What is Cloud Computing?
Cloud Computing is the art of delivering standard computing services such as servers, storage, databases and networking over the Internet. As an example, if you wanted to add more storage space to your network, instead of buying some hard drives for a local server, you’d connect everyone to a cloud computing resource such as Google Drive.
It really is that simple. Instead of building local infrastructure you use resources sourced from the Internet. That is all cloud computing is.
What is AWS and What Does it Offer?
Amazon Web Services (AWS) is the largest cloud hosting and cloud computing provider on the market. It offers a scalable environment where you can host your websites and other web services in the cloud. There are many components to AWS ranging from DNS Management (Route 53), Virtual Servers (EC2 and Lightsail), and even Internet of Things and machine learning services.
For those interested in using AWS as a hosting platform, there are some ways you can connect the different AWS services to each. As an example, you might use Route 53 to manage your DNS, run a web server on an EC2 virtual machine, and provide a database to that virtual machine via an Amazon Aurora database. You can also use AWS to support websites running outside of AWS, for example, you might connect a database in AWS to a dedicated server running WordPress.
What Other Services Are Similar to AWS?
There are a few other major cloud computing services out there. Google Cloud Platform and Microsoft Azure being the two largest of AWS’s competitors. Microsoft Azure focuses on more Microsoft centric technologies and has carved out a niche there. The Google Cloud Platform is the third largest and offers similar technology services. All three services offer some form of trial or free tier of service.
There are many smaller cloud computing providers. Some of the more well-known ones include Digital Ocean and Linode. They offer Virtual Private Server platforms as well with all of the feature most users need. You can often find better pricing on VPS’s from the smaller services than you can the larger services like AWS, but you may miss out on some of the higher-end features AWS or Google Cloud offers. If you don’t use those features, it's not a significant loss.
Getting Started In Cloud Computing
One way to get started in cloud computing is to take advantage of a Free Tier account on Amazon Web Services. The free tier account is an excellent way to use the tools provided by AWS. Using an Amazon Free Tier account, you can accomplish even complex tasks such as launch a Wordpress site running on Ubuntu Linux using an EC2 instance. You can use Lighsail to launch a pre-configured server and web applications. Some free tier services expire after one year or are only free if you use smaller sized server instances.
Once you have a free tier account look into getting AWS certified. An AWS Cloud Practitioner certification is the entry-level certification and starting to work towards it will help you become familiar with the fundamentals of cloud computing in general.
Not to be outdone, Microsoft offers a 12 month trial of their Azure service as well. As part of the trial, you get a small service credit as well. Many of the services offered in Azure mirror what you see in AWS, but there isn’t as much variety in services. Surprisingly even though this is a Microsoft oriented service, they still make it easy to launch Linux virtual machines and use technologies such as Kubernetes.
The Google Computing Platform is the smallest of the larger services in the market. Their free service includes many products such as virtual private server instances in their always free offering that are only free for 12 months with Azure or AWS. In addition to this, you get a $300 credit towards any GPC service.
The Smaller Providers
Smaller Cloud Computing providers such as FastComet and CloudWays have their niches in the cloud computing market. While Amazon is a clear leader with Microsoft and Google coming in at two and three, it’s hard to imagine where other players fit in. CloudWays as an example resells Digital Ocean’s cloud services but adds management as a service. As great as AWS, Azure, and the Google Cloud Platform are you don’t get the personalized touch regarding the support that you do from smaller providers. That’s true in dedicated hosting just as its true in the world of cloud computing.
That is the cloud computing field. AWS is by far the most widely used cloud computing platform and it by far offers the most services. That doesn’t necessarily make it the correct option for you. If you want GSuite integration maybe Google’s Cloud Platform is a better pick.
If you need managed services a smaller provider such as CloudWays may fit the bill. The key as with any platform, is to choose the platform which offers the services you need at the best price point. You can always sacrifice features you don’t need for a smaller bill.