AWS vs. Azure: Choosing a Cloud Provider for Your Company


Whether you’re moving your company’s entire tech infrastructure to the public cloud or architecting a hybrid cloud model, choosing a cloud provider will be one of your first critical decisions. For most companies, the two major players—Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure—will offer the best mix of features, services, and extensibility. So, how do you decide between them? We’ll walk you through some key factors to consider help you arrive at an informed solution that’s right for your company.


Which One is Better, AWS or Azure?

When it comes to cloud providers, it is impossible to say which one is best, because “best” is dependent on circumstances unique to your organization. In terms of features like storage and networking, they have similar capabilities, and they both offer the scalability, disaster recovery, and potential cost efficiencies that make the public cloud an attractive choice for businesses. Selecting one cloud provider over another is a matter of analyzing your company’s wants and needs against each provider’s strengths. As a managed services provider with expertise in cloud adoption, we’re frequently counseling clients through the selection process, and we always start with a few big questions to help us arrive at a recommendation:

• What is the nature of your business?

• What do you want to use the cloud for?

• What is your existing infrastructure?

• What are the technological capabilities of your organization?

“The answers to these questions can strongly direct us to one cloud provider over another based on things like licensing considerations, ease of use, and integration for that particular organization,” explained Garot Conklin, head of technology solutions at PCI, in a recent discussion on cloud provider selection.

Read on to learn more of Garot’s advice on the business and technological considerations that could incline you toward one provider over another.


The Case for AWS

AWS has been developing its platform since 2006—longer than other cloud providers on the market. Accordingly, the breadth and depth of AWS’ tools and services are yet to be outmatched by a competitor, and compared to Azure, it has a vast number of servers worldwide. In effect, AWS is remarkably enterprise friendly, predisposing many large organizations to its orbit. AWS is also more developer centric. If you’re a web-hosting company or a lead-based application or you do a lot of development in house, AWS is probably going to be a good fit, even if your company is far from “enterprise” status. That’s true as well for companies running in the Linux operating system, as AWS is primarily a Linux environment. AWS also offers the broadest native tool set of any cloud provider. That means you can build almost anything you need to operate with the tool set that's provided; you don't have to go find third-party solutions.

On the other hand, AWS is more technologically complex than Azure, making it more difficult to use if your team isn’t well versed in software engineering and coding. If you don’t have that skill set at your disposal, either on staff or through a managed services provider like PCI, AWS is going to be more challenging to navigate. AWS is also an ever-changing platform requiring focused, expert attention to keep up with its constant evolution. Lastly, some organizations may be opposed to contracting with AWS, an Amazon-owned company, if they are in a vertical that’s being threatened by Amazon’s business model.


The Case for Azure

Trailing just behind AWS in terms of market share is Microsoft Azure, which (as you might have guessed) is almost always the provider of choice for organizations that run on Microsoft systems and products. If your company is heavily invested in Microsoft native technologies like Office Exchange, Outlook, SharePoint, and One Drive, and you’ve built an in-house team around Microsoft-specific skills, you’ll be strongly motivated to choose Azure, the cloud provider designed to optimally run those products. It’s also important to consider licensing costs, Azure offers a licensing discount on Microsoft products, making it substantially (and sometimes prohibitively) more expensive to put Microsoft licensing in any other cloud. Of course, you may not want to, given how seamlessly Azure integrates with Microsoft products. Another benefit of Azure is its ease of use. Whereas AWS is command line and programmatically based, making it difficult for people who are not engineers or developers to function in its platform, Azure is UI based just like Microsoft tools are. They've layered on middleware that allows you to program and create workflows without actually writing code. In short, Azure has a lot of upsides for companies that have considerable technology requirements but do not have the in-house staff to develop products from scratch.

At PCI, we’re also partial to the way Azure constructs its availability zones, making it easy to deploy virtual machines (VMs) in the same network while also baking in redundancies to protect your system from data center failures without contributing to latency issues. To achieve a similar effect in AWS requires complicated network configurations, and there are some limitations to the redundancies you can build with AWS.


Hybrid Considerations

If you’re leaning toward a hybrid cloud approach, meaning you’ll distribute some workloads to the public cloud and others to a private cloud, know that both AWS and Azure are capable of supporting a hybrid environment, and neither stands out as clearly superior to the other in that regard. Of the two, Azure does have the more established hybrid deployment solution—Azure Stack—which makes it fairly simple to extend Azure services and capabilities to various datacenters, remote offices, and other environments of your choosing. But AWS has made great progress toward hybrid solutions of its own, including AWS Outposts, a pre-configured hardware stack delivered to your premises that runs AWS compute, storage, database, and other services locally, allowing you to access the full range of AWS services available in your region.

In addition to going the hybrid route, it’s also possible to run different parts of your system on different public clouds. Whatever model you adopt, the single point to take away is that the suitability of a particular cloud provider has to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Consulting a managed services provider with cloud expertise like PCI can help you synthesize and analyze your business requirements and objectives and vision for the future to figure out the best cloud provider for you.

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