How Amazon Web Services continue to be the best cloud provider for small and medium-sized businesses.
Over the last two decades, the number of cloud service providers and platforms has exploded. Industry giants like Microsoft, Google, and Amazon have a whole arsenal of cloud services catering to different business needs. Of these, Amazon Web Services continue to lead the pack with its range of cloud services.
Over the years, Amazon has released new cloud offerings that give businesses the best cloud experience without compromising on cost or performance. In this article, we explore the features that small businesses should look for in cloud solutions and how AWS can help businesses build a cloud infrastructure that works best for them.
As with any other organization, small businesses also have very unique needs. When they look for cloud solutions, they need to consider these unique needs.
But in general small businesses need solutions that can keep them agile. For them the requirements may change frequently — possibly every season or even more often — and they may have to adopt new workflows, constantly iterate their products and services, and scale up and down with demand.
Another aspect of this equation is that small businesses need a solution that works with the resources they have. In some cloud solutions, they may need the cloud provider to manage all the operations behind the scenes. But in some cases, such as Infrastructure As A Service, they may have the talent and human resources to manage their cloud.
With these in mind, small businesses should look for cloud solutions with the following features.
Small businesses need the cheapest cloud service options to sustain their business. But they also have to optimize their cloud expenses as their business needs change.
Most cloud service providers offer a pay-as-you-go model which is often the best option for businesses that are just getting started. When you can’t predict how much resources you’ll need, it’s best to go for this model. But you can save more in the long run if you can predict the resources better. For instance, AWS offers Savings Plans which can help you reduce your costs by around 72% for a one to three year commitment.
While all three major cloud vendors offer different cloud services for different pricing, in many cases, AWS offers a relatively cheaper option for most small businesses.
As far as small businesses are concerned, the cloud is much more secure than on-premise solutions and all cloud vendors make significant investments to secure their infrastructure. For all cloud solutions, the vendor will take care of the security of the hardware, the networking facilities, as well as the physical security of the data centers.
But with PaaS or IaaS, the business will have more responsibility in securing its cloud infrastructure. For example, if you’re using EC2 compute instance, you’re responsible for updating and patching the operating systems or the installed software. This is often referred to as the shared responsibility model.
With AWS, shared responsibility means the business will be responsible for everything within the cloud – the data or the software within the infrastructure. Amazon will keep safe the underlying hardware and anything that makes the cloud accessible to you.
Small businesses may not often benefit much from a high level of customization of their cloud infrastructure. It may be easier for them to let the vendor handle most of the aspects of the cloud.
For example, with IaaS such as EC2, the business will need resources for provisioning the servers and installing the application code and software. But it will give them a higher level of control over their infrastructure. But with PaaS or serverless solutions like AWS Lambda, Amazon will provision the servers and the business will be free to run its code.
The business will have to find a balance between how much granular control they need and how much resources they have when choosing a cloud solution.
Small businesses often rely on a very loyal customer base to sustain themselves. They often pride themselves on giving a personal touch and going the extra mile to provide the best customer experience. If their infrastructure faces an outage or if their services go down, it can have a significant impact on their business.
Cloud service providers divide their data centers into availability regions and zones. The regions are independent of each other, in the sense that failures in one won’t affect another. Different zones come together to form a region; in case a zone fails, the provider failovers to other zones in the same region.
Having a large number of availability regions and zones usually translates to high availability. While most cloud providers offer similar availabilities for their services, there are often considerable differences between the number of regions and zones they have with AWS leading the pack.
For small businesses, customer support is crucial. To minimize costs, they may have to cut down on talent on their cloud infrastructure without compromising availability or performance.
All major cloud providers offer a basic level of support for the customers. In some cases, as in GCP, this may be limited to just billing, while in the case of AWS and Azure, you’ll get 24/7 access to customer service, and a trusted advisor.
For enhanced support options, cloud providers have different plans; AWS has four support tiers excluding the basic options, while Azure and GCP have three each. The cheapest tier costs $29 per month or higher for all three providers. The highest tier is $1000 for Azure, $15000 or higher for AWS, and $12500 or higher for GCP.
These tiers are differentiated largely on the response times, along with other support features.
If your small business is on legacy or on-premise systems, you’ll need to invest in resources to migrate to the cloud.
All major cloud providers offer tools for businesses to move their applications to the cloud; AWS has AWS Server Migration Service, Azure has Azure Migrate: Server Migration, and GCP has Migrate Engine for Compute. All three can help migrate from VMware, while Azure and GCP also help businesses migrate from the other two as well. Azure can also help businesses move from Hyper-V, private clouds, and other solutions as well.
AWS offers a pay-as-you-go option for most of its cloud services. As your business gains stable usage, you can go for long-term commitments and use the same resources at a lower price. For services like S3 storage, AWS also discounts as your usage increases.
While it is difficult to compare the prices between different cloud services, when using the maximum instance, AWS appears to be the cheapest. It also offers up to 75% off on reserved instances for a 3-year commitment — the highest among the three major cloud providers.
