AWS is the cloud infrastructure arm of Amazon, and was founded in 2006. AWS is one of the largest cloud computing providers in the world, and offers over 200 different services to users, in addition to thousands of virtual machine configurations. AWS offers virtual machines, including their lower-end product LightSail, and EC2 (Elastic Compute Cloud), their more full-service virtual machines, Managed Databases, Managed Kubernetes, object storage through S3, block storage, and more. AWS offers a huge number of solutions designed to meet the needs of a range of business types, but many smaller businesses do not need the complexity or product ranges that AWS provides.
While AWS is one of the largest cloud computing providers in the world, AWS users often get frustrated by some characteristics of the cloud platform. These include the complexity of setting up and managing AWS virtual machines and other cloud computing services, and the lack of transparency around pricing, which can lead to surprise bills that are much more costly than users had anticipated. AWS support is also geared toward larger enterprise companies, and many AWS users may struggle to get in touch with a support representative if they experience an issue with their cloud services.
AWS alternatives for web hosting and other services have proliferated in the past few years, with many cloud computing providers emerging that offer an alternative to AWS. These competing cloud service providers include cloud offerings from large companies such as Google, Microsoft, and IBM, and also smaller providers catering to the needs of specific types of cloud users, including DigitalOcean, VMWare, and Linode.
Below, we dive into what you may be looking for in a cloud provider if you want an AWS alternative, and how the different cloud platforms compare to AWS and each other for different needs.
DigitalOcean is the AWS alternative tailored for startups, SMBs, and developers
If you’re looking for a reliable cloud service provider with a robust range of cloud services that is tailored to the needs of growing businesses, DigitalOcean is an excellent choice. DigitalOcean was built with developer-friendly features and an easy to use control panel that enables you to get up and running quickly. Products include virtual machines, managed cloud services such as managed Kubernetes, managed databases, and even managed web hosting through Cloudways by DigitalOcean, all without the complexity that comes with using AWS. Plus, customers on DigitalOcean can save time and money compared to using AWS, with DigitalOcean’s industry-leading bandwidth pricing, and transparent pricing models. Unlike AWS, DigitalOcean provides human support to all customers, and has excellent documentation to troubleshoot issues.
When looking for an AWS alternative, first you should consider what you need in a cloud service provider. Different cloud service providers have different products and services that may be more or less suited to your specific needs—for example, some may offer more managed services, while others provide unmanaged virtual machines or VPS hosting, and others focus on basic web hosting. Some providers are tailored to specific use cases like artificial intelligence or e-commerce. In order to choose which cloud platform best fits your needs instead of AWS services, some of the areas you should evaluate include:
For many developers and businesses, cost will be one of the most important factors when choosing a cloud infrastructure provider. Pricing for website and application hosting can differ greatly depending on the cloud provider. Pricing models can differ, for example some providers offer transparent, pay-as-you-go pricing, while others (including AWS) provide discounts for longer-term contracts and may have hidden fees associated.
In addition to the differences in base cost for a virtual server or VPS hosting, each cloud provider also includes different features in their cost—for example, AWS does not include any bandwidth allowance for data transfer, while DigitalOcean offers generous data transfer included with their base VPS hosting prices.
The range of products offered is another differentiating factor between cloud services. Most clouds offer virtual machines or virtual servers, but the type of virtual machine configuration may differ—some clouds focus on shared CPU, while others offer dedicated CPU, and certain IaaS providers also have virtual machines configured for specific workloads, such as those that are CPU- or RAM-intensive. Certain clouds also offer block storage, object storage, managed databases such as MongoDB, Redis, MySQL, PostgreSQL, or Kafka, managed Kubernetes for container management, Platform as a Service (PaaS) and serverless or functions solutions.
There are hundreds of potential cloud products, so examining product and feature offerings against your application’s needs is especially important when evaluating AWS alternatives. You should also consider how your application’s needs may change as you scale—for example if you want to add a managed database or utilize Kubernetes for cloud container deployment in the future, will your cloud support that? Does the cloud have adequate security tools, such as DDoS protection, built in?
Some AWS alternatives have very similar cloud services to AWS, while other cloud computing services offer different features, pricing, products, and philosophies. Many clouds differentiate themselves from AWS by focusing on specific target customers, such as those in one region, businesses in specific industries, or businesses of a certain size. Some AWS alternatives also aim to eliminate the struggles that can come with AWS by building more developer-friendly features or focusing on a smaller set of products.
