AWS vs Digitalocean vs Google Cloud vs Heroku vs Azure – Choose Best for a Startup

Nowadays, Amazon Web Services is the largest cloud services provider. However, the competition is getting tough! In this article we review the best cloud alternatives for a startup.

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Today, Amazon Web Services is the world’s largest cloud computing service provider, servicing 34% of the global cloud infrastructure market. The nearest competitor is Microsoft Azure with around 15%, followed by Google.

What’s the secret to AWS’s popularity? Why is this service so far ahead of its competition? Why have the world’s leading companies chosen Amazon Web Services to host their websites and applications? Are the alternatives comparable?

Below, we will introduce to you the leader of cloud computing and compare it to other currently available products.

What is Amazon Web Services?

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is a subsidiary of Amazon and mainly focuses on providing infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS). The technology behind AWS provides users with a virtual cluster of computers that can be accessed from anywhere at any time.

What is Amazon Web Services

AWS Products and AWS Solutions. What’s the difference?

When visiting the Amazon Web Services website, you’ll definitely notice that there are two sections: products and solutions. Although you might be confused at first, there is a significant difference between the two types of services.

AWS Products is a list of different services provided by Amazon. They are divided into several domains, including Compute, Storage, Database, Networking & Content Delivery, Developer Tools, Management Tools, etc. Each domain includes multiple products. For example, among Databases you will find RDS, Aurora, DynamoDB, Redshift, ElastiCache, and AWS Database Migration Service. These are all designed to solve different problems, so finding the best match for your particular need won’t be an issue.

AWS Solutions are more complex. These are actually sets of products gathered under a single classification to best fit certain types of projects. Big Data, Internet of Things, Scientific Computing, E-Commerce and other types of applications can use these ready-customized bundles created with the needs of a certain type of app in mind. Industry sectors like Government, Gaming, Healthcare, and Science could also benefit from product bundles.

AWS cloud services

Amazon Web Services pricing

Amazon Web Services has competitive pricing that makes it extremely attractive for individuals and businesses. The company offers a one-year free tier that includes a certain number of services. Some AWS products are free forever. The world’s best cloud infrastructure provider offers 25 GB of storage in DynamoDB, 1 million requests per month in AWS Lambda, and 100 million events per month in Amazon Mobile Analytic at no extra cost forever. You can check out all the free Amazon Web Services products here.

12 months after sign-up or after exceeding the predefined amount of services, Amazon Web Services require payment. The prices are highly customizable and remain some of the lowest on the market.

AWS follows the “pay-as-you-go” model. This means that you pay only for the actual amount of services you use. There are no subscription, no packages, no fees, and no long-term contracts.

One of AWS’s most popular services, EC2 (Elastic Compute Cloud), offers highly flexible pricing. By selecting on-demand instances, you will pay only for the instances that you actually use. The cost of each instance varies from $0.0059 per hour, with the lowest CPU and memory, up to $3.2 per hour with 64 CPU and 256 GB of memory. You can select a plan that best matches your needs and stays within your budget.

Advantages of Amazon Web Services AWS

Why choose AWS over competitors? Advantages of the service

With so many cloud services providers on the market, why do companies choose Amazon Web Services to host the infrastructure for their websites and apps? There are several compelling reasons for this:

  • Easy to start working with
    Even a beginner developer is able to implement Amazon Web Services infrastructure within a project. Short, 10-minutes tutorials provide a great introduction to the service and the simple step-by-step guides prepared by Amazon are useful for those building their first app with AWS.

  • Flexibility
    Amazon Web Services are highly customizable, allowing you to choose an operating system (Linux or Windows), a programming language (literally any), a database, and a web application platform. Due to this flexibility, migrating from other cloud services to AWS is simple and building a new app using AWS does not limit the developer.

  • Reliability
    Thousands of businesses trust AWS due to its high reliability. The company operates 60 availability zones in 20 regions, and 4 more regions with another 12 zones will soon become available. When one availability zones fails, others within the same region take over so that the web app users never notice the breakdown. This developed infrastructure allows Amazon Web Services to be the most reliable provider of cloud computing services worldwide.

