Should Your Startup Use Amazon Web Services?

May 05, 2014 — 1 Comments
Amazon Cloud Service Startup There is an ongoing debate on whether startup businesses should consider using public (e.g. Amazon Web Services) or private cloud (e.g. OpenStack) for technical infrastructure. It doesn’t take long to search online to find the successes and failings on both sides of the fence. As in most cases, the answer of which to use is not simple. The choice is instead dependent on the individual business. Here are items to review if you’re considering Amazon Web Services or OpenStack. 1. Security   The debate is often stuck on the process of security for the company. Security can depend on the cloud service provider. For example, AWS infrastructure is secure and so is OpenStack. The owner or IT team sets up either system in a way that is secure. For startups, this can be a challenge and requires good support from the provider, team member or consultant that understands security. With a private cloud system, the data sits behind your firewall and is therefore seemingly more secure as long as you set things up correctly. It also usually requires a higher budget to build a secure environment. In terms of privacy, you would have control over where your data is stored, who is able to access it and how it is transferred. However, that doesn’t mean it is entirely safe. The person in charge of the security of your system still needs to keep on top of the ever shifting security landscape. This includes regular security fixes, updates and upgrades. 2. Redundancy And Disaster Recovery   The cloud infrastructure owner builds a redundant, scalable and secure environment. Either system is capable of being built the right way as long as the right team is working on the build and management. Many hosting providers can also be public clouds so unless you are willing to have a hybrid system, you’ll need to run the data centres. This can be a significant business expense. Yet cloud service providers like Amazon do offer a solution which offers significant redundancy. One of their lesser known features is the region-to-region redundancy. This is where the data is backed up in a different data centre in another geographic region (i.e. the US Northwest main centre is backed up by a Pacific Data centre). This means that should something happen to the data in one location, it is unlikely the data will be lost in the other. This kind of well-architected cloud deployment is the best option for a business that would like continuous service no matter what. 3. Costs   A startup organisation can have significant costs. That is why sometimes you will want to reduce them as much as possible. Therefore having the maintenance and outlay of the original equipment can seem like a headache when considering a private cloud solution. Using Amazon Web Services can offer a startup a significant cost savings. Amazon covers the maintenance and purchase of the equipment and the costs may be passed down to the clients, but it is spread out over many. The cost between the two depends on the resources you use. With few resources, AWS is the proper choice. As you use more, the price goes up and at some point it will be beneficial to switch to OpenStack. In other words, servers are cheaper on Amazon, but large infrastructures are typically cheaper to run on OpenStack. Also the public service provider would be constantly updating their system with the latest software and hardware; again the costs would be spread amongst the clients. An IT department can save some of their budget and invest it in other infrastructure. 4. Flexibility   As a startup business you are more than likely looking to have a growing business over the first few years. Yet you are unlikely to need the technology from the beginning. Having a system where you can upgrade and reduce as needed is a huge benefit. The public cloud option gives you the flexibility you need as a startup with unknown requirements for capacity. However, over time as your requirements even out you’d be better off going with a private cloud with a set cost. Conclusion   The debate will forever continue on the subject of whether a startup should take the plunge and use a private network or go for a public service like Amazon Web Services. The balance is in cost and capability of your team to manage the items mentioned above. You’ll have to calculate the requirements for your business and determine the necessity of having quality team members to setup the correct environment. There are benefits of both sides and it is really down to the needs of your business today and your needs in the future to determine which cloud option is best for you. Which method do you think you will use for your startup? Let us know in the comments below. Image: David Precious

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