Doing business in a cloud is more than just a lovely way to pass the time. Cloud computing services make sense from both a strategic and performance angle. However, business clouds differ from personal virtual storage in several key ways.
- Extend storage
- Help you manage resources
- Provide access to data at any time, from any location
- Improve security
- Provide access to technology that may be out of reach for smaller business
The most popular cloud computing platforms are Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and relative newcomer, Google Cloud Platform (GCP). When comparing services from each of these platforms, it’s important to consider the size and goals of your company, your expected growth rate, and your budget.
However, not all business cloud platforms are the same. They offer different features, and some are more compatible with specific business models and company sizes. In an effort to better serve our readers, here is a comprehensive overview and comparison of the top three business cloud services and their features, benefits, and drawbacks.
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Use the menu below to see your desired comparison:
- Cloud Provider Overview
- Storage Comparision
- Tool Comparison
- Computation Comparison
- Pricing Comparison
- Cloud Provider Pros and Cons
- Selecting a Cloud Provider
AWS vs Azure vs Google: Cloud Provider Overview
Even if you have experience working within a cloud computing environment, you may still have some questions about how to choose something that fits your needs without stretching your budget. Selecting a provider is somewhat subjective. For example, some people are fiercely loyal to one tech company over another.
When it comes to business, you have to look beyond the brand and do what’s best for you and your customers. Here’s a checklist that should help keep things in context as you read these comparisons:
- Find a reliable provider. This goes beyond name recognition to include emphasis on security and feedback from real customers.
- Evaluate stability. That means availability of regular releases, continuous performance, dispersed platforms, and load balancing.
- Consider economies of scale. What is the ratio between the cost of running an in-house server versus the available resources of an enterprise cloud?
- Look for standardized service. Does the company offer cost-effective bundles of apps and the resources you need? Bundled services can save 40 percent over purchasing a la carte IaaS, SaaS, and other digital products.
- Evaluate flexibility. The last thing you want is to be locked into a contract with a provider that inhibits agility and growth.
How do AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud measure up against these criteria and each other? Read on to learn more.
AWS Service Overview
An innovator of online commerce, it stands to reason that Amazon would develop a robust cloud computing platform for enterprise. The vast global framework and disbursement of Amazon Web Services is what the entire platform is built upon. The service is divided between regions, availability zones (AZ’s), and what are called edge locations. Altogether, AWS has 22 regions located around the world, 14 AZ’s, and 114 edge locations.
The regions cover a geographic area such as a state or country, and the AZ’s are data centers within regions. The availability zones are located as far as possible from each other within their region to ensure that there are no lapses in service if one AZ goes down due to a natural or other type of widespread disaster. Edge zones are caches that act in a similar manner to content delivery networks (CDN’s) by caching web content nearer to the location of the user for faster delivery and response times
This type of infrastructure allows data delivery to deploy faster and on a global scale without affecting the availability of service or performance. AWS supports all operating systems and generally ranks as the top IaaS platform for availability, reliable performance, and the number of applications.
What kind of services will you find through AWS? So far, there are 18,000 distinct services and counting. They include:
- Developer, engagement, and management tools
- Machine learning and predictive analytics
- Databases and storage solutions
- Business productivity tools
- App integration
Azure Service Overview
Known as a solid, integrated platform for companies that already rely on Windows-based standardization, Microsoft Azure has overcome some obstacles to compete head-to-head with AWS. One surprising feature is its Linux-friendliness as it relates to virtual guest operating systems and compatibility with Linux container platforms.
The strength of Azure was always as a provider of infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), Azure also comes with built-in and ready to run server apps that support a range of languages, including .NET, Java, PHP, Node.js, and Python. The platform is available in 54 regions around the world, with services that are designed to increase productivity while deploying the most current technology. It’s also one of the easiest enterprise clouds when it comes to configuring and operation.
