As enterprises continue their move to the cloud, many of these large, well-funded organizations find mega-cloud providers like AWS to be a good fit for their needs. If you can afford them, AWS resources and services can deliver powerful computing capabilities without the capital expense of building your own data center. But what if you’re a medium-sized company with limited resources and a serious organizational need for cloud solutions? Or a small business looking to leverage the cloud’s ability to quickly scale and adapt to meet surging growth? Is a hyper-cloud provider like AWS their best bet?
Without a doubt, AWS is the market leader in high-performance cloud computing, a single source for hosted services that can now touch pretty much every aspect of IT. AWS is even pioneering completely unique and innovative computing methods that give their customers access to unparalleled capabilities. Is AWS’ model sufficient and cost-effective to meet smaller-scale needs, however, or is there a threshold at which using AWS becomes counter-productive and a less monolithic cloud provider becomes the better option?
Putting aside the question of whether it is a good idea to engage a large provider like AWS, which may very well compete with you for the same customers (as Dropbox recently discovered), there are fundamental deficiencies in the AWS model that are better addressed by a smaller, more local cloud provider. This is especially true of the SMB market, where AWS’ dizzying array of choices and high level of expertise required to source, implement, and manage their solutions can be a daunting (if not impossible) challenge.
The Dilemma of Many Choices
AWS offers a range of virtual machine (VM) families, from general-purpose VMs to machines optimized for computing, memory, storage, or GPU performance levels. Taking into account each VM family’s available models, price-points, and operating systems—not to mention prior generations that remain available—the menu of AWS options soars to a bewildering number of possible combinations (currently around 50,000 choices).
For SMBs, the sheer complexity of AWS’s offerings can be an impenetrable barrier. Without well-trained and knowledgeable IT resources to assist them, how is a mid-sized business owner supposed to figure out the optimal AWS build to meet their needs while staying within budget limits? AWS provides an online tool to help, but this assistance largely comes down to templated advice and a selection based more on hope and guesswork than a sound, informed decision-making process.
Performance Rules, but Value Matters
For most startups and SMBs, building a custom infrastructure is not a viable strategy, but neither is investing in the resources required to make an AWS cloud solution work. These businesses need performance and reliability, live technical support, a comprehensive but not overwhelming menu of options, and high levels of scalability and security—including disaster recovery—to ensure continued operations at all times. They also need to be assured of the value of their solution in relation to what they receive for the price.
Many SMBs are discovering that finding a reliable hosting partner with predictable costs and robust infrastructure is a better alternative than trusting a mega-cloud provider like AWS to keep their business concerns in mind. While AWS is competitive on some of the issues that matter to SMBs, professional hosting companies with a customer-centric approach and specialized focus on a limited number of solutions can outperform AWS. The level of direct customer contact and support an SMB requires is something AWS is simply not built to provide.
True Customization Requires a Personal Touch
Another area where smaller hosting partners surpass AWS is in customization of solutions, which ties back into the personal touch a smaller provider can give to its customers. Customization is a critical component of scalability, which is essential to the growth strategy of many SMBs. Custom solutions must also be reasonably priced with no extra costs and expensive add-ons hidden in the mix. Walking a client through their custom solution often relies on a serious hand-holding effort that can only be delivered by a provider working directly with the customer. Again, with the way AWS has commoditized their web service offerings, a high level of customization is not something they can do.
Bigger Can Be Too Much
Even though major cloud providers like AWS have tremendous scale, global reach, and diverse service offerings, their approach does not meet the needs of every business out there. In fact, smaller cloud providers continue to see high demand for a more personal level of cloud computing, largely because the average retail cloud consumer knows little about the technology beyond its marketing messages and value prop. They also rarely need the full breadth of services AWS offers, but instead want someone to sit with them and explain exactly what their business needs and why.
If you’re moving to the cloud but don’t know much about how it works or how much it costs, your best bet is to find a cloud provider partner with certified expertise, a solid track record, and proven, tested infrastructure. Your prospective hosting partner should also offer a healthy range of options, from simple cloud storage space to a full-fledged managed services portfolio. This is important because, as you transition to the cloud, you often need a variety of solutions to address your legacy systems and applications, and to ensure that your cloud solution properly fills in any gaps (such as security, redundancy, disaster recovery, etc.) created during the move.
Other elements to consider in selecting a smaller cloud partner over AWS include things like: their relationships with other MSPs; specific expertise in various vertical markets such as manufacturing, legal, or healthcare; the availability of “on-demand” resource provisioning; typical speed of deployment (which is often far faster than AWS); and even the option to employ consulting or staff augmentation services through the provider. All of these are things a cloud partner should be able to provide that AWS cannot.
While the enterprise is still in a romance with AWS, the movement of SMBs away from hyper-cloud providers is rooted in deep-seated—and well-founded—concerns about cost/value, support, competition, and customizability. It’s also driven by a desire for the peace of mind that a competent partner stands with you to address any needs that may arise. For many business owners, aligning with an experienced hosting partner—like Green Cloud—who provides industry-leading solutions and excellent customer support has many obvious advantages over a hyper-cloud provider.
AWS has an unparalleled menu of services and options, but this huge portfolio undermines its practicality for the SMB market. The options are simply too many and too inscrutable for the average cloud consumer, who needs personal support and a sales approach focused on their specific needs. Small to mid-sized business owners simply don’t have the time or resources to spend figuring out their best AWS option and then attempting to implement it on their own. This simple fact ensures that smaller cloud providers still have a seat at the table, and that they can actually outperform AWS in the much more expansive SMB market.