Choosing a Cloud Provider

December 26, 2011

I’ve talked here from time to time about the development of “cloud computing”: the idea that many functions and applications that have, in the past, been performed on local PC workstations, could instead be carried out by an Internet service, with users accessing them via  Web browser.  It should not surprise anyone that Google is a major provider of cloud services, with GMail and its Google Apps services.  Microsoft, too, is working to get in on the action with its Office 365 service; and there are other, smaller providers, too.  Many businesses and other organizations have expressed interest in evaluating the potential of these offerings.

In a recent article, Wired reports on an evaluation that was carried out recently by the University of California at Berkeley, which focused on an evaluation of E-mail and calendar facilities provided by Google Apps for Education and by Microsoft Office 365.  Both products are aimed at the same market, but have some significant differences.

Though both Google Apps and Microsoft Office 365 are billed as “cloud” services, they are very different things. Google is built to operate entirely on the web, while Microsoft’s suite still leans on local software.

The University ended up, choosing the Google product, as it announced on December 21.  This particular evaluation is interesting, not so much because of the choice that was finally made, but because the reasons behind the choice have been published in considerable detail.  The University has released an Assessment Matrix, showing their main evaluation criteria and their ratings.  One key advantage of the Google solution was that it could be put in place more quickly, with less infrastructure investment.  But the decision was not entirely one-sided, and Berkeley will continue to use Microsoft products under a site license.

If you, or your organization, is thinking of cloud services as a possibility, I think the Berkeley material will be an interesting and thought-provoking worked example.

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