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AWS is still the go-to cloud for SMBs, despite viable alternatives

AWS opened the door for the cloud among SMBs with its initial IaaS offering, while competition from Microsoft and Google continues to play catch-up in the marketplace.

AWS remains the go-to cloud for SMBs, even though Microsoft and Google have become viable IaaS competitors.

AWS has nearly twice as many SMB customers as Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform, according to a study by RightScale, a cloud managed services provider. AWS' early start and breadth of services are partially responsible for the gap, but industry hype and customer loyalty are other big reasons why it continues to lead the pack.

AWS was the first public IaaS cloud provider to offer its services on a wide scale. Many upstarts and existing computing companies gunned for AWS early on, but Amazon outspent most of its competitors. It also provided more agility and innovation, all while rapidly releasing new cloud services.

Microsoft and Google are both strong IaaS cloud providers today, but each started as PaaS-only and didn't add IaaS until AWS already established it as a viable market. It's been follow-the-leader ever since, and AWS still dwarfs the other two with its breadth of services.

AWS built initial audience through SMBs

For the most part, SMBs were AWS' only customers in the beginning. Larger companies were reticent to use the public cloud because of security concerns and a lack of total resource control. On the other hand, small businesses didn't have the same luxury to say no.

Public clouds gave smaller business a significant, pay-as-you-go discount compared to costly capital investments for on-premises hardware and software. There were ancillary benefits, too, including greater agility. This dynamic is a core reason why AWS remains the most popular cloud for SMBs. Long-standing relationships between smaller companies and AWS created a loyalty to the brand, much like large enterprises once had with their traditional database providers. And because AWS remains the go-to cloud for SMB clients, there will be a continued expansion of the available talent pool, as well as the breadth of product features that cater to SMBs' needs.

Some companies will remain loyalists because of the ease of use or for economic reasons. Many have never strayed outside the AWS ecosystem, so a switch to another cloud provider would be just as jarring of a change as it was for large enterprises to venture into the public cloud space. And many AWS services are proprietary, so a migration to another cloud could be cost-prohibitive.

It's also possible the AWS-only decision could backfire on cloud for SMB clients. Some already feel the pain of being locked into specific approaches and technologies from a single source, at on-demand rates. As SMBs expand, on-premises IT resources may ultimately meet their needs better than cloud services.

However, SMBs don't have the same financial flexibility as larger enterprises, so they may not be able to justify a move away from AWS when they factor in the costs to switch, including data center space and new hardware and software.

Still, I suspect most of these companies are happy with their AWS marriage. Maybe they don't yet understand what else is out there, or AWS has earned their respect. Perhaps it's a bit of both.

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