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Amazon narrowly tops Microsoft as king of the cloud

Amazon takes first place for reliable cloud storage, according to a study by data protection service provider Nasuni. Nasuni has been testing the 16 largest cloud storage providers since April 2009 to determine which ones are most reliable, and Bloomberg reports that Microsoft came in as a close second to Amazon.

Shockingly, out of those 16 providers who were part of the study, only 6 of them actually passed. Among those, besides Amazon and Microsoft, were AT&T Synaptic, Nirvanix, Peer1 Hosting, and Rackspace Cloud. Nasuni spares those who didn't pass the embarrassment of being named, but that certainly doesn't stop us from guessing. Some top providers that aren't mentioned include Google and GoGrid.

Nasuni's most basic test wrote files of different sizes, while accessing the server simultaneously from multiple connections and reading the uploaded file from other connections. Five out of the 15 providers tested failed here when simple write-read-delete operations failed. When they tried to save photos and archive large amounts of files, they ended up stressing some of the systems to the point of actually breaking them.

The providers that were still standing (10, if you're counting) got to move on to the performance test, where Nasuni tested how fast the providers could write and read files of various sizes. Two of the providers didn't move quickly enough to be acceptable for the vast majority of organizations, but Nasuni points out that it really comes down to the needs of individual users. Microsoft's Windows Azure platform actually came out first in the write speed test, followed by Nirvanix, leaving Amazon eating their dust in 5th place.

The test that might be of greatest concern for a lot of users was stability, which took into account how often the service went down, how long it stayed down, and whether there was any damage to hosted data. Thankfully, none of the 8 providers who were still standing at this point failed. Amazon had the fewest outages, with just 1.43 per month, with Azure showing 99.9% up time. AT&T was most unreliable, due to several very long outages.

The real competition was between Azure and Amazon. The two services came out very close, but Amazon eventually won the day. Although Azure had a slightly better average ping time than Amazon (which Nasuni points out as being due mostly to Amazon's service being the most used), Amazon had the lowest variability in service. Nonetheless, the differences were mostly negligible.

So, what's the point of all of this? The fact that so many of the providers failed is actually scary, considering that businesses are relying on these services to keep their operations moving smoothly. It's a major decision when a business decides to go all in on a platform, and not one that can be easily backed away from, so it's definitely important to pick a reliable one to begin with. Yet some very visible companies are absent from Nasuni's study, and it just goes to show that you really can't rely on a name.

Images courtesy of Nasuni

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