With Azure you’ll enjoy services like:
- Big data and predictive analytics
- Game and app development
- Scalable data warehousing
- Blockchain technology
- IoT integration
Google Cloud Service Overview
As far as IaaS providers go, Google Cloud Platform is the relative newcomer. It supports several generations of Linux in addition to Windows server versions up to 2016. As of 2018, it had expanded to 21 regions that are divided into a minimum of three zones each. This gives it a shorter reach than the other two providers, but Google is attempting to make up for lack of range in other ways.
For one thing, GCP is an innovator in undersea server deployment, with a unique cabling system that begins in Guam and connects with servers in Australia, the South Pacific, Asia, Japan, and the US mainland. Data centers are being added so quickly, there is no current reliable count.
All of the functionality is operable through a new console that was designed with ease of use in mind, and it’s simple to set up and configure. Services include:
- Data management and storage
- App development
- SMB business analytics and AI
- Productivity and workload management tools
Storage Comparison of AWS vs Azure vs Google
One of the greatest advantages of cloud computing is the expansive storage capabilities. As with most features, each platform is strong in different ways. For example, AWS takes the prize for range of storage options, while Azure has more specialized solutions like their Data Lake that’s specifically designed for large, data-rich applications. Google offers fewer storage options, but they’re more unified and targeted. All three platforms include several types of databases, with Azure offering the widest variety and sizes.
Backups are an essential security and recovery feature. However, if you choose GCP you’re on your own; there are no backups available with this platform yet. AWS has Glacier, but Azure is the only platform providing several backup solutions, including archival storage.
AWS Storage Services
This is one area where AWS does delve into offering a hybrid platform through its Storage Gateway. Gateway offers a secondary archival storage option in conjunction with Amazon’s sole backup feature, Glacier. Users can opt for simple object storage with S3 or block storage for large containers with their elastic block feature; this one operates in conjunction with E2B. In addition, the elastic file storage expands your capability as you create files, which is ideal for large corporations that generate a lot of data.
Amazon Web Services also provides a number of SQL-supported databases, an ElastiCache feature to provide additional memory, and a data migration service.
Check out the full spectrum of storage/backup features that AWS offers.
- Simple Storage Service (S3)
- Elastic Block Storage (EBS)
- Elastic File System (EFS)
- Storage Gateway
- Snowball Edge
- Database migration service
Azure Storage Services
Azure offers a dedicated storage option called Blob Storage. This is reserved for unstructured, REST-based object warehousing. Like AWS, they also have solutions for large-scale data storage and high-volume, critical workloads with their Queue Storage and Data Lake Store. This platform also provides users with the largest array of databases, which support three different SQL-based formats, and their Data Warehouse gives you room to grow.
The support that Azure provides for SQL isn’t limited to storage. Their Server Stretch database is a hybrid that offers on- and off-premises storage for companies that use Microsoft SQL Server for their enterprise, but might utilize other protocols on the cloud. This is the only company of the three that has a backup recovery system, which is in addition to their archival and standard system backups.
What follows is Azure’s available storage/backup solutions.
- Blob Storage
- Queue Storage
- File Storage
- Disk Storage
- Data Lake Storage
- SQL database
- Database for MySQL
- Database for PostgreSQL
- Data warehouse
- Server Stretch database
- Cosmos DB
- Table storage
- Redis cache
- Data Factory
- Archival storage
- Recovery backups
- Site recovery
Google Storage Services
Google Cloud Platform offers basic storage and database support, but little else. Their storage solutions are similar to what GCP provides customers in the compute department, and they provide both SQL and NoSQL database support. They do have a transfer appliance that’s similar to AWS Snowball, and several online transfer services are available.
See the storage features that Google offers below.
- Cloud storage
- Persistent disk
- Transfer appliance
- Transfer service
- Cloud SQL
- Cloud Bigtable
- Cloud Spanner
- Cloud Datastore
- Nearline (frequently accessed data)
- Coldline (infrequently accessed data)
Computation Comparison of Azure vs AWS vs Google
The fact that AWS had a seven-year head start makes it a better-known and more seasoned enterprise cloud platform. But, does that make it the best? Each of the “Big Three” business cloud service providers have benefits and drawbacks that may differ according to your own requirements and circumstances.
