Cloud Storage and Its Cast of Characters
Cloud computing is a booming industry. Providing virtual storage and backup solutions to businesses globally, it also adds a level of security via disaster recovery benefits. Additionally, in today’s remote workforce, the cloud offers a virtual environment that can be accessed from wherever your staff is working, without restriction to the day or time.
Cloud storage is scalable, efficient, and reliable. It provides a safety net, aiding in business functionality and recoverability during a disaster or other jeopardizing event. Cloud storage is flexible in its abilities – as a business grows, so can its use of cloud options.
There are a multitude of providers in the world of cloud storage. The current forerunners are Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure, and Amazon AWS.
The Cloud's Purpose
Although more complex than one simple task, the main function of cloud storage is the ability to store data off-site, under the watchful eye of a third-party host. Doing so aids in recovery in the event of a disaster or breach. It creates a remote storage environment that is accessible 24/7/365. Cloud storage also saves businesses from the physical encumbrances of IT – investment in servers, hardware, and storage space as well as the ongoing overhead of a technical workforce.
Cloud storage is attractive to businesses for reasons beyond the physical upkeep of equipment and software. For example:
- Accessibility: Cloud storage allows access to files and data from anywhere with an internet connection, making it easier for employees to collaborate and work remotely, which can increase productivity and efficiency.
- Up-to-date equipment: Cloud storage providers are responsible for maintaining and upgrading their infrastructure to keep up with the latest technology and security standards. This means that businesses can benefit from the latest hardware and software advancements without having to invest in upgrades themselves.
- Scalability: Cloud storage allows businesses to easily scale their storage needs up or down as their business grows or changes.
- Disaster recovery: Cloud storage providers often have backup and disaster recovery systems in place so that data can be quickly restored in the event of a disaster or system failure.
- Improved performance: Cloud storage providers often use specialized hardware and software to optimize performance and speed, resulting in faster access to data and improved system performance.
- Reduced IT burden: By relying on cloud storage providers to manage their infrastructure and equipment, businesses can reduce their IT burden and focus on other aspects of the company.
- Compliance: Cloud storage providers are subject to stringent regulatory requirements and standards, particularly in industries such as healthcare, finance, and government. By using a cloud storage provider that adheres to these standards, businesses can avoid costly fines and legal issues that arise from non-compliance.
- Security: Cloud storage providers typically have advanced security measures in place to protect data from cyber threats and data breaches, providing businesses with peace of mind knowing that their data is safe and secure.
- Predictable costs: With cloud storage, businesses can enjoy predictable costs since the pricing is typically based on a subscription model, making it easier to budget and plan for storage needs and avoid unexpected expenses.
Google, Microsoft, and Amazon each offer cloud computing platforms. Although they contain similar services and features, there are some key differences between them.
Available to the general public, the Google Cloud Platform offers over 100 services. Although regarded as the smallest by comparison to the other key players, its ability to support a multitude of applications makes it a big contender. Sharing the same structure as Google Search and YouTube, GCP streamlines well between multiple venues, and given the variety of Google’s other services, this allows for easy integration and collaboration.
Some of the key features of GCP are:
- ‘Pay per second’ billing: With this model, businesses only pay for the resources they use, rounded up to the nearest second. This means that companies don't have to pay for idle resources. Additionally, GCP offers a sustained-use discount, which provides automatic savings based on the amount of time certain resources are used.
- Solid data analytics: GCP offers advanced data analytics tools such as BigQuery, Dataflow, and Dataproc that enable businesses to analyze and derive insights from their data quickly.
- Strong open-source integration: GCP offers excellent support for open-source technologies and integration, allowing businesses to leverage their existing investments in open-source tools and platforms. GCP provides services such as Kubernetes Engine, TensorFlow, and Apache Hadoop that integrate with popular open-source tools, enabling businesses to run their open-source databases and applications on the cloud with minimal modifications.
- Developer-friendly: GCP has a range of developer tools, including Cloud SDK, Cloud Build, and Cloud Functions, that allow developers to build, test, and deploy applications quickly and efficiently.
