15 Feb 2019

Cloud Comparison. AWS vs Azure vs Host Color

Compare Cloud Servie Providers

Small and middle-sized business owners often feel perplexed by how the major Cloud providers design, implement and deliver Cloud computing services. The reason for that is very simple - the major Clouds intentionally adopt IT service models, which make it possible for them to charge as much as possible for Cloud infrastructure services. With all due respect to the major Clouds, including those included in our Compare Cloud Service Providers web page, we believe that it is fair to say that both Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure have established a very complicated process of introduction, sign up and configuration of their cloud services. It is complicated to a point where even those tech-savvy and familiar with the Cloud computing terms, technologies, and networking would need to spend a lot of time reading manuals and making themselves familiar with the company's specific terms and service frameworks.

At the same time, we believe that Cloud Computing, and technology services in general, aren't that hard to explain and understand! Our firm belief is that any ethical technology company should do everything possible to make its services and products easy to understand. This is what AWS and Microsoft Azure don't do. Their unwillingness to do it results in an unjustified increase in the monthly spendings for millions of their customers. What do the major Clouds do wrong?

Amazon Web Services (AWS) - How Does The "Free Tier" Account Work?

One of the AWS marketing pitches is to offer an "AWS Free Tier" account, which is linked from their home page as "Create Free Account". On sign up for Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) the company states that the "AWS Free Tier includes 750 hours of Linux and Windows t2.micro instances each month for one year" and that to stay within the Free Tier, the customers must "use only EC2 Micro instances.".

However, the so-called "Free Tier" can get activated only if the customers give Amazon their credit card details. Any AWS customer is suggested "Make sure you provided all necessary information during signup. Complete your AWS registration", where "Complete your AWS registration" is a link to a web page where one needs to type a credit card number. Why AWS wants your credit card on signup for their "Free Tier"? One of the reasonable answers is that they need to know who's signing up. A credit card is a way to verify a person's identity. However, there are many other ways to verify the identity of any prospective customer. AWS asks for a credit card because they want to charge their "Free Tier" users for products and services, which users will need to effectively use the "Free Tier" account and the services. Two of those services which aren't sufficient on the "AWS Free Tier" of EC2 Cloud instances are data transfer and storage. The included storage quota is "30 GB, which is "in any combination of General Purpose (SSD) or Magnetic, plus 2 million I/Os (with EBS Magnetic) and 1 GB of snapshot storage". The data transfer quota is "15 GB of bandwidth out aggregated across all AWS services". While the storage quota looks like a fair amount of disk space for a non-paid service, the data transfer of 15 GB is quite insufficient for normal usage. Any such usage of the "AWS Free Tier" would automatically result in charges for data transfer. How much would it cost? See paragraph "The Cost of Data Transfer On AWS & Microsoft Azure!".

Microsoft Azure - How Their "Free Account" Works?

Unsurprisingly, Microsoft Azure's "Free Account" is similar to the AWS one. It offers 750 hours of "Azure B1S General Purpose Virtual Machines" for Linux or Windows Server for 12 months. There is something that looks better on Azure. It is that they offer "128 GB of Managed Disks - a combination of two 64 GB (P6) SSD storage, plus 1 GB snapshot and 2 million I/O operations" as a part of their "free" service, which like the AWS "Free Tier" requires a credit card on account. The data transfer quota included in Azure's "Free Account" for 12 months is "15 GB of bandwidth for outbound data transfer with free unlimited inbound transfer". After one year data transfer quota is reduced to "5 GB of bandwidth for outbound data transfer with free unlimited inbound transfer". Both data transfer quotas are very low, virtually nothing. If anyone wants to send/receive, upload or download few big files on their Azure Cloud account, used for production or for testing purposes, they will already start paying for Internet bandwidth.

The Cost of Data Transfer On AWS & Microsoft Azure!

It is huge! If small business owners do some simple calculations, they will realize how much money both providers charge for Internet data transfer. This would make both major clouds less fashionable choice for Cloud services. Both AWS and Azure charge for the "Data Transfer Out."

On AWS, those who start with the "Free Tier", which by default comes with t2.micro EC2 Cloud server plan (1 CPU core and 1 GB of RAM) would be paying $0.09 per gigabyte of data transfer (Out) above the monthly traffic limit of 15 GB. This price applies for any used "Data Transfer Out" up to 9.999 TB. This means that 100 GB data transfer would cost $9/month, 1000 GB - $90/month, and 2000 GB - $180/month on AWS.

On Microsoft Azure, those clients who go above the 5 GB monthly data transfer quota (15 GB within the first year after signup) are charged $0.087 per gigabyte. This pricing applies for used "Data Transfer Out" between 5 GB and 10 TB. 100 GB data transfer costs $8.70, 1000 GB - $87/month and 2000 GB - $174/month on Microsoft Azure.

In comparison, most smaller Cloud providers usually add a reasonable data transfer quota to their service plans and save thousands of dollars to their customers annually. For example, compared to AWS EC2 and Microsoft Azure, the entry-level Cloud service plan of Host Color Cloud comes with 2000 GB included data transfer. This means that Host Color saves between $2,088 and $2,160 per year on its customers who use 2000 GB monthly data transfer (Out), compared to those of the major clouds mentioned above.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) & Microsoft Azure Charge For Technical Support

The AWS "Free Tier" doesn't come with Customer Support. It has "24/7 self-service access to forums and resources" instead. The next one called "Developer Plan", which costs $29/month features "Email access to AWS Support during business hours" and "12-hour response time for nonproduction systems". The "Business Plan", which costs $100/month is advertised with "24/7 chat, phone, and email access to AWS Support", "Unlimited contacts can open an unlimited number of support cases" and "1-hour response time for production systems".

Microsoft Azure's Basic support, which they list as "included" in their Cloud services, does not offer technical support. Rather than that it features "24x7 access to billing and subscription support, online self-help, documentation, whitepapers, and support forums", "Access to full set of Azure Advisor recommendations". In other words, the "Included" support means zero Technical Support. The lack of technical support on the "Basic" support plan is visible in the Azure Support Plans Comparison located at the web address azure.microsoft.com/en-us/support/plans/. The next level, "Developer Support," includes the features listed above plus "Business hours access to Support Engineers via email" and costs $29/month. Like AWS, if any Microsoft Azure customer wants to have an access to real technical support, they need to pay $100/month to get access to "24x7 access to Support Engineers via email and phone.".

On the contrary, the Cloud Server Hosting service plans of any smaller Cloud providers like Host Color (HC) come with 24/7/365 infrastructure support for all Cloud servers and instances. The technical Support on HC is included in the service plans, and customers are not required to pay a premium for that.

Those above: the complexity of the Cloud service models; the "Free" accounts designed as a marketing tool to attract customers who'd end up paying for "Data Transfer Our" or storage on the "free" service level; the very high cost of data transfer; and the lack of technical support included in the service plans - are the main disadvantages of the major clouds. Suppose you still want to be overcharged for Cloud services without technical support or to be required to pay a premium to receive any support. In that case, the major clouds are there to take your money!