  • Scalability
    Is your business growing rapidly? The capability of your Amazon cloud services can be expanded in minutes with just a few clicks. Has your business experienced a temporary slowdown? You don’t have to pay for resources you aren’t currently using. Amazon Web Services are customizable to the actual needs of the business.

  • Profitable for big projects
    Amazon Web Services offer the first year of using their products free of charge. Some products remain free forever. Even more, the costs of paid AWS products are among the lowest on the market. You are charged only for the services you have actually used and there are no subscriptions, extra charges, or termination fees. However, such a billing model requires good planning and managing skills. As a result, this is a better choice for big businesses and enterprise projects.

  • Security
    Data security is one of AWS’s priorities. All of their data is stored in extremely secure data centers. You can also add an extra security layer by implementing data encryption.

  • Customer Service
    AWS offers several customer support plans. Basic 24/7 support is included free of charge. The advanced plans start at $29 per month and can reach up to several thousand dollars. For this solid sum of money, you can count on assigned support concierge and a technical account manager, who will assist you in building professional architecture and answer any of your questions. Additionally, there are Amazon Web Services Discussion Forums where the community can exchange experiences, share their opinions and ask for help. As an AWS user, you will never feel alone with your problems.

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AWS Alternatives for Startups

Amazon Web Services offers diverse solutions under one roof. Yes, it is currently number one. But the market is full of new products that have the potential to become (and some of them have already became) a powerful alternative to AWS.

DigitalOcean vs. Amazon Web Services

DigitalOcean vs. AWS

DigitalOcean (DO) is a cloud service platform primarily competing with Amazon’s EC2. Currently, they also have an analog to Load Balancer, S3, and a few other services.

What is DigitalOcean used for? First of all, it is a powerful tool for startups for several reasons:

  • Developer friendly
    Its simple interface allows developers to quickly set up Linux instances (also called droplets). Due to this friendly interface, it takes around two minutes to set up an DO instance.

  • Affordable price
    The plans start at $5 per month or $0.007 per hour (compare it with the price of Amazon’s cheapest on demand instances, which is $0.0104 per hour). This is a good starting point for beginner businesses and startups.

  • Better performance
    DigitalOcean has a network speed of 1Gbps.

  • Setup guides
    Developers will benefit from comprehensive guides. Even when dealing with DO for the first time, setup won’t be an issue.

However, there are several point where AWS clearly beats DigitalOcean:

  • Windows OS compatibility
    DigitalOcean supports Linux-based servers only. If you work with Windows, go for Amazon EC2, or consider another service (Azure, Slicify, etc.).

  • Server management
    Being an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), DigitalOcean requires the user to manage the service on their own. AWS, on the contrary, is a Platform as a Service (PaaS), where everything is managed by the provider except for the application and data. As a result, managing a DigitalOcean server may require more effort and some prior experience.

AWS is more of a corporate solution as it offers other services that can be installed in bundle. DigitalOcean attracts clients with lower price and user-friendliness - even a beginner developer can set up an instance.

Choosing between DigitalOcean or AWS may be hard. Both have their advantages. Generally speaking, DO may fit a startup better than EC2. But the final choice depends on many factors that can be determined in a personal consultation with a professional.

We can offer you such a consultation for free - just send us a message describing your business case.

Heroku vs. Amazon Web Services

Heroku vs. AWS

Heroku is another service typically compared with EC2. This is a Platform as a Service (PaaS) solution, making developers’ jobs easier. There’s no need to set up and maintain instances, everything is available to the user right away.

Heroku is hosted on AWS. This means that you have stability and reliability of Amazon servers, but with the configuration already done for you.

Heroku is somewhat similar to another AWS tool called Elastic Beanstalk, which also offers a ready platform, but enables infrastructure configuration, if needed.

What is Heroku used for?