- Security: GCP offers a comprehensive set of security features, including data encryption, access control, identity management, and threat detection. It also has compliance certifications such as SOC 2, ISO 27001, and HIPAA, making it a suitable platform for handling sensitive data.
- Scalability: GCP offers scalable infrastructure that can expand or shrink according to your business needs.
Some of the limitations of GCP include:
- Programming languages: While GCP supports several popular programming languages such as Java, Python, and Go, it doesn’t support the entire span of programming languages. For example, GCP lacks in offering native support for languages such as Ruby or PHP. This can be a significant challenge for businesses that have already invested heavily in these languages or rely on them for their applications and services.
- Comparatively, it offers fewer services and features: While GCP offers a comprehensive set of services, including infrastructure, analytics, security, and developer tools, it may lack the same breadth of offerings as AWS or Azure. For example, AWS and Azure offer a wider range of services and features for Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML), such as Amazon SageMaker and Azure Machine Learning Studio.
- Limited availability zones: Google Cloud Platform has a relatively small number of availability zones compared to other cloud providers. This means that if an availability zone experiences an outage, the impact can be more significant.
- Complexity: Google Cloud Platform can be complicated to set up and manage, especially for small businesses or those without a dedicated IT team. It may require a significant investment in resources and expertise to establish optimal performance.
GCP's relative shortcomings aren’t a significant drawback across the board. GCP's services are generally well-integrated, and the platform's focus on open-source integration makes it more attractive to businesses that prioritize flexibility and agility versus having a vast array of proprietary services.
Furthermore, GCP's pay-per-use pricing model makes it a cost-effective option for businesses that aren’t in need of the extensive range of services provided by AWS or Azure. Overall, GCP is an excellent choice for businesses that prioritize scalability, reliability, security, and open-source integration.
The second largest within the three main cloud platforms, Microsoft’s Azure has become the fastest growing cloud service as of January 2023. Offering more than 200 products and services, Azure also includes services beyond those that are Windows-based. Because it tailors to yet isn’t limited within the Microsoft umbrella of programing, Azure has proven to be a comfortable choice for Fortune 500 companies.
With its cloud service, Microsoft has placed a strong emphasis on market presence and resourcefulness, offering users an enterprise of possibility within their current services, or the opportunity to create new applications.
Benefits of Azure include:
- Response: Azure machines respond to the same domain name with various ports.
- Virtual network cloud: Azure allows users to create virtual networks, which provide a private network space in the cloud. These virtual networks can be used to isolate and secure resources, as well as connect resources across multiple regions.
- Availability zones: Azure has 140+ availability zones across the globe. By choosing an availability zone closest to the users or customers, users can minimize latency and access high performance.
- Flexible billing options: Azure offers flexible and cost-effective pricing options, including a pay-per-minute billing model, which allows users to only pay for the resources they use. Users can also take advantage of Azure's Reserved Virtual Machine Instances, which offer discounted rates for long-term commitments.
- Specialized service offerings: Azure offers a wide range of specialized services and tools such as AI, ML, IoT (Internet of Things), and blockchain. These services provide pre-built solutions and accelerators, allowing users to deploy and scale their applications quickly and easily.
- Integration with other Microsoft tools: If Microsoft tools, such as Office 365, Dynamics 365, or Power BI, are already in use, Azure can integrate seamlessly with such tools, providing a cohesive experience across the entire Microsoft ecosystem.
Some of Azure’s limitations are:
- Complex environment: Azure has a steeper learning curve compared to some other cloud providers, due to its vast range of services and complex architecture.
- Cost: Although Azure offers flexible pricing options, the cost of using the platform can add up quickly, particularly for users who require a large number of resources or specialized services.
- Limited free tier: While Azure does offer a free tier, the resources available are bounded, and users may need to upgrade to a paid tier to access the features and resources they require.
- Limitations in compatibility with previous versions: Azure may have compatibility issues with previous versions of software or applications. This can be a problem for companies that rely on legacy systems or software.
