One of the most effective tools for this is Amazon Web Services. When you don’t have to reinvent the infrastructure wheel, you can pour your investments into areas that produce real innovation and value to your industry. At the early stages, operating in the cloud is an easy decision to get a startup’s technology off the ground.
Flash-Forward a Couple of Years: Your startup is rapidly growing, along with your data. You’ve now reached the crossroad that every startup faces as it matures. This is the point where the financial cost of staying with a cloud provider is possibly higher than owning and maintaining your own infrastructure. When you hit that price point, it’s time for some difficult conversations about whether or not it will continue to be advantageous to stay with the cloud. Many startups choose to leave the cloud behind and begin utilizing their own infrastructures, which is a valid move. However, far too often companies view this as their only option, which is simply not the case.
Why Staying in the Cloud May Be the Smart Move
Continuing to scale within a cloud infrastructure can provide a bright future for mature startups. Here are a few reasons why:
Ability to Support Exponential Growth: Mature startups usually grow at a substantial pace, expanding the number of servers used. Despite contrary chatter in the startup community, maturity doesn’t equate being able to support growth without being partnered with some kind of cloud service. Whether preparing for an increase in website traffic or international expansion, a cloud infrastructure allows companies to adjust the number of servers they need in real time.
Sophistication of an Established Cloud Platform: It’s often very difficult for startups to achieve on their own the same level of sophistication in infrastructure that an established cloud platform offers. Tools such as Amazon Web Services make it easy to recover from hardware failures. Say, for example, your RDS database goes down. AWS can recover it within minutes without any action needed on your part. Without the cloud in that instance, downtime would have been much longer, and every tech company knows that downtime can be deadly. And of course there’s the upfront investment required to design an infrastructure to begin with.
Hidden Costs of Going Off the Cloud: Sometimes people overlook the hidden costs of going off the cloud. It’s not just the manpower required to manage the infrastructure and the financial cost of acquiring servers. Think of the missed opportunity in innovation and business partnerships if you were to suddenly need to launch, say, 200 servers to try something new on infrastructure that doesn’t support it. Building out infrastructure takes time and in the technology sphere, time is a commodity you can’t afford to lose when operating in a fast-moving market.
It Encourages Innovation: In the same vein as the reason above, cloud computing encourages people to try a lot of different things simply because it’s easy to do so. You can’t put a price on an infrastructure solution that inspires innovation for our engineers.
You Have Access to a Powerhouse Arsenal of Services: Many cloud providers offer additional services on top of just renting virtual server space (e.g., (Microsoft Azure’s Cassandra and AWS’s Elastic MapReduce) so companies don’t need to build and maintain these services on their own. While it’s possible to use a select portion of Amazon’s services with our own infrastructure, the services in their cloud environment have a tight integration between their services and the reduced latency of accessing their services through their infrastructure.
The Cloud Forces Us to Design Redundant Architecture: The cloud forces startups to design systems that anticipate the possibility of servers going down at anytime. Organizations in the cloud are prepared for instance failure and have eliminated almost all “emergencies” within their organization. If a server or database node goes down, applications will continue to work without any problems because a new server or database node will automatically come up. Cloud allows startups to design for redundancy everywhere, something you may not achieve if you own your own costly hardware.
Every case is different and it’s important to continue finding the balance between utilizing cloud services and owning actual hardware. But it’s just as important to realize that you don’t have to give up the cloud just because your company has grown to a certain size. The Cloud can be a proven infrastructure solution to keep you nimble, agile, and right where you want to be–the fast lane–during a very exciting time in the tech industry.