works well with other software, and the native AWS environment seamlessly integrates various available services.

While simple to manage once running, AWS has a bit of a learning curve when it comes to initial setup and integration. Billing can be confusing because how charges are applied is not always clear. Costs can also sometimes run higher than others depending on what you need.

AWS has a lot to offer and is popular as a result. Still, it makes good business sense to examine its specific offerings and costs to ensure it’s the best cloud solution for your organization.

Google Cloud Platform

Google Cloud Platform (GCP)

Google Cloud employs a robust network to support an IaaS platform with decent pricing, ease of use, and security on a reliable network. While it may fall behind mainstream services Azure and AWS, GCP is a good choice for hosting databases and application data and for managing backups. It employs a global network with a variety of storage types depending on need. With no storage minimums or ceilings, GCP can host as few or as many files needed.

Its web-based console makes management simple. The robust console options might be overload for users simply needing to manage storage. But it’s easy enough to limit your activity exclusively to handling storage tasks.

Google Cloud (not to be confused with Google Drive) receives high marks for security with its API to connect Google Cloud endpoints, plus 128-bit or 256-bit encryption using the Google Key Management Service. It enables two-factor authentication for further protection of data and accounts.

While not the most expensive service, Google Cloud does charge more per gigabyte than AWS or Azure. Support costs for GCP can run a bit high, as well. Service levels range from standard business hours/e-mail contact ($150/month) to extended 24/7 phone support ($400/month).

IBM cloud

IBM Cloud

Once known as IBM SoftLayer and IBM Bluemix, IBM Cloud offers IaaS, PaaS and a wide variety of cloud computing services. Besides the usual storage, networking, data management and security, IBM cloud offers value-added services including analytics, artificial intelligence, blockchain, Internet of Things (IoT) management, and VMWare.

IBM Cloud service has a reputation for solid performance and has access to numerous data centers. Its package includes specialty offerings – IBM Watson is one of the more well-known options – and boasts reliable tech support.

Setup is not as straightforward compared to other services, but with good tech support, it’s not an insurmountable hurdle. Pricing runs in the middle of the pack but provides excellent value for those interested in the unique services IBM Cloud supports.

Cloud computing is still growing

These four cloud service providers are counted among the best in the market. Numerous other respected players to explore include Rackspace, Kamatera, Adobe Creative Cloud, VMWare, Red Hat, and Oracle. While offering similar services and pricing, each is unique and may offer specific services well suited to your business needs.

With this in mind, it’s important to research your options thoroughly. It may help to consult with cloud computing experts to determine the best services to support your operation and growth plans.