Top Three Public Clouds: What They Offer and Which Businesses Like Each One

February 2017: In the ever-growing space of cloud-based productivity apps and app development platforms, three providers lead the pack — Google, Microsoft and Amazon. Each offers pay-as-you-go subscription models so businesses can rent capacity instead of buying it, and they get to use all of the platform’s nifty tools and built-in capabilities. While competing clouds have a lot in common, they’re each unique and attract certain kinds of businesses.

Here’s what the top three public clouds offer and why certain types of businesses match up with each:

Google: G-Suite and Google Cloud Platform

Google G-Suite

What it offers:
A simple, intuitive suite of 10 communication and collaboration apps including Docs, Sheets, Slides, Gmail, Calendar and more, plus three management tools

Who typically uses it:
Startups and small businesses

Why they use it:
Startups and small businesses want fast, easy and affordable (or free) services so Google does a good job meeting their needs. Why spend the money if you don’t have to? These businesses rarely have complicated legacy platforms or systems that are all tied together like larger or more established businesses, so running their companies almost entirely on cloud apps is doable. The smallest of businesses use Google’s free basic apps and access files via Google Drive cloud storage that comes with 15GB free. The G-Suite upgrade starts at $10 per month per user —this is where businesses get the shared business features like business email, calendars, Google Groups, and video conferencing. G-Suite can be managed by internal or outsourced IT specialists, and if customers have some specific legacy environments that aren’t super-complicated, Google has migration tools.

Startups and small businesses tend not to be all that concerned about robust privacy or security — they’re comfortable with what Google offers, at least for the time being. An exception is new and small businesses in the healthcare and financial services industries. They typically need to comply with regulations, and Google’s ecosystem won’t cut it for that.

Google Cloud Platform:

When it comes to developing apps, websites and other tech services, Google Cloud Platform (a Platform as a Service or PaaS) offers customers the use of the same infrastructure it uses internally for products like Google Search and YouTube. Customers already using the Google ecosystem, such as pay-per-click and search tools, benefit from already being familiar with Google and how it works. And the pricing is competitive when compared to the other public-cloud platforms. However, developers using Google’s platform need to be pretty savvy on the backend side of things. When startups and small businesses are not backend experts (and often even if they are), they tend to choose the more mature and tool-rich Amazon Web Service – or AWS (see below)

Microsoft: Office 365 and Azure

Office 365

What it offers:
A subscription plan for cloud versions of the world’s most popular business productivity apps (Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and others) running on a secure cloud

Who uses it:
Traditional, established businesses

Why they use it:
If a business has been around longer than ten years, chances are very, very good it uses Microsoft Office. Even creative agencies with Mac computers from wall to wall still run on Office when it comes to the business side of the house. So, with Office running in the cloud as Office 365, it makes sense for traditional businesses to follow — they get the benefits of cloud computing without the hassle of having to start all over with an unfamiliar platform. Even though the Office 365 apps are slightly different from the traditional computer apps, employees feel comfortable quickly and there’s a much lower learning curve than there is with migrating, for example, from Excel to a different spreadsheet app. Office 365 price points are affordable like G-Suite’s. There are seven plans starting at $5 per user per month for the online apps only and progressing to robust enterprise plans that include a laundry list of apps and services.

When it comes to privacy, security and compliance, Microsoft’s cloud is the only public cloud that will work for a lot of businesses. Regulated traditional businesses moving to the cloud go with either Office 365 or a private cloud.

Microsoft Azure
Azure is Microsoft’s platform (PaaS) for development and IT professionals that competes with AWS and Google Cloud Platform. It offers a place to build, deploy and manage apps and services, and works well for both small projects and enterprise-size launches. Azure attracts traditional businesses that use Office, Office 365 and other Microsoft services — no surprise there. They feel right at home with Azure, and bundles make pricing more affordable even though Microsoft isn’t known for its low-cost licensing agreements.


Amazon Web Services (AWS)
What it offers:
An on-demand computing platform with a huge number of tools and infrastructure services designed to help companies innovate and deliver services quickly

Who typically uses it:
Developers and larger businesses that build apps, test environments and campaigns

Why they use it:
Of the top three public clouds, AWS is different because it doesn’t offer business productivity apps. AWS is the go-to app for developers because it offers so many tools and is so easy to use — the other public clouds can’t compare when it comes to these features. The tools are fully configured and ready for code to be loaded, so if your company wants to build an app like Uber, for example, the Amazon cloud is made for you. Code can get into production quickly and can also be scaled up (or down) quickly. Speed is key for developers.

And so is being able to put it everything on a credit card. With AWS handling all of the necessary infrastructure, you can have 20 new servers up and running within a day. Their subscription model can get pretty complicated, however. There’s a lot to choose from and, depending on the services and packages you’re using and discounts you’re trying to get, it’s easy to not understand what it will cost to develop your app until it’s already built. The AWS calculator is there to help, as well as the free tier that lets you learn how to use AWS before switching over to the subscription model.

Once developers are established with AWS, they usually stay for the flexibility and speed, regardless of any cost surprises. Developers also tend to use AWS and G-Suite at the same time — AWS for the tools and G-Suite for the business communication and collaboration apps.

The other type of businesses that flock to AWS are enterprises that use it for test environments. For example, a company like Coca-Cola will develop an app on AWS using its tools and then move the app over to the Coke data center when it’s ready to go into production. Digital marketing agencies are another example. They like AWS for proof-of-concept projects and campaigns that run for a short time.

On the other hand, AWS is not the most secure public cloud — that honor, as noted above, goes to Microsoft. Security takes a back seat to being fast and flexible.

Which one is right for your company?

There’s a lot to consider when you’re putting your business in the public cloud. Of the top three public clouds, most of Leapfrog’s clients choose Microsoft’s — the vast majority of our clients go with Office 365. That’s because we work primarily with established, traditional companies that have mature IT infrastructures and complex systems that are connected to each other. Our job is to sit down with a prospective client and determine the best solution for them, and then help them get it implemented properly so it can be supported long-term. Feel free to contact us if your business is looking at moving some or all of its network to the cloud. We’re here to help you figure it all out.

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