For example, DigitalOcean provides cloud computing solutions built around simplicity, and solutions tailored to the needs of small-to-medium-sized businesses. Some other cloud providers are more focused on the needs of enterprises in highly regulated industries such as finance. Regional clouds may offer competitive pricing for some products in a certain region, but won’t work as well if you scale to serve multiple regions. Research the core differentiators of different cloud providers by reading their website, customer reviews, and case studies in order to see which cloud is a fit for your unique needs.
Uptime is an extremely important factor in choosing your cloud provider, as any website or application downtime can result in lost revenue for a business and cause headaches for you and your team. Read the Service Level Agreements or SLAs provided by each cloud provider, which will give you information about how they will compensate you for any downtime. You can also view cloud providers’ status pages to see how often they have outages that are impactful to their customers.
The level of support offered by a cloud provider is also important when evaluating uptime and choosing an AWS alternative. Some cloud service providers offer free support, while others charge you even to submit a ticket in case your systems go down. By choosing a cloud that provides robust support at all levels, you’ll be able to get help more quickly if there is an issue.
Some cloud service providers cater more to certain use cases, such as businesses with high bandwidth usage, those in specific industries, or those with small teams who need managed cloud services to reduce time spent maintaining virtual machines and other cloud infrastructure. While AWS services have a wide range of use cases, Amazon Web Services competitors may specialize in some of these use cases. Before choosing your cloud computing service, look at what industries and use cases they most commonly serve and if they offer the combination of web hosting, cloud management tools, data storage, and developer tools that you need to succeed.
When evaluating alternatives to AWS services, you should look at the type of cloud environment provided by different clouds. Most cloud services are public clouds, but there are also some providers offering private cloud services, and others that support a hybrid cloud environment, with some on premises servers. Many businesses also now utilize a multi-cloud strategy, which may be easier with some clouds than others.
Once you’ve narrowed down which areas are most important to you, you can begin to evaluate the various AWS alternatives in the cloud computing market today. These alternatives typically fall into two categories: Hyperscalers and niche or alternative clouds.
The hyperscalers are large cloud providers from global technology companies, and include Google Cloud Platform, Microsoft Azure, Alibaba Cloud, IBM Cloud, and Oracle Cloud. These cloud providers are similar to AWS in that they serve a huge number of customers, and have a large suite of products. They also usually cater to the needs of enterprises, though given their size, their actual customer base may range from individual developers and students to enterprises and smaller businesses. The “big three” clouds refer to AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform, which are the largest cloud providers.
When looking for an AWS alternative, many may turn to the hyperscalers since they are well-known, however depending on business needs, there may be other cloud providers that are better suited to your specific needs for cloud servers and other computing services.
In addition to the hyperscalers, there are also many other AWS alternatives on the market today that cater to specific needs. Some of these are regional cloud solutions which may offer good performance for a specific region, but not as much global coverage. Others are global, reliable providers that focus on certain industries or try to address specific pain points that customers have found with AWS and other large cloud providers. While there are hundreds of these other cloud providers, some of the more popular ones include DigitalOcean, Linode (now part of Akamai), and VMWare (pending acquisition to Broadware).
Google Cloud Platform or GCP was started later than AWS, first becoming generally available when they introduced App Engine in 2011. Google Cloud Platform is part of the broader Google Cloud and provides multiple cloud computing services that are deployed in Google’s data centers. Their product offerings include virtual machines, object storage, databases, a content delivery network, managed compute, managed Kubernetes, a Platform as a Service solution (App Engine), a Functions as a Service solution (Cloud functions), solutions for big data, data processing, and AI/ML, and more, with over 100 products offered.
Google Cloud Platform has fewer data centers than the other hyperscalers, and offers less products, but they do have solutions tailored to specific industries including machine learning, big data, and analytics. Google Cloud is often used as part of a multi-cloud solution, and may be a secondary cloud to one of the other hyperscalers.
Good solutions for certain industries including machine learning, big data, and data analytics
Less expensive compute than AWS and Azure (with commitment-based pricing)
DevOps friendly solutions
Outdated documentation and limited support
High bandwidth pricing
Fewer data centers than other hyperscalers
Less products and features than other hyperscalers
Microsoft Azure is a cloud computing provider from Microsoft, it was first launched as Windows Azure in 2010 and renamed Microsoft Azure in 2015. Microsoft Azure utilizes Microsoft’s global data centers to provide infrastructure as a services (IaaS) offerings and other cloud solutions. Products include virtual machines, a Platform as a Service offering, managed Kubernetes offering, storage, databases, and more.
Unlike some other cloud providers, Microsoft Azure offers Windows virtual machines in addition to Linux-based virtual machines. Instead of the VOC that AWS offers, Azure uses a virtual network. Azure also has more Software as a Service features and is preferred for Windows administrators.