Amazon has a wider reach and availability of services, and it has dominated the market since its release. Windows has the advantage of built-in compatibility since most companies already depend on Microsoft products for daily business operations.
However, Google Cloud Platform also integrates with its wide range of products and platforms, world-class analytics, and ownership of the world’s two largest search engines, Google and YouTube. It also supports almost any operating system and offers flexibility due to a commitment to open source. Google is also an innovator when it comes to cloud-native business solutions.
There are several components that all three platforms have in common, including a high degree of scalability, per-second billing, speed, security, and agility. Their main computational services are where the differences could be a deal-breaker.
AWS Compute Features
The primary compute service is the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud. The E2C integrates with most Amazon Web Services, promoting compatibility and a high degree of flexibility, which allows database administrators to optimize for cost. The scalable cloud platform allows you to scale up or down in minutes, and it has the ability to deploy thousands of server instances at lightning speed.
Using the AWS auto scaling monitor puts machine learning to use by monitoring your apps and scaling to capacity according to your current requirements without padding the price. They also promise 99.99 percent availability as part of their service level agreement (SLA).
Amazon Elastic Container Service (Amazon ECS): This scalable container orchestration supports Docker containers through a series of API calls. With this ability, you can begin or end Docker-enabled apps, query the state of your application, manage website IP address blocking and unblocking, and access security groups, IAM roles, CloudWatch events, CloudTrail logs, and CloudFormation templates. There is also an ECS registry feature and a container service for Kubernetes.
Other AWS Compute features include:
- AWS Beanstalk
- Amazon Lightsail
- AWS Serverless Application Repository
- VMware Cloud for AWS
- AWS Batch
- AWS Fargate
- AWS Lambda
- AWS Outposts
- Elastic Load Balancing
Azure Compute Features
Azure compute features rely on a network of virtual machines to enable a range of computing solutions that include development, testing, datacenter extensions, and app deployment. It’s based on an open source platform that’s compatible with Linux, Windows servers, SQL Server, Oracle, and SAP. Azure also offers a hybrid model that combines on-premises and public clouds, and it can be integrated into global load balancing.
Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) is a serverless container system that allows containerized applications to be deployed and managed faster. It offers a seamless continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD) experience, security, and enterprise governance to unite diverse teams working within a virtual office setting on a single platform.
Other Azure compute features include:
- Platform-as-a-service (PaaS)
- Function-as-a-service (FaaS)
- Service Fabric
- Azure Batch
Google Cloud Compute Features
If you’re a fan of Kubernetes containers, then Google Cloud may be the choice for you. This company had a hand in developing the popular platform, and it’s their main service model. Google Cloud also supports Docker containers.
Cloud Functions is still in the beta phase, but it shows a lot of promise with various features. You can allow the service to manage resources and deploy apps for you, automatically scale according to traffic or use in real-time, and deploy code from Google Cloud, Firebase, or Assistant. You can also call functions up using HTML from any network or device. Best of all, you only pay when your code is deployed.
Other GCP compute functions include:
- Google App Engine
- Docker Container registry
- Instant groups
- Compute Engine
- Graphic processing unit (GPU)
Key Tool Comparison of AWS vs Azure vs Google
One thing all three platforms seem committed to advancing is AI and machine learning technology. Although all are strong when it comes to advanced technology, only AWS offers more than one serverless tool. Below is a comparison of how each platform rates in terms of AI, IoT networking, and serverless platforms.
AWS Key Tools
It’s not surprising when the company that put Alexa (for better or worse) into millions of homes is leading the push to bring AI and IoT to enterprises through an even dozen ML and eight IoT services. Their three key tools will allow you to utilize SageMaker for staff training and deploying machine learning, and you can use the same tech that powers Alexa through their Lex interface.
