Why You Should Care about the Cloud and Amazon Web Services (AWS)

'The cloud is the future'. 'The cloud is revolutionary'. 'The cloud will transform how you do business'. There’s almost no way you’ve escaped hearing at least one of these sentiments, or something like them, over the past few years, and with good reason.

The cloud is perhaps the biggest shift the IT industry has experienced since the widespread adoption of personal internet connections, and will come to define the sector for the foreseeable future. Fantastic, right? Certainly, but what does this mean for you and your business? I mean, it is all well and good espousing these broad-ranging concepts, but this gives no indication of the very practical influences cloud computing can have.

I’d like to focus on Amazon Web Services (AWS) here, one of many cloud providers, simply because of its status as a serious market leader. Gartner has confirmed this in their annual 'Magic Quadrant' assessment of the market, highlighting AWS as a leader both in its ability to execute its vision and the completeness of this vision. Fundamentally, AWS offers cloud infrastructure as a service (IaaS), running massive data centres across the world, available on a pay-as-you-go basis. "But why does any of this matter to me?", I hear you cry. Here’s why you should care about AWS and the cloud:  

Focus on what you’re good at

Ask yourself a simple question: what makes my business great? I can pretty much guarantee that 'running a data centre' isn’t the answer. The time, effort, money and human resources you expend on keeping your IT systems on prem inevitably detracts from the energy you can pour into your core business. Or to put it another way, would you run your own diesel generator to power your office? AWS is in the business of being great at providing cloud infrastructure, and can do so with greater effectiveness and at a lower cost than you could ever hope to achieve on your own. Moving into the cloud takes the pressure off your business and allows you to get back to working on precisely why you’re successful in the first place - no more racking and stacking required.  

Say goodbye to capex

The traditional cycle of running IT services is obvious: anticipate requirements, invest in servers, run them on-site at great expense, use until outdated, rinse and repeat. The cost implications of this approach are huge - you’re basically throwing money into a system that may or may not meet your needs in two years time, and this requires massive upfront investment. AWS can make that investment and take that risk on your behalf, offering access to storage, hosting and a whole host of other services that you only pay for as and when you need them.  

Become truly agile

The same traditional IT buying cycle relied on being tied into a system for two or three years, and any change in server capacity had to be implemented by purchasing, installing and configuring new hardware. So, as you can imagine, this old style of IT doesn’t stand a chance against the sudden peaks in traffic any online service can experience. The joy of AWS is that you can respond to increased demand at the click of a button, whether it is expected (in the case of seasonal spikes in traffic for funkypigeon.com) or the result of unanticipated surges in popularity. Simply scale up your capacity when needed, and as soon as demand drops off you can shut your extra instances down, incurring no further costs beyond those necessary.  

Improve your data security

Imagine you have a precious heirloom passed down to you over many generations, one that you want to keep safe. Your natural reaction, and the most sensible one, is to keep it in your own possession, perhaps in a safe to which only you know the combination. This mindset can often extend to the world of IT - surely the safest place to store sensitive data in on prem, in your own servers? Sadly, this isn’t the case. AWS is the world’s leading provider of cloud IaaS, and has invested millions in best-in-class security measures. There’s some seriously lengthy documents that record all the measures AWS has in place to prevent data theft or loss, so I won’t go into detail here, but they’ve thrown some serious heft behind these efforts. Realistically, how likely are your own security measures to match up to those of a multi-billion dollar specialist like AWS? The shift to the public cloud can therefore represent a real improvement in your data security.  

Work with the big boys

 Take a moment to google 'cloud computing', and you’ll get something like 139 million results. Needless to say, there’s plenty of companies out there vying for your attention. Why go with AWS, if there’s so much choice? Quite frankly, AWS has the benefit of being the big dog of the field. Although other providers are gaining market share, Amazon’s offering remains the most popular. Besides the obvious reassurance of social proof this fact provides, what does this mean for you? Well, in a nutshell, economies of scale. The more clients AWS has, the more infrastructure it invests in, and the more infrastructure there is the greater the cost benefits. Since 2008, AWS has reduced their prices some 42 times. 42! In any other line of business, such an aggressive approach would be unsustainable, but the scalability of cloud computing means you can only benefit from this enduring campaign. Such scale also allows for some serious innovation. Take 2014 as an example - in that one year, AWS released 516 new features. As you might imagine, you can only benefit from this sort of dedication to the development of its cloud offering.  

Peer pressure can be a good thing

 I could talk about the benefits of the cloud until I’m blue in the face, but that’s not the only reason you should care about AWS. We’ve worked with enough big brands over the past few years to realise that the trend is only heading one direction, and is doing so with increasing momentum. Sure, you could dismiss the cloud as a fad, and continue in your traditional ways, but you can bet that your competitors will be looking for an advantage wherever they can find it. Whether they are able to respond more quickly to changing customer demand, can reallocate resources from the maintenance of an on prem system to the development of new products and services, or simply save money that can be spent elsewhere in the business, your rivals can quickly gain an edge on you by shifting to AWS. The cloud is therefore not a siloed-off iteration of your existing IT infrastructure, but something that will transform your business whether you choose to keep pace or not. Can you really afford to be left behind?

If you can’t tell by now, I’m convinced that the cloud will become an inevitable part of every organisation. Indeed, Cloudreach was founded six years ago with this very belief at its core, and has always strived to ease the transition to the cloud that every business can gain from. This has since come to fruition in the form of the Kickstarter for AWS, a fixed-term package that is specifically designed to help your business take its first steps into the AWS cloud. The joy is that it is not a drastic, sudden shift of all your platforms and infrastructure to AWS, but a rapid two-week training and setup programme that gives you a good taste of everything AWS has to offer. When will you kickstart your journey with AWS?