Buying software has become something which we can reminisce over. Gone are the days where we would pay a visit to our local computer shop, even software downloads are passé. Nowadays, it’s all about cloud computing. IDC has said that this market reached $45.7bn in 2013 and according to Forrester Research, cloud computing revenue will rise to $241bn by 2020.
For corporations, the boon is obvious in that customers continue to pay, as they’re renting now, rather than buying. Loyalty and tie-ins result. For the public, it means that you get updates automatically and a cost which you can predict and manage.
We’re not immune to this trend. We recently moved from a price per software package proposition to a subscription model, where you subscribe on an annual basis for $9.99 and receive access to all our products and updates for the year.
The rental trend has been seen in hardware as well, with the growth of the platform as a service market. IDC claims that market will be worth $14bn by 2017. Nowadays, you can rent the computer itself, your a virtual machine, not just the stuff which goes on it.
This has traditionally been the business domain, but it doesn’t need to be.
The advantage here is that you get full IT capabilities on virtually any device, and that all your software follows you no matter where you go, as well as no more upgrades, lower IT costs. All you need is some sort of device and a decent internet connection.
There are many vendors for this. The most talked about ones (arguably) are Amazon, with their EC2 cloud, Microsoft, with their Azure service and Rackspace.
Microsoft’s Azure is probably the cheapest, with prices starting from around £9/$15 (see http://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/pricing/calculator/?scenario=virtual-machines). Amazon’s base offering contains higher specs, but also higher prices. Having said that, Amazon has a free instance (see http://aws.amazon.com/ec2/pricing/) which is worth checking out. Rackspace have a calculator as well (http://www.rackspace.com/calculator). They’re generally more expensive, but their customer service is excellent.
How do you evaluate? Here’s our view:
- Price – Amazon is more expensive as a starting point
- Support – Rackspace prides themselves on their support as their main selling point, documented information on Amazon’s EC2 and Azure is pretty good
- Speed – Azure is reputed to be not as quick as some of the others, but there are a lot of factors involved here
- Cost – some vendors include an all in price, others, such as Rackspace and Azure charge individually for elements such as bandwidth, storage etc.
Whatever you choose, it might not be as expensive as you think, even for decent virtual hardware. It can literally cost pennies, because you can only pay for what you use, when you use it. For example, in Azure you can put your virtual machine into a Stopped (deallocated) status, meaning that you don’t pay for anything during that time.
Paying only while it works for you, work smarter not harder.
Note: These are our personal views, sources linked to where appropriate.