The Lambda serverless computing environment will give you the freedom of being completely untethered, and you can deploy all of your apps from their serverless repository. In addition, AWS allows you to integrate a range of IoT enterprise solutions that are designed to outfit you with the office of the future.
Check out the tools that AWS offers below.
- Machine Learning
- Deep Learning AMIs
- Apache MXNet on AWS
- TensorFlow on AWS
- IoT Core
- IoT 1-Click
- IoT Analytics
- IoT Button
- IoT Device Defender
- IoT Device Management
- Serverless Application Repository
Azure Key Tools
Microsoft offers fewer AI-enhanced tools than AWS, but the ones they’ve developed are designed to perform very specific functions within your organization. Their Cognitive Services is a suite of API-supported tools that integrate with on-premises Microsoft software and business apps.
The sole serverless platform, Functions, is an event-driven platform that helps you orchestrate and manage complex workloads. Microsoft’s IoT offerings, like Edge, are geared toward management and business analytics.
Check out the tools that Azure offers below.
- Machine Learning
- Azure Bot Service
- Cognitive Services
- IoT Hub
- IoT Edge
- Stream Analytics
- Time Series Insights
Google Key Tools
The reigning champion of algorithms and SEO has a strong AL/ML game, especially when it comes to developing enterprise solutions. Their cloud-based enterprise features run the gamut from natural language, translation, and speech that’s ideal for transitioning into global enterprise coordination to ML app development.
This is possible due to their large open-source library TensorFlow, which has even been adopted by AWS. Although their sole IoT and serverless platforms are still in the beta stage, the future of AI implementation looks promising on GCP.
Check out the tools that Google offers below.
- Cloud Machine Learning Engine
- Dialogflow Enterprise Edition
- Cloud Natural Language
- Cloud Speech API
- Cloud Translation API
- Cloud Video Intelligence
- Cloud Job Discovery (Private Beta)
- Cloud IoT Core (Beta)
- Cloud Functions (Beta)
Google vs Azure vs AWS Pricing Comparison
Pricing is difficult to parse with each of these companies, but there are some similarities and distinctions. All three offer a free tier of service with limited options, and they all charge on-demand for the resources you use.
Let’s dive a little deeper into the details.
There isn’t a whole lot of transparency here, although the platform does provide its customers with a cost calculator. The pricing structure is so complex, we recommend using a third-party management app to help you navigate through your options and contain costs. They do offer 750 hours of EC2 service per month for up to 12 months as part of their free tier.
This is another platform where it will benefit you to obtain expert guidance. The pricing options are mainly situational in an effort to cater to the unique needs of each customer. Like AWS, Azure offers 750 hours of the Windows or Linux B1S addition of their primary compute platform, Virtual Machines, per year (it’s free to try, which is nice for any business who wants to test the cloud “waters”).
Pricing is one area where Google tries to stand apart from the crowd by making their pricing structure a little less opaque and more customer-friendly. They strive to beat the list prices offered by most cloud services providers and give steep discounts and other incentives to win business. Google’s free tier incentive include one F1-micro instance per month for up to one year. If you’re looking for an easy to navigate, budget-friendly service that shows promising growth potential, this is the platform for you.
Pro and Con Comparison of AWS vs Azure vs Google
Here’s a brief breakdown of the key points in our comparisons. Each is strong on utilizing AI and other advanced tech, they provide ample storage and features, and they are all strong on security and data protection.
Pros and Cons of AWS
This company has the benefit of age and experience when it comes to cloud-based enterprise solutions. Although their pricing structure is difficult to maneuver, they offer more of each service you’re looking for, regardless of the type or size of your organization. However, the size and sheer scale of the Amazon platform makes it difficult to get much professional attention.
Compute: Amazon seems perched to dominate based on sheer size and variety, notably from their flagship offering, Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). In every computing function and service, scale dominates all. This might be considered the department store of cloud-based enterprise solutions, with lots to choose from but not a lot of personalized service.
Storage: Again, this is the platform if you’re looking for range and options for on- and off-premises storage and databases. Although AWS only provides a basic system backup service, the range of storage solutions offer several innovations. They don’t offer a true hybrid model, but their server Gateway allows you to create one.
