These online calculators deserve their fair share of scrutiny. For the most part, they are there for the vendor to tell their own story in a way that shows the benefits of their service. Huge savings and incredible returns are pretty much what you are given when you pop in your numbers, requirements and company information. In the end, what you get is barely insightful. What the vendor gets is far more.
At their best, these cloud computing calculators provide a thumbnail view of the market. At their worst, they are slick tools for generating sales leads.
Here are three that we looked at. None of these calculators should ever be used to decide how to use cloud computing services. There are just too many factors to consider when making such a decision. It's a complex undertaking for any established company. It's why cloud management companies do so well. They provide a full gamut of services to help companies decide what should be in the cloud and what should not.
Astadia developed a cloud calculator based on the data it collected from the integrations it did for its customers. Its main purpose is to show the return on the Google, Amazon Web Services and Force.com platforms.
The calculator is heavily biased. SearchCloudComputing.com observes that the actual calculator itself was built on the Force.com platform. Astadia develops marketing and sales apps. Much of the apps it develops are created on Force.com.
This one stinks. The Google Cloud Calculator is hardly a calculator at all. It's an advertisement and a lead generator.
The calculator asks for your company name and then the number of employees. Input two employees and the calculator says you will save about $31,000. Put in 15 employees and you will also save about $31,000. So, either Google is inflating the numbers for a two employee company or is vastly underestimating the savings for a 15-person company.
Google does not have to promote itself in this manner. Google Apps is an excellent service, it can stand on its own. Cost comparisons are fine but to call it a calculator is a bit far fetched.
The Windows Azure cloud calculator is better than the Google calculator advertisement. It still requires a high dose of skepticism, especially considering that it was built by a marketing firm.
Before you launch the calculator, they issue a disclaimer. That at least removes a bit of the marketing gleam.
The calculator asks a series of questions. SearchCloudComputing.com makes the point that the calculator is no doubt collecting hordes of marketing information. Again, its more of a marketing ploy than anything else. Still, Micrsoft at least tries to show some integrity:
"You should not view the results of this report as a substitute for engaging with a third party expert to independently evaluate you or your company's specific computing needs. The analysis report you will receive is for informational purposes only," it reads. It also assumes a rough estimate of $20,000 per year to manage a server on-premise, and about $4,000 for the Azure equivalent."
There are plenty of other cloud calculators. Rackspace has one as does Amazon Web Services. Our advice is to treat these calculators like you would any marketing information. They are simply tidbits of information that should provide nothing else but a snapshot of the market.