More options for Windows-based virtual machines
Integrates with other Microsoft solutions
Has similar level of complexity as AWS
Built for enterprise businesses
Similar pricing to AWS
IBM Cloud is the public cloud platform from the technology company IBM. IBM cloud is a newer provider that was first launched as Bluemix in 2014 following the acquisition of SoftLayer in 2013, and then renamed IBM Cloud in 2017. IBM Cloud offers over 170 services, including both IaaS and PaaS solutions. Where IBM Coud differentiates itself is by focusing on solutions for enterprise businesses that require special compliances and high levels of security, such as financial institutions.
Additionally, IBM Cloud provides bare metal servers for those who need this solution. While IBM Cloud has a much smaller market share than other hyperscalers, for those in specialized industries with strict compliance regulations, the most security conscious businesses, and those who may already use IBM for other offerings, it may be a good choice.
Solutions tailored to high-compliance industries like finance
Integration with other IBM products
Enterprise-level solution not tailored for smaller businesses or individual developers
Complex to setup
Limited free support and expensive paid support options
There are some other cloud providers that share similar characteristics with hyperscalers but have a specific focus, such as Alibaba Cloud, which is the largest cloud computing company in China and Asia Pacific. Alibaba Cloud is similar to AWS in terms of offerings but as it’s part of the Alibaba Group it is more focused on customers in Asia. As of May 2023, Alibaba Cloud is being spun off from the Alibaba Group, so the future of Alibaba Cloud as a cloud services provider is unclear.
Oracle Cloud is a cloud services provider from Oracle Corporation that was launched in 2016. Oracle Cloud infrastructure provides over 100 solutions spanning cloud infrastructure, platform as a service, and software as a service. Oracle Cloud is easily scalable and provides good performance, but has a complex interface and, similar to AWS, an opaque pricing structure which can lead to unclear billing. Oracle Cloud infrastructure also may not integrate as easily with other cloud tools.
Scalable cloud services
Integration with other Oracle systems
Difficult to manage User Interface
Complex to setup
VMWare is a cloud computing provider with virtualized environments, and as of May 2023 is being sold to Broadcom, with the deal expected to close in the fall of 2023. VMWare focuses on multi-cloud solutions and hybrid cloud operations, and allows customers to use multiple clouds for their applications, including AWS.
VMWare provides cloud infrastructure for enterprise applications, allowing them to leverage multiple clouds and utilize a hybrid cloud solution, however their solutions may be too complex for many smaller businesses. Their products include virtualization products, networking tools, and storage.
Good support for multi-cloud and hybrid cloud solutions
Range of virtualization products and other cloud products
Complexity of solutions
Pending acquisition which may increase pricing and have other impacts
DigitalOcean is cloud infrastructure provider that was founded in 2012 with a robust VPS hosting offering, called Droplets, which enabled developers and smaller businesses to get reliable web hosting at a lower cost and with less complexity than provided by AWS and other large cloud service providers like Google Cloud. DigitalOcean now provides cloud servers through their Droplet virtual machines, which come in multiple configurations for CPU-intensive, RAM-intensive, and other specific workloads. These full-featured virtual machines come with generous network bandwidth and storage included, out of the box.
DigitalOcean also now offers managed cloud services including managed databases Mongo DB, Redis, PostgreSQL, and MySQL, and managed Kubernetes for container orchestration. DigitalOcean also has a Platform as a Service offering, App Platform, object storage, block storage, a Functions as a Service or serverless offering, and other products that make it a good choice for small-to-medium sized businesses that need reliable cloud computing without the complexity of AWS and other hyperscale offerings.
DigitalOcean differentiates itself from other cloud service providers by focusing on simplicity and solutions that are tailored to the needs of smaller businesses and developers. They have a simple UI, best-in-class documentation, and robust support even at the free support tier. Additionally, their pricing is lower than AWS, and includes low bandwidth pricing and generous included bandwidth for bandwidth-intensive workloads. While DigitalOcean has fewer data centers than AWS, they are a worthy AWS alternative for non-enterprise businesses.
Simple UI, API, and CLI
Lower pricing than AWS, more transparent pricing
Products include virtual machines, managed Kubernetes, managed databases, block storage, object storage, serverless, and more
Good support offerings and strong documentation
Tailored to the needs of growing businesses
Fewer data centers than AWS
Not focused on complex, enterprise configurations
DigitalOcean is a cloud provider tailored to the needs of SMBs, startups, and developers. With a simple interface, range of products including virtual machines, managed databases, Managed Kubernetes, storage, and more, and cost-effective pricing, DigitalOcean could be the right cloud for you. Try it out by signing up today.
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