Tools: This company is second to none when it comes to the depth and breadth of tools and technology. They’re at the forefront of addressing AI and machine learning tech issues and pushing the boundaries of face, voice, and object recognition further.
Pricing: As far as pricing goes, AWS is the most difficult to gauge. However, the large scale archival storage is especially cost-effective.
Pros and Cons of Azure
Azure’s commitment to advancing the open-source community and integration with the software and apps that many companies are already using makes it ideal for startups and developers. That means configuration and integration are effortless, and there are fewer concerns about compatibility. They offer a vibrant community, support, and a reputable name that’s synonymous with corporate computing.
Compute: This is currently the only platform of the big three to offer a hybrid cloud model. That gives companies the best of both worlds when it comes to scalability and security. They are best known for the Virtual Machines service and AI optimization that’s incorporated into almost every feature and function.
Storage: The best advantage of hybrid cloud platforms is demonstrated in its storage solutions. Companies are able to take advantage of off-site storage for non-essential functions and some applications. It’s also the only platform among the three that offers more than one backup service and a website recovery function – surprising given the strong demand for backup redundancy as a cloud storage feature – and it has the highest number of SQL-supported databases.
Tools: Through a combination of MS compatibility and open source availability, this platform is flexible and agile operation. You can scale up or down at-will, and all of your legacy data will still have a safe home. You’ll also benefit from their extensive investment in AI and machine learning tools.
Pricing: Pricing is flexible, but you may need to do your homework evaluating the best pricing options on a project-by-project basis.
Pros and Cons of Google
Google Cloud is still growing, and a number of their basic features are still in the beta phase. However, if you’re already based predominantly in the virtual world, Google will help you step up your game. They’re also committed to creating technology that’s carbon neutral to support resource conservation, which provides extra incentive for companies looking for greener tech.
Compute: Their basic compute platform, creatively called Google Compute, is the highlight of their roster of services. They support both Windows and Linux, and you can custom configure your platform or a get pre-defined machine type. The focus of GCP is on Kubernetes deployment, which is an area of expertise for Google.
Storage: Storage solutions is where Google is lacking, mainly due to an absence of backup options. However, they do offer both SQL and NoSQL support.
Tools: The available tools and functions seem to be a work in progress. Google Cloud is off to a strong start, but they still have a way to go if they want to catch up with AWS.
Pricing: In addition to their AI development, Google stands out for making it easier to work advanced tech into your budget. With this platform, you’ll get basic prices for basic services that are still innovative and unique in their own way.
Which Cloud Provider is Best for My Business?
The things that all three platforms have in common are on-demand pricing, a free tier, great support, and an emphasis on security. All are brought to you by reputable companies that exemplify tech innovation. However, there are some important distinctions.
AWS is a good fit if:
- You’re looking for more global reach
- You want stable, reliable service from a cloud platform with a long track record
- You need flexibility and a wider range of services
- You’re a larger company
Azure is a good fit if:
- You’re migrating to the cloud for the first time
- Most of your business apps and platforms are Windows-based
- You’re looking for a hybrid solution
- You’re a developer
Google Cloud is a good fit if:
- You’re looking for a comprehensive container-based model
- Your company is already well ahead in digital migration and wants to become leaner and more cost-efficient
- Your website works within a hyperscale networking environment
- You develop and deploy cloud-based software and apps
- You’re looking for a green tech solution
When it comes to market share, AWS takes the prize with 62 percent (for now). This is due to number of features reach, and length of time on the market. However, that doesn’t necessarily translate to what’s better for your company. Our goal with this head-to-head comparison is to help business owners like you make informed decisions. If most of your business operations run on Microsoft products, Azure might work better for you. Businesses that need less reach and more innovation might prefer Google Cloud Platform.
In the end the choice is yours. Choose wisely.
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Michael has worked as a sysadmin and software developer for Silicon Valley startups, the US Navy, and everything in between.