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Amazon Web Services Vs Microsoft Azure: Which Cloud Provider Should You Host Core Business Systems On?

Deciding on which cloud service to host your core business systems on can be a daunting task. Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure are two of the biggest players around, while Google Cloud and IBM Cloud are also gaining market-share.

In this blog, we compare the two juggernauts of cloud computing, AWS and Azure, to help you in choosing the provider that’s right for hosting your business systems. A “winner” can’t be selected between the one or the other, rather we highlight the main pros and cons that will help you decide which service will cater to your organisation’s needs.

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Amazon Web Services

The first thing you need to know about AWS is that it was the first cloud services on the scene and is thus the most mature in terms of capabilities and services. They dominate the market and their operations scope is larger than any other provider, with the most comprehensive network of data centers. With the breadth of their services, AWS comes with a steep learning curve and a lot of complexity to navigate.

AWS is considered “open” friendly, welcoming Linux and other open source software users with APIs for open source apps. AWS also supports Windows, SQL server and offers a good SDK for .NET developers.

In terms of security, you can find no fault with AWS, with role-based access control and advanced security services including DDoS protection, intelligent threat detection services and a robust firewall system.

If you are looking to keep some of your data and systems in house, but need to put new systems on the cloud, you’d be looking at a hybrid solution. AWS has only recently began looking to strengthen its hybrid offerings and while they have a few solutions geared to companies who are looking for hybrid cloud deployments, it has some catching up to do in this area.

AWS offers a cost calculator to navigate their complex pricing structure, but many warn that it can be incredibly difficult to get a true cost estimate due to the high number of variables. For support, pricing is based on a sliding scale tied to monthly usage.

Lastly, keep in mind what the A in AWS stand for and what your company does. Is Amazon a competitor of yours or a competitor of a key client of yours?

Microsoft Azure

Azure came to the game late, but builds on Microsoft’s maturity and dependability. Azure will hold big appeal for companies who are on the MS stack, as Azure will be familiar and compatible with their systems. They have only recently began embracing platforms other than the Windows server, and their offerings for open source platforms like Linux are in its infancy compared to AWS. They are working to change that, with claims that roughly a third of Azure VMs run Linux.

Azure relies on Active Directory for its role based access control, which is very sophisticated thanks to MS’s history in networking, and its security is on-par with AWS with the Azure Security Center offering a unified view and control of security.

A strong point for Azure is their hybrid cloud offering, allowing businesses to use their onsite servers to run applications on Azure or setting compute resources to access cloud-based resources when necessary. Azure has several tools to maintain and manage these hybrid clouds, like Azure Stack, Hybrid SQL Server and Azure StorSimple. This hybrid offering makes the transition to cloud seamless and less daunting.

Azure pricing is almost as complex as AWS, with complicated MS software licensing options. They also offer a pricing calculator. For support plans, pricing is based on a flat monthly rate.

The verdict

We haven’t delved deep into compute services, storage or key tools offered, and these features have to be explored for suitability by your Heads of IT before making a decision.

At the end of the day, your choice will come down to these two questions:

  • Are you a MS shop or open-source stack?
  • Are you looking for a hybrid option or not?

Answering these two questions first, will guide your decision making process towards either AWS or Azure and help you get to the final choice much quicker.

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