Public Cloud Providers
Amazon.com, the online book seller is also one of the biggest public cloud providers. Amazon has an incredible array of cloud computing services, which they call Amazon Web Services (AWS).
AWS products include Computing Services (EC2), Content Delivery, Databases, E-Commerce (FWS), Messaging (SQS), Monitoring, Private Cloud, Payment Services (FPS), Storage (S3), Support, Web Servers, and Workforce solutions.
Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud, EC2 for short, fascinates me. EC2 is a great tool for developers as well as businesses, and incredibly flexible. It allows you to fire up a Linux or Windows server in the cloud, test various software or solutions, turn it all off, and only pay for what you used. A basic Linux server starts at $.085 per hour and a Windows server at $.12 per hour.
For example, I tested setting up a basic Linux server that could host a Web Page. I played around with it for a day before deleting it, and the whole experiment cost $1.54. For those of us that like to toy around with various technologies, this is a pretty cheap way to do so, and eliminates the need for that pile of computers in your basement!
Amazon Simple Storage Service, S3 for short, is an online storage service. Pricing seems pretty cheap, starting at $.15 per GB/month. An entire TeraByte (TB) of data calculates to $150/month.
One issue with S3 and large amounts of storage is how do you get your TB of data in and out of the Cloud? Amazon has a solution for this with their Import/Export service. This service allows for secure shipping of a USB or SATA drive to Amazon to copy your data into the cloud. Note, you can and should encrypt your data prior to shipping to keep it secure. Amazon will then return your device once the data has been copied onto the cloud.
Microsoft is also in the Public Cloud Computing game with its Azure services and products. Like Amazon, Microsoft offers a wide array of cloud products, including Computing Services, SQL Database, Storage, Web Server services. Microsoft’s AppFabric is a tool for connecting computing services, databases, and applications from your network, between networks, and over the Internet.
Microsoft’s computing services are just pennies per hour, similar to Amazon’s. A simple Windows server on Microsoft’s cloud is $.12 per hour. Storage, as with Amazon is $.15 per GB/month. Microsoft has a promotion going until October 31, 2010 where you can try Azure services for free. The promotion is limited, you only get 25 hours of computing services and 500MB of storage, but there is nothing wrong with trying something for free before you buy.
Rackspace is another well known public cloud computing supplier. Rackspace has been in the hosting business since 1998 and has 9 data centers throughout the world. Having experience hosting other companies’ servers and equipment, it is a natural for Rackspace to get into the Cloud Computing business.
Rackspace’s cloud products include Cloud Servers, Cloud Files and Cloud Sites, which are cloud computing, storage, and web server solutions. Rackspace, like Amazon, provides both Linux and Windows computing services.
Entry level pricing on Rackspace is simple. Cloud Servers start at $.015 per hour or $10.95/month. Cloud File pricing is the same as Amazon and Microsoft at is $.15 per GB/month. Cloud Sites for running a Web Server in the Cloud starts at $149/month.
If you're not comfortable with your data sitting on someone else's server (and many people aren't), there are alternatives.
PogoPlug is another way for a small network to use the Internet to expand their computing capabilities. For small networks, pogoplug offers a means to access files anywhere, both locally and over the Internet.
The Pogoplug solution is both physical and a cloud solution. You connect one or more USB drives to the physical Pogoplug device. The Pogoplug software allows you to access the files from anywhere in the cloud, either on your network or over the Internet, with either a PC or a PDA. Unlike the MobileMe product, the Pogoplug will work on both Windows and Macs.
Pogoplug has two devices, one intended for personal use, the other for a small business. Both are basic Ethernet devices with USB connectors. The personal Pogoplug device is $129, reviewed here, and there are no monthly fees. You have to add the USB hard drive, but there are no costs after that.
For $229, Pogoplug offers a small business product that will support up to four USB hard drives. The Pogoplug Biz adds features such as network printing, local and internet based, as well as multi-user sharing and security, and the ability to back up data from one Pogoplug to another.
Ctera is another solution for personal or small business file storage. But after starting out selling directly to retail users, Ctera has moved to selling only through service providers and resellers.
Similar to Pogoplug, Ctera has a personal product (CloudPlug) that enables connecting a USB drive to their device, which then enables network file access over a LAN or the Internet. Check out our review of the CloudPlug here.
For business, there is the Ctera C200, reviewed here, which is a dual drive NAS as well as device for sharing files from a USB drive over a LAN or the Internet. Ctera also has a product that enables service providers to provide cloud storage to subscribers.
Ctera prices the CloudPlug at approximately $200 and the C200 at $371. For both products, Ctera offers on line backup services for your files, providing cloud storage redundancy in case the local device were to fail.
TonidoPlug is a small Linux server that also provides file access over a LAN or Internet. Like the PogoPlug and Ctera C200, it is a physical device and requires supplying and connecting a USB drive for storage.
As with the other devices, TonidoPlug makes your files available anywhere you can get a network connection. It also has some neat applications that enable on line access to your contacts and calendar, a private blog/journal tool, and sharing of files, music, and photos. We covered it in more detail here.
The TonidoPlug device runs $99. Again, you supply the USB hard drive, but there are no recurring fees.