Jan Brass Takes a Hard Look at the Cloud

Is Microsoft’s Azure the Easiest Cloud Solution to Use?

Is Microsoft's Azure the Easiest Cloud Solution to Use?Cloud technology is no longer a nascent field and technology companies such as IBM, Microsoft and others are rolling out their own ventures. Competitors are trying out new strategies in an attempt to identify underserved areas or dominate niche segments.

AWS has long been the undisputed leader when it comes to the public cloud, in spite of being referred to by competitors as nothing more than an “online bookstore.” Amazon’s cloud has become increasingly popular among startups and developers, a crucial demographic when it comes to driving usage and market share. Many popular online services such as Netflix and Dropbox rely on AWS to power their backend.

But just because a service is popular does not mean that it is the easiest to implement or use on an everyday basis. Since the launch of Azure, Microsoft has been steadily improving the usability and features provided by the service. While Amazon is attractive to startups and independent developers, more traditional businesses have not rushed to ditch their existing Microsoft servers. It is exactly to this enterprise segment that the company is looking to sell its cloud platform.

AWS is no doubt understandable for those with previous IT expertise and the relevant skills. But many business managers are comfortable with Microsoft products after years of working with them in an enterprise environment. In fact, many internal corporate websites and services are built around proprietary Microsoft technologies and these companies will find it less trouble to port applications to Azure than to another new platform.

Microsoft has simplified the setup process for Azure with easy to follow wizards, familiar to anyone who has used a Microsoft product over the last decade. This is an important consideration to thousands of small and medium businesses who lack the resources – either in terms of IT personnel or the financial wherewithal to hire them – for near basic tasks such as setting up a simple website or a payment gateway for e-commerce transactions.

In comparison, AWS is certainly simple for the average IT worker but not so simple that a business owner or manager can use it without help. When determining the ease-of-use of a platform, the available support options also play an important role. Microsoft is extremely adept at providing support to enterprise customers, honed over decades of selling products and software services to them. In sharp contrast, Amazon relies more on email/chat support especially for lower priced or free tiers.

However the on-boarding process is not the only criteria for comparison. Amazon still has several advantages over Azure, namely the extensive third-party app ecosystem and support by developers. Anyone looking to use AWS can quickly access a variety of services and products built on top of the platform which can provide solutions for their particular issue. Microsoft still has a long way to go before it has that kind of ecosystem around Azure and the longer it takes for them to catch up, the more difficult it will actually be.

Nevertheless the company has the opportunity to capture an audience that is predisposed towards its own product portfolio, as long as it catches them before they make the transition away to a competitor.

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