Should an IT Startup Use Cloud Services? (Cloud Computing)
Recently, I had a discussion about what kind of cloud services an IT startup should use at the famous startup barbeque meeting (called Gründergrillen) in Karlsruhe. The starting point of the discussion was that a friend of mine - also a CTO of a successful startup - told me that they started to use elastic search in their product. As they are already using many Amazon AWS services I asked him if he did try out Cloudsearch. He told me that they didn't try Cloudsearch because it is too expensive. They started to run elastic search on EC2 instances they manage by themselfes. Also other search service providers (like or did not fit his budget. I did not know anything about his use case for a search service I asked him how much money he would have to spend with Cloudsearch or another search cloud service. He told me that the smallest Cloudsearch configuration would fit his needs. Such an Cloudsearch instance costs about 80€ a month. He further told me that he installed elastic search on a set of EC2 instances that already provided mysql database services.

I was completely surprised: For $80 a month you cannot even do regular software updates, log files checks, configuring backups and all the other steps you have to do if you run your own elastic search infrastructure. And why did he run his own mysql cluster? What is the point of using IaaS cloud instances to configure and run services such as mysql and search services by yourself if you can get these services also in a managed cloud-fashion? For me as a CTO of an IT startup this is very clear: If a (professionally managed) cloud service is available for a service I have a need for I use it.

My rules of thumb to decide if I should use a (professionally managed) cloud service instead of setting up a similar service by myself are:
  1. Is the service a critical core service of my business that I need to adjust, enhance or expand in a way my potential cloud service provider cannot deliver it?
  2. Is the price of the cloud service in questions smaller or similar to the price I have to pay if my colleagues or I are spending the time to run the service in question in a similar quality (e.g., uptime, high availability, backup routines)?
If I answer the first question with no and the second question with yes I go with the cloud service. Indeed, the second question is for me most often an easy question to answer. I can easily spend $500 a month for a cloud service (e.g., mysql database service) that is important to my business compared to hiring a well-experienced (database) administrator that costs me a few thousands dollars of wages. A cloud service also reduces the complexity of the business I run. If the cloud service is professionally managed all the cumbersome and error-prone tasks such as backup/restore and monitoring are not my problem as they are part of the service. So, I use cloud services if they are available and I have a need for.

This text represents my personal opinion and has nothing to do with any company I associated with.
Posted by Thomas King at 19:12 2013-08-09 | Trackbacks (0) | Comments (0)