Cloud Services Strategies Are Critical For SMBs

If you need any sign that cloud technology has arrived, you need to look no further than the all-out war in the cloud service space. The entrance of a multitude of competitors into the arena has driven down prices and extended a very wide range of commoditized features to the public. No provider has more than a 30% share of the market.

No matter which major player prevails, the real winners will be SMBs. Companies without the colossal budgets of major corporations now have affordable access to the levels of scalability, uptime, and reliability once reserved for said corporations. We will examine why it is critical for SMBs to take advantage of these opportunities and fully embrace cloud service strategies.

Computing at a Bargain

Moderate-sized businesses once had to cut into their already thin margins with on-premises IT resources and full-time technical staff. However, similar resources are now available for just pennies-per-hour. This allows businesses to avoid many of the risky upfront tech investments that may not pan out and also scale their resources intelligently. SMBs must always keep growth in mind – the pay-as-you-go model is perfect for growth.

This comparison posted on SitePoint reveals many key metrics between the top three providers. One thing that should be noted is that the compute pricing for both Microsoft’s Azure and Amazon Web Services (AWS) are competitive when it comes to both flexibility and overall cost. However, when it comes to storage, Azure has an edge on price, albeit with a simplified range of storage options.

Given that the cloud pricing model operates on measured uptime of instances, it is important to know how that time is counted. Azure users have the advantage of granularity measured in minutes, and can avoid being charged for a full hour for instances that only need to run in short spurts. This added cost flexibility may prove invaluable for many smaller businesses.

Improved Uptime through Data Center Coverage

The SitePoint article linked above also provides maps of data center coverage for the leading providers. This is a crucial and sometimes overlooked consideration for service clients. It is the best way to guarantee uptime and consistency of user experience across regions. Not only have SMBs been traditionally vulnerable when it comes to data outages, they have also had to incur significant costs when trying to expand into foreign markets.

Cloud providers help alleviate both of these problems. Azure and AWS both have strong data center coverage across the globe. They also have a concentrated presence in the crucial regions of North America, Europe, the Indian subcontinent, and East Asia.

Support for Flexible New Architectures

It is not only cheap and abundant remote resources can aid SMBs. Another important selling point of cloud services is that they readily support some of the best innovations in software architecture. You can easily implement infrastructure pioneered by companies such as Netflix, which has grown to serve the entire world on a cloud-based deployment.

One such innovation is the container. This approach is gaining popularity because it consists of a packaged instance of run time environment and its associated applications. Containers deployed to the same system share the same kernel resources but are compartmentalized via controlled read/write access. This can greatly simplify application deployments across platforms and offers a lightweight alternative when virtual machines are too resource-intensive.

The Azure Container Service supports Docker, the leading container technology, as well as the orchestration engines DC/OS and Docker Swarm.

Big Data Solutions

Many would argue that you are not leveraging cloud solutions to their fullest if you are not taking advantage of big data technologies. Through analytics, data warehousing, and machine learning, you can gain crucial insights that will allow you to maximize the success of your business. Since SMBs do not generally have the resources for an army of full-time analysts, they can use technology to fill this gap.

AWS led the way in this area by introducing Elastic MapReduce. However, it turns out that Azure may have the most robust support for big data capabilities. It offers HDInsight for managed Hadoop, Spark, R Server, HBase, and Storm. It also offers the SQL Data Warehouse for easily-deployed petabyte-scale information needs.

Hopefully this list conveys how invaluable the leading cloud service platforms are for SMBs. It also demonstrates, however, that there is quite a lot of choice and complexity in comparing cloud features. Likewise, there are many challenges in implementing value-adding cloud solutions. This is why you should look for a skilled consultant that has deep, industry-proven experience in cloud technology to help you make the transition.

 

About Matt Vegas

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