Comparing of the cloud storage Titans: Amazon S3 versus Microsoft Azure

There are many vendors out there fighting for your cloud based storage space, with the two biggest being Microsoft Azure and Amazon's S3 offering. Here we compare the two to help you figure out which cloud storage solution is right for you.

Cloud storage has been around for quite some time. Google Drive, Amazon Simple Storage Service, Firedrive, OneDrive and even the ill-fated Yahoo! Briefcase have all tried their hands at securing and monopolizing the game of Internet based online storage. From an individual standpoint, it’s quite simple to figure which cloud based data storage solution to use; simply sign up for the one that’s giving the most free storage and register. But businesses don’t have that simple luxury, which is why on-premises storage has held its fort for such a long time. 

Choosing the right cloud based data storage provider really comes down to individual organizational needs.

But the advent of cloud computing, in conjunction with cloud storage, has rung the bell for on-premise storage facilities. Not only are these new cloud based services clean, competent and effective, they have also been able to open new avenues as to what an enterprise could do with the data being stored and managed online. They have reached the level of integration with applications and services that it is becoming increasing hard to distinguish between online and onsite storage alternatives. As such, many organizations are realizing that it is time to be competing in this field, with two of the most popular data storage services being Microsoft Azure and Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3). Together they dominate the market, leaving Google and its cloud storage solution in the dust. For the time being, Microsoft and Amazon are dueling it out for dominance, which is why we want to contrast and compare these two competing offerings.

Microsoft Azure

Microsoft launched its cloud based storage and compute services in 2010, and given Microsoft's reputation of being the latecomer that demolishes the competition, they seem to have done themselves proud. A recent Nasuni report claimed to have concluded in its research that Microsoft is winning the cloud wars, dethroning the old guard of Amazon S3. Microsoft seems to be doing well when we consider the fact that they have been able to lure 53% of the Fortune 500 companies into using Azure. Thanks to a decent ecosystem, that dominance seems destined to continue unless the obvious competitor comes up with a drastic upgrade over Azure. But for the time being, they are winning.

There appears to be a feeling of wholesomeness when one looks at what Microsoft Azure has to offer its prospective users. The modern interface, helped by wizards, only makes it easy to use and choose, but any decisions must be taken after a good analysis of both Azure and the competing Amazon S3, which in itself has been quite successful.

Here are some of the key points of interest that is helping Azure win over the hearts and minds of enterprise customers:

  • A free 90-day trial/preview, all with 35 GB of storage, 750 compute hours cloud computing usage every month for three months, 1 DU of SQL Database and 20 GB of outbound data transfer without any cap on incoming data transfer per month.
  • A rich interface, with easy to configure wizards
  • Security, with 512 bit keys being implemented to ensure security of vital data.
  • Tight integration with other native Microsoft Windows applications such as SharePoint, SQL Server, and Visual Studio among others.
  • A complete set of features for cloud computing and analysis of data with equipment like Marketplace, SQL Reporting, Azure Machine Learning, Hadoop, Access Control, Rights Management, Media and Mobile Services. Besides, the cloud services in themselves can be configured and programmed with the help of official SDKs for Java, Python as well as .NET and others.
  • Data centers across the globe. Data centers are located everywhere from Japan, Ireland, Netherlands, China, Singapore, Brazil, and of course, the USA. This vast number of locations ensures that failures at a couple of places won’t be enough to cause any damage to that much valued data.

Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3):

Cleverly named, Amazon’s S3 has been quite successful, garnering substantial market share ever since its launch in 2006. Much like Azure, Amazon S3 owes much of its success to the cloud computing features that helped enterprises work with their online data in the cloud. Prior to Azure’s recent rise to the top, Amazon had been the clear leader, and its APIs continue to be the de-facto standards in the industry. Here is what Amazon S3 has to offer.

Features-Amazon S3:

  • Integration with Amazon’s EC2 platform, which helps in Analyzing the data stored in the cloud, large amount of data can easily be tested and analyzed, giving researchers and developers some free time to focus on more important matters.
  • Although Dynamic website hosting is not possible specifically with S3, Amazon S3 can help you get a static website up and running and that too with your own custom URL.
  • Amazon S3 is a cost effective service, bar for that one feature which counts usage in real life hours instead of Compute hours, nonetheless S3 makes up for it with its inexpensive pricing structure.
  • It’s as reliable, secure and scalable as any of its competitors, however, its sole fault lies in the fact that not many data centers are located outside of USA, and that can be a matter of concern to some people. Nevertheless, no data can be lost on Amazon S3.
  • A Hybrid model is also available that stores data locally as well while backing it up in the cloud for any feasible purposes.

Verdict: Azure or S3?

Both Azure and S3 are complete products in their own right, and choosing between the two can be quite difficult. The fact is, both platforms provide a robust and reliable data storage system in the cloud, and as it currently stands, the two services are quite similar in the functionalities they provide. Choosing the right cloud based data storage provider really comes down to individual organizational needs, and figuring out which product aligns best with the organizations needs.

What are the most important traits of a good software storage solution? Let us know.

Dig Deeper on Front-end, back-end and middle-tier frameworks

App Architecture
Software Quality
Cloud Computing