- Enterprise readiness: Azure may lack in offering the same level of customization or control as other cloud providers, and the level of support for large-scale or complex applications may differ from others. This can be a limitation for companies that require a high degree of customization or control over their cloud environment.
- Tech support issues: Some users have reported issues with technical support and training when using Azure. While Azure provides a range of resources and support options, including documentation, forums, and support tickets, some users find that the support is less responsive or less helpful than they would like.
Hosting nearly half of the worldly market, current leader Amazon Web Services offers over 200 services and is the most mature and robust cloud provider to date. Favored by large corporations, individual developers, and governments, as well as leading in capacity and service, AWS has proven to be a leader in the cloud storage provider space.
Benefits of AWS include:
- Access to Amazon’s resources: AWS provides users with access to Amazon's massive compute and storage resources, which are highly scalable and reliable, allowing users to easily store, process, and analyze large amounts of data.
- Scalability and Elastic Load Balancing: AWS offers scalable infrastructure and Elastic Load Balancing (ELB) to handle varying levels of traffic. With ELB, users can automatically distribute incoming traffic across multiple instances, establishing availability and responsiveness of applications even during peak periods.
- Virtual Private Cloud: AWS provides users with a Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) that allows them to isolate their resources in a private, secure network. This enables users to define their own network topology, configure security settings, and control access to their resources.
- Availability zones: AWS operates 61 availability zones across 24 regions globally, with plans to expand further.
- Experience: AWS was launched in 2006, making it the oldest and most seasoned of the cloud platforms. Over the years, it has evolved into a mature, reliable, and secure platform that is trusted by millions of customers worldwide.
- Innovations: AWS is a forerunner in new technologies such as AI, ML, metrics and analytics, and IoT, enabling users to take advantage of the latest technologies to drive innovation and improve their businesses.
Limitations of AWS:
- Limited control over underlying infrastructure: While AWS provides users with a lot of control over their cloud resources, users have limited control over the underlying infrastructure.
- Limited customization: While AWS offers a wide range of services and configurations, users have limited customization options for these services.
- Complexity: AWS can be complex to navigate for new users, which can make it challenging to set up and manage resources.
- Cost: While AWS can be cost-effective for some workloads, costs can quickly add up for others, especially for services that require high levels of computing power or storage.
- Service-level agreement limitations: AWS's service-level agreements (SLAs) provide users with certain guarantees around uptime and availability, however they have limitations. For example, AWS services are covered by the SLA in their entirety, and users may experience deficiencies in the level of compensation for downtime or other issues that fall outside of the SLA.
- Data transfer costs: AWS charges users for data transfer between AWS services and external networks, which can add up quickly for users who have high levels of data transfer.
There is Help in the Clouds
Ultimately, the choice between cloud platforms depends on the specific needs of your business, the services you require, and the technical expertise of your team. Security, usability and convenience are often at the forefront of the list of characteristics that are considered as businesses determine the best cloud fit.
Because of the intricacies involved in onboarding, monitoring, and effectively utilizing the service, partnering with a cloud provider is helpful in enlisting best practices for your company. Companies like Cayuse have experts at-the-ready to assist in analyzing, determining, and implementing a solid cloud computing system for your business, saving you time, money, and resources.
An example that showcases a situation in which Cayuse assisted in the resolution of testing issues and cloud-based solutions can be found in our case study ‘World-Changing Technology Powered by the Cloud’.
In addition to the talent that stems from a team of tenured professionals, Cayuse is a diversity supplier, bringing a partnership of integrity and opportunity, providing businesses with the benefits of minority-owned credentials.
Starting as a simple way to store and share documents, cloud storage continues to provide businesses with a secure, cost-effective approach that stretches far beyond its original simplicity. It is supportive, flexible, and constantly updating in its abilities and offerings.
Cloud storage continues to evolve in the ways it provides options and support to the needs of today’s workforce. It has revolutionized data management, effectively providing for ease of collaboration and offers confidence and comfort in the storage of business data.
Consider reaching to the clouds for your business and remember, partner resources are available to help you determine the best approach for your needs and goals.