This is a typical choice for startups and small businesses when time-to-market and minimal budget are critical. Heroku allows you to save time and money while sacrificing flexibility.

When is Heroku not recommended?

This service isn’t an option for performance-heavy applications. When hosting a large app on Heroku, you will experience slow deployment. AWS is a better option for complex software.

In the battle of Elastic Beanstalk vs. Heroku, the win goes to the Amazon product.

Google Cloud vs. Amazon Web Services

Google Cloud vs. AWS

Google Cloud Platform (GCP) enables everyone to use the same infrastructure Google uses for its most popular products (Gmail, Youtube, Google Drive). Providing a wide audience with access to this service, the company is trying to compete with AWS. Similarly, Google Cloud consists of a variety of services, such as Google Compute Engine, Google App Engine, Google Storage, Google Cloud CDN, Google Cloud DNS, and many more.

What is Google Cloud Platform used for?

Let’s take a look at where it can currently beat Amazon:

  • Lower cost
    When you compare similar offers from the two service providers, Google Cloud Platform is about 25% cheaper than its rival.

  • Massive free trial
    AWS offers a 1-year free trial. Google doesn’t have a time limit, allowing you to use 0.2 CPU/0.6GB RAM with 30GB disk storage and 5GB cloud storage free forever, which is enough for a simple product. In addition, you will receive a $300 trial credit that you can spend on any GCP service.

  • Better UX
    We all know that Amazon Web Services isn’t the most user-friendly provider. Google Cloud Platform managed to outperform AWS by offering a better experience.

But there are still points where Amazon Web Services performs better:

  • AWS has more to offer
    GCP offers around 50 services, Amazon has 200+. This means that AWS users have a better selection of services, and are able to adjust the platform to their needs. For example, both providers have a cloud solution for MySQL, PostgreSQL, and SQL Server to offer, but Amazon also has Aurora, MariaDB, and Oracle. So, if you are looking for an SQL cloud solution, you’ll be able to find a better fit with AWS.

Even though Google Cloud Platform isn’t as popular as Amazon Web Services, it will continue to develop and grow.

Azure vs. Amazon Web Services

Azure vs. AWS

Microsoft’s Azure promotes itself as a cheaper alternative to Amazon Web Services. Indeed, both companies follow a similar approach - offering a variety of cloud-based services under one hood.

What is Microsoft Azure used for?

Currently, it is hard for Azure to compete with AWS: the market share is 22% against 47%. However, their general offer is more attractive:

  • When moving to Azure, you can keep your existing Windows Server and SQL server licenses, which makes the migration less painful.

  • Three years of security updates are offered for free for Windows Server or SQL Server 2008 and 2008 R2.

  • 12 months of free usage, with 25+ services free to use forever.

  • Some services, such as SQL Database Managed Instance are 85% cheaper when compared to AWS.

With comparable service quality and lower costs, Azure hopes to win a part of the AWS audience.

Digitalocean vs AWS vs Google Cloud vs Heroku vs Azure

Now you know a lot about Amazon Web Services and its main competitors. Let’s sum up quickly:

AWS is the one and only leader. If you are seeking quality, reliability, professional support and community help, and if you are not ready to compromise for the sake of a few hundreds dollars - Amazon Web Services is exactly what you need.

DigitalOcean is powerful but works for Linux apps only. It is easy and quick to set up, reducing the development time and costs. This is a good choice for startups.

Heroku is a low-cost solution usually chosen by startups and small businesses. When starting, the choice between Heroku and AWS is obvious, but as your app scales, you’ll have to migrate to a more powerful service provider.

Google Cloud a handful of various services. It is a proven provider since it offers the same infrastructure that Google uses for its projects. It’s cheaper than AWS, but also offers less - some services available on AWS can’t be found on GCP yet.

Azure has done its best to chase Amazon, offering comparable services for a lower price. Just like AWS and GCP, Azure is a good choice for big projects, since it enables you to completely configure the infrastructure according to the needs of the specific software.

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