In comparing public cloud providers Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure, it’s clear both offer almost the same levels of security, scalability and reliability. Nearly three quarters of businesses plan to optimize their current use of the public cloud to avoid the expensive undertaking of building and managing physical data centers, including stacking servers, design disk storage arrays, Ethernet switches, and firewalls.

With similar offerings it boils down to choosing the best cloud computing vendor for your business. Is it going to be the largest cloud computing platform, AWS, or the fastest growing one, Azure?

Let’s dig deep and define AWS and Azure: the benefits they offer, a multi-parameter comparison, and guidance to help you choose the right cloud platform for your business.

What is AWS?

Amazon Web Services, aka AWS, is a public cloud service platform from Amazon that provides services in different domains, such as compute, storage, delivery, database, migration and security that help businesses scale and grow. The services are broadly classified into — infrastructure as a service (IaaS), software as a service (SaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS).

However, Elastic Cloud Compute (known as Amazon EC2) and Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) are two AWS services that have made Amazon a $130 billion cloud market leader. EC2 provides virtual machines that can be used as real computers, letting users develop and deploy applications without the need to deploy, manage, and support hardware locally. Amazon S3 is an object-based storage solution with basic data management features.

AWS has millions of customers spanning across 200 countries. Offering 76 availability zones in which servers are located, AWS has empowered businesses to set geographical limits on their services and more importantly, ensure security by storing data on servers that are geographically redundant from each other. It’s no surprise AWS is a heartthrob among fast growing startups, large enterprises and leading government agencies who are always looking to bring down costs and drive faster innovation.

Benefits of AWS

When you move your businesses to AWS, you enjoy a cloud ecosystem that is every bit customer-centric, and with that comes a host of benefits.

Low cost

AWS offers low, pay-as-you-go pricing with no up-front expenses or long-term commitments. You do not have to pay for all the AWS services, you pay for what you need and use (resources, storage and bandwidth), and the costs are scaled accordingly. With the low price of entry and the fact that maintenance is taken care of by Amazon, the ripple effect leads to an overall reduction in operational costs.

Scalable and adaptable

Amazon runs on an infrastructure that scales based on your usage. You can deploy new applications, quickly scale up workloads when the demand is high and scale down when the demand is light. Whether you need one virtual server or several, for an hour or 24/7 – AWS gets you what you want and you pay only for what you consume.

Open and flexible

The level of customization offered by AWS allows you to experiment with the latest technology and innovate faster. AWS on its own has innovated and created new technologies to transform business. For instance, there’s AWS Lambda, which lets developers run their code without the administrative overhead of provisioning and managing servers.

Most secure

AWS comes with industry-recognized certifications and audits which include PCI DSS Level 1, ISO 27001, FISMA Moderate, FedRAMP, HIPAA, and SOC 1 and SOC 2 audit reports. Moreover, AWS data centers have multiple layers of operational and physical security to ensure data is safe. AWS has tried to keep its data centers as hidden as possible, locating them in out-of-the-way locations and allowing access only on an essential basis.

What is Azure?

Microsoft Azure (previously called Windows Azure until2014) is a cloud computing platform developed by Microsoft to help IT professionals build, deploy and manage applications. Azure provides services in different domains such as compute, storage, delivery, database, migration and security which help businesses scale and grow. They are broadly classified into – infrastructure as a service (IaaS), software as a service (SaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS).

Azure hosts multiple data centers and delivery points, enabling fast content delivery. Businesses can store any data type and share it across virtual machines (VM), at the same time, it supports the development, testing, deployment and management process – all without breaking a sweat. That’s the reason why 95 percent of Fortune 500 companies trust their business on Azure.

Benefits of Azure

There is more than one reason why behemoths like 3M and BMW love Azure.

Cost-efficiency

You do not have to pay for all the Azure services, you pay for what you need and use (resources, storage and bandwidth), and the costs are scaled accordingly. You do not have to put in the initial investment for offsite data centers. The icing on the cake: you save money on service calls and warranty renewals, reducing operational costs.

Flexibility

Azure lets you spin up new services in a jiffy, scaling your storage capabilities. Use services like BASH, PowerShell, or REST APIs to quickly automate time-consuming repetitive tasks to speed up your app delivery, leaving more time to focus on other important tasks. The level of autonomy makes Azure a tempting solution for businesses of any size.

Easy integration

If you are already using a Windows server, integrating Microsoft applications becomes effortless. Azure has successfully created a rich integration ecosystem offering end-to-end solutions from development to deployment of a tool. It essentially unifies unit testing, integration testing, delivery and pretty much everything in between.

