Go up to the cloud

Prioritizing existing cloud solutions for features non-core to your business

When Daniel started to work in Elo7, the company website infrastructure was installed in two bare metal servers. Local SMTP server application was responsible for mail delivery. Server logs were stored in local drive. Managing and scaling bare metal servers was difficult, so everything was migrated to cloud instances. The mail delivery was decoupled from the application server and migrated to a service provider. Server logs were also migrated to a cloud PaaS, so developers would not need to log in the application servers to search in log files. These and other changes to the cloud lead to a lower cost and more flexible systems architecture, enabling the Startup to grow fast and solid.

Startups do not have time to build their own physical server infrastructure. They need to focus on their own product or service development. Nowadays, there are a lot of services that provide almost everything a Startup
needs to setup its business online. There are hundreds of offerings on Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS) layers. Moreover, most providers offer very low costs for low usage, as well as free tiers for beginners.

Today it is possible to build a technology company just by sticking together existing solutions. There are thousands of different Software as a Service (SaaS) platforms, most of them offering free tier for small companies
to solve a wide range of problems a company has, from file sharing applications to accounting software and communications tools. Almost everything is available freely online.

Software running into production is much more complex than running on developers machines. There are many cloud providers that offer simple solutions to deploy software in a mater of a mouse click, without needing any knowledge on system administrations. These Platform as a Service (PaaS) environments save a lot of precious time for startups, which in the beginning don’t have any specific requirement that justifies building its own
infrastructure.

Building a physical server infrastructure is hard, time consuming, and expensive. Developing commodity software is also a waste of time. Startups do not have time to spend on tasks other than their core business.

Startups usually have few software developers to do the entire job. It is impossible for a small team to be competent in all technologies. In a software startup, its product codebase is the most important place developers should spend they hours, learning about the business domain and creating inexistent and innovative solution to the startup customers. Moreover, every line of code deployed into production increases the maintenance costs. If developers spend time maintaining software non-core for the business, they have less time to work on core functionalities. It is a matter of cost benefit between building and buying. Building software non-core to your business will make you loose focus from your customers.

Therefore:

Use ready-made infrastructures over building your own solution. Prefer SaaS to PaaS, prefer PaaS to IaaS, prefer IaaS to ‘building your own infrastructure’, except for features core to your business.

The more non-core software you delegate to the cloud, the more time your team will have to work on what really matters: your customer. When you spend more time on your business software, you deliver more value and learn faster from your clients. By continuously delivering software to your customers you are bound to become competitive and profitable.

If you need a communication tool to keep the startup remote team together, you can use HipChat or Slack. For documents and spreadsheets creation, there is Google Drive, Microsoft Office 360. Virtual machines infrastructure
monitoring can be achieved with New Relic. Systems log processing and analysis can be done with Loggly or Splunk. Do remote pair programming with Screen Hero.

Most of these SaaS, PaaS and IaaS solutions were a startup someday. Off course if your startup product is a cloud system, developing a cloud service is core to you, so you won’t delegate these core functionalities to third
party companies. But even cloud service providers use third party software. IaaS companies use SaaS. SaaS companies use IaaS, and so on. The DevOps for Startups pattern can help you to choose the right balance between different cloud layers. A bad consequence of choosing the wrong cloud solution is that you can get stuck to a specific provider, so take care, preferring standard and replaceable solutions instead of proprietary hard to migrate architectures.

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