Gartner predicts that global cloud spending will reach $482 billion by the end of 2022, up 21.7 percent from 2021. As cloud computing becomes a bigger priority for most businesses, understanding the differences between the top Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) providers on the market is also becoming more crucial. Cost, scalability, and data security are among the biggest challenges and concerns when it comes to cloud migration, and therefore the most important differentiating factors to keep in mind when comparing top cloud providers.
Top Cloud Provider Comparison
- Amazon Web Services: Best for availability
- Microsoft Azure: Best for ease of use
- Google Cloud Platform: Best for analytics
- Alibaba Cloud: Best for pricing flexibility
Amazon Web Services: Best for availability
Amazon Web Services (AWS) has led the cloud IaaS market for many years, and it’s easy to understand why. AWS offers more services and features than any other cloud service provider, and it offers higher availability than most of its competitors. In fact, the AWS infrastructure has 81 Availability Zones in 25 regions around the world and guarantees a 99.99% uptime.
AWS also offers a lot in the way of cybersecurity. It supports 90 security standards and compliance certifications and offers encryption for any service that interacts with customer data. AWS is a one-stop shop for virtually any cloud service, so it’s a clear choice for organizations needing versatility and advanced solutions.
- Limitless server capacity
- Flexible scalability
- Broad toolset
- Straightforward user interface
- Complicated pricing structure
- Difficult to manage costs effectively
Though AWS is the leader of the cloud services market, its pricing structure is anything but straightforward. Though it does offer a pricing calculator, it can be hard to estimate exactly how much the services will cost because of how many different variables there are. However, AWS is one of the most affordable cloud solutions available. Plus, the Free Tier includes more than 100 products that can be expanded and scaled as needed.
Read more: AWS Extends Scope of Cloud Storage Services
Microsoft Azure: Best for ease of use
Microsoft has long been a leader in the on-premises software market, so it makes sense that they were able to gain momentum quickly when they pivoted to cloud services with Azure. Plus, Azure was designed to work in tandem with other Microsoft products like Windows Server and Microsoft Office. This is a huge benefit for enterprises that are already using Microsoft tools.
The breadth of solutions Azure offers isn’t as wide as AWS, and the products it does offer usually come with a bigger price tag than its competitors. However, Azure is one of the easiest cloud solutions to set up and manage. It supports Linux systems and container architectures, which is a unique value for open source environments.
- Integrates with other Microsoft products
- Supports Linux and container architectures
- User friendly
- Good for hybrid cloud environments
- More expensive than AWS
- Poorer performance than competitors
Microsoft Azure’s pricing is also somewhat convoluted. The pay-as-you-go structure is based on a number of situational variables, so it’s difficult to understand how much the services will cost before committing. Azure offers a small number of services on a forever free basis, plus its most popular services on a 12-month free trial. On average, however, Azure costs more to deploy than AWS.
Read more: Azure Stack vs. Azure Cloud: Private vs. Public Cloud
Google Cloud Platform: Best for analytics
Google Cloud Platform (GCP) is the third most popular cloud service provider behind AWS and Azure. Though its track record with enterprise customers is relatively short, it does have a unique advantage over its competitors when it comes to analytics, automation, and networking. GCP’s artificial intelligence and machine learning tools are some of the most advanced of any in the cloud computing space.
Many customers choose to use GCP as a supplementary cloud service in a multi-cloud environment. Its live migration feature is useful for these customers because it enables VM migration in real time without any downtime. Additionally, Google’s Kubernetes framework is the foundation for most container environments, so GCP is an ideal solution for containerized app development. GCP might not be the biggest cloud provider on the market, but it’s growing rapidly and driving innovation on many fronts.
- Live migration
- Unparalleled data analytics
- Accessible customer support
- Good for multi-cloud environments
- More expensive than AWS
- Lower availability
Google Cloud may be more expensive than AWS, but its pricing structure is more transparent. It offers a pricing calculator to understand exactly what costs to expect based on a number of variables using the pay-as-you-go pricing model. Google offers deep discounts and flexible contracts to draw customers from other cloud providers. There are also special tools and support channels to optimize costs.
Alibaba Cloud: Best for pricing flexibility
Alibaba Cloud is the top cloud service provider in China, so it’s a likely choice for enterprises with a large presence in the APAC region. However, Alibaba has rapidly expanded its reach to become a major competitor around the globe. It has a more flexible pricing structure than most providers, plus new customers can take advantage of Alibaba’s free trial to test drive the most expensive products before committing.
The interface is not very intuitive for users who don’t have strong technical expertise, but there is decent multilingual support and an energetic community of users who are willing to collaborate to solve a problem. Though their presence in Western markets is relatively small, Alibaba Cloud is perhaps one of the most affordable, fastest growing, and most internationally-friendly cloud providers on the market.
- Impressive free trial offering
- Strong presence in APAC
- Flexible pricing options
- Multilingual support
- Requires technical expertise
- Limited geographical availability outside APAC
Alibaba Cloud’s services are priced using the pay-as-you-go model or subscription billing for a lower monthly rate. There are no upfront fees, so there’s very little cost to get started, and many services are available for free. Alibaba also offers a referral program that provides discounts to customers who invite colleagues or partners to join Alibaba Cloud.
Read more: Alibaba Cloud vs. AWS
How to Choose the Right Cloud Provider
It can be difficult to determine which top cloud provider is the right fit for your organization. First, understand your top business priorities and read customer reviews from those with similar needs. Then, consider signing up for a free trial or exploring some of the tools each provider offers for free to get a sense of how the services work.
If none of the top cloud providers on this list meet your needs exactly, review our complete list of Top Cloud Providers & Companies to explore other options.