How to Move Your Startup to the Cloud: the Best Free Programs

Google’s Senior Vice President for Technical Infrastructure Urs Hölzle just announced at the Google for Entrepreneurs Global Partner Summit a huge change in its company’s free program for startup, that will now offer 100,000$ in cloud credits for those who qualify for the program. Quite a bold move, and not without a strong taste of marketing gimmick. I’m wondering how many small startups out there who can spend 100,000$ yearly for cloud resources unless they became hugely popular or need to do some very serious computation. Nevertheless, this news makes Google’s free program for startups the most rewarding one around. Because, yes, actually each of the biggest cloud providers has a similar program, so let’s see what are the best free programs to move your startup on the Cloud.

Google Cloud Platform for Startups

Let’s start our review with Google itself. If your startup never got Cloud credits before, has funds for less than 5 Million Dollars and annual revenue are below the 500K$ threshold, then your startup qualifies for Google’s program, provided it is part of one of the many accelerators, incubators and VC funds that Google asks you to be in. All the biggest players are approved by Google (including its own Ventures, of course), and the list is getting longer day by day, so I guess that a number of startups is eligible for this free program. The 100,000$ credit your startup will get can be applied to any Google Cloud Platform service, and you will also get 1:1 technical architecture reviews with Cloud Platform solutions engineers and 24/7 phone support. This is a huge improvement since the previous program, which granted a way smaller credit, likely making the Google free program for startups the best one available around nowadays.

AWS Activate

AWS started its program for startups about 1 year ago, under the catchy name of “AWS Activate“. Since then, the program has changed a few times, and differently, from Google’s analogous program, it comprises two different packages: the self-starter and the portfolio one. The former is just mildly interesting, being mostly based on the AWS Free Usage Tier with some extra benefits like training and dedicated support, yet it is available to any startup with no restrictions. The portfolio plan is only available to startups in accelerators, incubators, and seed funds instead, and in fact, you can apply only through its AWS Activate Program Director. That’s the only requirements, though: so without the many limitations, Google asks for its program. On the other hand, you will get “just” $1,000 to $15,000 AWS Promotional Credit, up to 1 year of AWS support, training and dedicated assistance, also including some special “Portfolio” third-party offers.

Microsoft BizSpark

Microsoft’s program for startups is called BizSpark. Quite interestingly, this program lasts for 3 years instead of the just one from AWS and Google, and the startups can keep using any software they downloaded during their permanence in the program at no costs afterward. Unfortunately, this program grants you just 150$ of free monthly Microsoft Azure benefits, an embarrassing amount compared to its biggest competitors. The strong point of this program is the access to Microsoft software though, and not the Cloud services specifically, quite in line with history and tradition of the company, with the usual supplement of technical training and dedicated assistance. To be eligible for the program, your startup needs to raise less than 1$ revenues per year, being in business for less than 5 years, but there is no need to be part of an accelerator or an incubator. All in all, Microsoft’s free program for startups is probably the least interesting one cloud-wise.

Rackspace Startup Program

Rackspace has a program for startups too, and it’s the most obscure one, given that the dedicated website gives just some general information about all the features of this program. For example, it’s impossible to know what are the requirements to be eligible for the program. Any startup can apply, then Rackspace evaluates the application after getting in touch with the applicant, but there are no hints about what are the revenue, funding or income limits to be accepted into. Benefits are quite generic as well. Rackspace gives you hosting, mentorship, technical assistance for cloud architectural planning, git repositories, SDKs, APIs and other extras that are included in the package, but there are no clues about the real extent of those advantages, not even about their lifespan. Good to see this program around, especially for OpenStack-oriented startups, but some clear details would have been really appreciated.

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