When it comes to infrastructure as a service (IaaS), some organisations struggle between the choice of Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services. They’re both solid IaaS platforms that give organisations access to vast computing resources around the world, but deciding which one is best for you depends on many factors.
At a quick glance, both offerings might look similar on paper, but there are key differences between them that you might not discover until you try them out or talk to someone who has. Luckily, IT pro users of both platforms have been vocal about their preferences and the pros and cons of each.
What sets AWS and Azure apart?
While AWS was the first major player in the cloud computing game, IT pros generally agree Azure has largely closed the gap. However, it’s still a commonly-held belief that AWS maintains a lead for organisations that need to run “web scale” applications that support a lot of users. Famously, popular services such as Netflix and Airbnb use AWS EC2 to provide their services to their customers across the globe.
On the other hand, many IT pros say Azure is easier to use out-of-the-box and more user-friendly, especially for Windows admins in smaller organisations that use cloud servers to replace their local machines and don’t need to host highly scalable apps. And the ease of setup and integration of Azure virtual machines with other Microsoft products makes the transition to cloud infrastructure smoother for many.
That said, both providers continually improve their offerings, adding new capabilities and lowering prices all the time, so comparing one versus the other is somewhat of a moving target. So to get the latest on AWS vs Azure, we talked to IT professionals in Spiceworks, who ultimately set up and manage IaaS cloud services, to share the merits of each platform and their opinions on the Microsoft and Amazon IaaS offerings. Here’s what they had to say.
Cost: Both providers offer a variety of differently-sized instances at relatively comparable price points to fit the needs of organisations of all sizes. Azure instances each include a fixed amount of storage, but with AWS, you’ll need to purchase storage separately at an additional cost. That said, many IT pros agree that AWS storage is highly customisable to their needs which is a plus, but the pricing is not as straightforward as Azure.
Costs on both platforms vary depending on the performance, capacity, amount of data you need to transfer, and whether you need advanced features such as load balancing and auto-scaling. How often you use your cloud instances also figures into cost, with one big pricing difference between Azure and AWS being that Microsoft charges for usage by rounding up to the nearest minute, while Amazon rounds up to the nearest hour.
Support Plans: Microsoft and Amazon both offer different levels of tech support depending on how quickly you need issues resolved and if you need a dedicated account manager or tech support for integrations with third-party plugins if something goes wrong. One big difference is that Azure support plans are billed using a flat monthly fee, but AWS support fees vary on a sliding scale tied to monthly usage, so support costs can grow quickly if you are a very heavy user.
Reliability and uptime: Both Azure and AWS strive for greater than 99.95% service availability, with each provider giving credit back to customers if uptime drops below that figure. While both services have been reliable, both have experienced periodic outages that affected popular services like Netflix, Office 365, and more.
Setup and user-friendliness: Azure is known for being convenient for Windows admins because they don’t have to learn a new platform. Azure also makes it simple to integrate on-premises Windows servers with cloud instances to create a hybrid cloud environment. Additionally, Azure instances work seamlessly with Microsoft cloud services such as Azure Active Directory and Azure SQL Database.
On the other hand, AWS is known for providing a more highly configurable, feature-rich offering that has a bit of an initial learning curve. However, once you learn the platform, IT pros agree that AWS offers a lot of power, flexibility, and room for customisation with support for a huge number of third party integrations. Additionally, if you aren’t a heavy Windows Server user, AWS is known for being a great platform for hosting Linux instances.
Making the choice between AWS and Azure
Deciding which cloud provider is right for you all comes down to your needs. Perhaps the best way to figure out which one you prefer is to start a free trial with both providers to experience what each platform is like hands-on.
And if the cost of using IaaS is a big concern, you can use cloud calculators online that can help estimate how much you’ll spend on IaaS each month so you know what you’re getting into. Additionally, cloud cost monitoring tools can help track your actual IaaS usage and alert you if cloud costs are getting out of control so you can better regulate your monthly spending.
In the end, IT professionals generally agree that Azure or AWS are both great choices for IaaS providers. Now it’s up to you to figure out which works best for your organisation.
Editor’s note: The verdicts were an aggregate of 160 IT professionals’ opinions on Azure and AWS taken from product reviews within Spiceworks.