Amazon also understands that sometimes your requirements change, even if you commit to a reserved instance. It allows you to modify your instance, exchange them, or even sell them to other users so that you can optimize your cloud expenditure. With Azure, you’ll be charged a 12% cancellation fee and GCP doesn’t offer any cancellation.
All the major cloud service providers offer very similar levels of availability for instances in multiple zones as well as individual instances. AWS offers 99.99% uptime for multiple instances deployed across multiple availability zones at the same time. If the availability falls below this but above 99%, AWS will offer 10% service credit to the users. Amazon offers 30% and 100% service credits if the availability is less than 99% and 95% respectively.
GCP offers similar credits, with the difference being it offers only 25% service credits if availability is between 99% and 95%. The same goes for Azure as well.
All three major cloud providers have excellent cloud security and at a glance, you can’t go wrong with any of them. But AWS being one of the earliest cloud providers have more experience in this regard and tends to have an edge.
One of the major differentiators is IAM or Identify Access Management. AWS and GCP offer this service for free while Azure users have to pay to unlock all the features of its IAM.
With its IAM, Amazon allows 1000 roles per account which can be extended to 5000, while GCP offers just 300 per organization or project and Azure allows just 30 rules per organization. There are further differences between the three but Amazon appears to be the winner here.
Small businesses may experiment with diverse products and services before they niche down and Amazon allows this flexibility with its range. AWS is the clear leader in the number of services with more than 200 services while Azure has around 100 and GCP has around 60.
AWS offers services for IoT, digital twins, ML, security, identity management, and more.
AWS is also the leader in multi-cloud – its ECS Anywhere and EKZ Anywhere allows businesses to run managed Kubernetes and Containers in Azure and Google Cloud.
Cloud solutions are generally considered to be easier to expand and scale compared to on-premise solutions. GCP, Azure, and AWS are all highly scalable and can support your business as it grows.
But AWS has more availability regions and zones compared to the other two. This means your risks of failure or outage will be lower when you’re growing with AWS than with the other two.
The fact that AWS has more services means you can bring all of your products under one platform even if you expand your businesses and offer more to your customers.
Besides the free support that AWS offers to all users, you can also opt for premium support as your business grows. While the other two providers limit their services largely to billing and subscription on their free support tier, AWS offers 24/7 customer service support, AWS Trusted Advisor, and a personal health dashboard.
AWS also allows you to make an unlimited number of cases for technical support for all premium plans other than the ‘Developer’ plan.
For all paid plans other than ‘Developer,’ users can also AWS Support App in Slack. This simplifies access to technical support for all developers within an organization.
GCP, Azure, and AWS include training within their highest support plans. With GCP, this is in the form of training credits, each of which gives one-time access to a lab. With Azure, you get access to ‘Ask the Expert’ webinars.
AWS offers access to its online self-paced labs through 500 credits annually and 30% off on additional credits.
Another notable aspect of AWS is its documentation. While all three cloud service providers provide documentation on different aspects of their services, AWS has often been commended for its excellent documentation.
These aspects make AWS much easier to learn compared to other cloud services.
The features and design of AWS are best suited for small businesses compared to the other two major cloud service providers. Besides this, AWS offers small and medium businesses further assistance to build their IT infrastructure.
Amazon recently rolled out its Think Big for Small Business program internationally to help minority-owned public sector organizations. The program offers expedited access to AWS partner benefits and discounts on AWS Competency. It also offers businesses funds to make themselves more visible in the form of both cash and AWS credits.
The Thing Big for Small Business program offers temporary access to Select and Advanced Tiers on AWS’s Partner Networks. At the same time, it offers more time and resources for these businesses to meet the criteria to become part of Amazon’s partner network. The AWS Partner Development Managers are responsible for nominating the relevant businesses, but the organizations can apply on their own as well.
The goal is to give a boost to small businesses and help them get more benefits as part of the Amazon Partner Network. It lowers the entry requirements for a temporary period as long as they meet certain terms. The program focuses mostly on organizations in the public sector, education, and not-for-profit organizations.
AWS offers a set of solutions specifically designed to help small businesses. For instance, Amazon Chime lets businesses conduct meetings within organizations and Amazon workspaces let you access assets from Linux and Windows devices remotely.
You can also quickly set up a customer support solution for your customers using Amazon Connect. With the solution, you can connect your customers to your agents within a short time. The solution can help automate customer interactions, understand their sentiments, and offers capabilities like IVR.
AWS also offers solutions like content management, demand forecasting using Amazon Forecast, cloud migration, as well as application and data security. With services like Amazon GuardDuty, Amazon Macie, and AWS Security Hub, AWS offers complete 360 services to keep your AWS accounts, your data, and your infrastructure safe.
AWS also offers data protection and recovery solutions for businesses through its AWS Elastic Disaster Recovery.
MA Technologies are experts in AWS services. We’ve successfully employed AWS services to build and manage custom applications for small and medium-sized businesses. We also have significant expertise in application modernization and cloud migrations.
Our experts have decades-long expertise in DevOps practices and building applications that the end-users love. Since 2016, we’ve been serving SMBs to get the most out of their infrastructure.
On top of this, our globally distributed team is available for your needs throughout the day. Reach out to us and let’s discuss how we can build you AWS-based solutions that deliver the best results.