Security

Azure provides some of the most advanced security technology and adheres to compliance including FERPA, IRS, HIPAA, and GDPR. Your data is protected with tools like Threat Intelligence, Advanced Threat Analytics, Azure Information Protection, and multi-factor authentication.

AWS vs Azure: The Better Cloud Platform?

Amazon Web Services (AWS) vs. Microsoft Azure
In 2006, AWS began offering IT infrastructure services to businesses in the form of web services — now known as cloud computing. Year of Inception Started as Windows Azure in 2010; rebranded to Microsoft Azure in 2014.
Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) is used as a primary solution for scalable computing. EC2 users can configure their own VMs or choose pre-configured machine images or customize MIs. Computing Power Azure uses virtual machines to scale. Virtual Hard Disk (VHD), which is equivalent to a Machine Instance, to create a VM. It can be pre-configured by Microsoft, the user, or a third party.
Object storage is offered with S3 (Simple Storage Service). The service provides complete documentation and tutorials. It also offers an archive storage service called Glacier. Storage Storage Block blob (a configuration of open storage arrays) is used for storage which is comprised of block storage and uploads large blobs of files and data efficiently. It also offers Storage Cool and Storage Archive for archiving data.
Database functions are available in both SQL and NoSQL packages. Relational database is also used as a service: RDS for NoSQL instances and Dynamo DB and caches it with Elastic Cache. Database Uses SQL database, MySQL, and PostgreSQL for the relational database; deploys Cosmos DB for NoSQL instances and Redis Cache for caching purposes.
Native solutions – Elastic Beanstalk, Batch, Lambda, container service, etc. However, options may be limited on the application hosting side of the business. Deployment Multiple app deployment tools like cloud services, a container service, batch and other services. The application deployment process has been designed in a user-friendly manner.
Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) is used for networking and API gateway for cross-network connectivity. Within a VPC, a user can create subnets, route tables, private IP address ranges and network gateways. For load balancing, Elastic load balancing is implemented. Networking Virtual network (VNET) is used for networking and VPN gateway for cross-premises connectivity. Within VNET, a user can create isolated networks as well as subnets, route tables, private IP address ranges and network gateways. It manages load balancing with load balancer and application gateway.
Compliance offerings include certifications in ITAR, DISA, HIPAA, CJIS, FIPS, and more. Only screened persons can access the cloud, a must for entities handling sensitive information. Compliance Claims to have more than 50 compliant offerings, including ITAR, DISA, HIPAA, CJIS, FIPS. Only screened persons can access the cloud, a must for entities handling sensitive information.
Extensive partner ecosystem including Windows, Linux, etc. Operating System Limited Linux options, building out a partner ecosystem.
An excellent relationship with Open Source developers as it welcomes Linux users and offers several integrations including Jenkins and GitHub. Open Source Integration Limited relationships with open source. Enterprise users can use the current active directory account to sign on to the Azure cloud platform and run the .net framework on Windows, Linux, and macOS.
Strengthening support of Hybrid clouds. Introduced Snowball Edge, a 100TB edge storage device for moving workloads between AWS cloud (typically either EC2 or AWS Lambda) and user’s data centers. Hybrid Cloud Support Excels in support of hybrid clouds. Introduced Azure Stack, a hybrid cloud platform that brings nearly full public Azure functionality to user’s data centers.
Pay-as-you-go model, where pricing is per hour — and they pay for a full hour, even if they use only one minute of it. However, the pricing model is considered much more flexible than Azure. Pricing Model Pay-as-you-go model, where pricing is per minute — a more exact pricing model than AWS. However, the pricing model has limited flexibility.

Cloud Data Protection with Unitrends

AWS and Microsoft Azure have advanced security infrastructures to safeguard their respective physical data centers and server hardware and in turn, protect the data (your data) stored in them. However, it’s you — not Amazon or Microsoft — who are responsible for protecting virtual machines and applications from data loss at your end.

Unitrends enables comprehensive backup and recovery capabilities in the cloud for AWS and Azure. Unitrends Backup Software can be deployed in the cloud as a virtual machine to protect cloud-native workloads.

Learn more about how Unitrends protects AWS and Azure.

Adam Marget
About Adam Marget

Adam is a Technical Specialist on the Unitrends marketing team supporting digital and in-market events. Over the last 4 years with Unitrends, he has been delighted at the opportunity to work with customers, prospects, and partners alike to help solve challenges around data protection and business continuity. Adam joined Unitrends in 2016, bringing with him experience working with variety of manufacturers’ technology from edge to core as a coworker from national IT solutions provider CDW.