Why Organizations should choose GCP – A Business Perspective

Cloud services reduce the effort needed to manage infrastructure, provision servers and configure networks. Today the cloud market is primarily dominated by Amazon Web Services, followed by Microsoft Azure. As the new kid on the block, GCP is the newest entrant to a highly profitable and competitive landscape.

This post explores GCP from a business point of view — what you need know to make an informed decision for your organization.

Why go with Cloud computing?

For a company to remain competitive, it needs to reduce costs, increase business agility and remain flexible to handle growing needs. Infrastructure-as-a-service (Iaas) or public cloud services, are an indispensable part of your IT arsenal that allow you to focus on your core business. Here are 5 reasons to move to the cloud:

Business Efficiencies – Freeing your organization from managing a large IT department allows you to efficiently run business operations and focus on decision making that affects the future of your company. You free yourself, and your team, from worrying about how business activity impacts IT.

Reduce Staffing – Keep only the key technical specialization and engineering staff that your business requires, without adding operational personnel.

Scaling – To handle seasonal spikes, unexpected growth, or other changes in traffic, use cloud services to ramp up resources without purchasing hardware and software that goes unused during the rest of the year.

Reduce Capital Spending – Why make large capital investments for hardware, data centers, and staff when you can use the savings for business investment? Instead of risky large outlays, your cost is reduced to monthly billing.

Instant Anywhere Access – Cloud services allow your team to work anywhere with instant access. Team members only need internet connections and authorized access. This means better work conditions, a larger pool of talent (they can work remotely from anywhere) and more efficiency at getting things done.

Why GCP?

We were invited to meet with Google at both their Chicago and Mountain View headquarters to discuss GCP from a .NET perspective. Since then, we have decided to move one of our applications from Azure to GCP, in part to see how easy it would be to migrate from one solution provider to another, and to compare performance between the two.

Although GCP is relatively new compared to AWS and Azure, Google has been beefing up their cloud offering. Not only has Google added new data centers worldwide since last year, they also offer one of the best pricing models. GCP does not require upfront payment or a lock-in commitment and offers discount for sustained usage. GCP charges you monthly for on-demand usage of instances by minutes used (minimum of 10 minutes). Google offers a sustained-use discount and publicly promised to pass along along to their customers any future price reduction. In contrast, AWS offers several pricing models; on-demand usage priced by the nearest hour, reserved instances – a commitment based pricing for a specific VM instance, and spot bidding for extra capacity available. Azure offers per minute billing with pay-as-you-go subscriptions, buying from a reseller, and an upfront usage commitment paid in advance or monthly.

Let’s talk about services. The array of storage options are impressive: from temporary and persistent disks storage for arbitrary objects (Google Cloud Storage), to relational databases (MySql, Sql Server), BigQuery (used by Google Analytics and SnapLogic), and BigTable ( “NoSql” database used by Google Search and Gmail). You have storage options for cost-efficient data storage based based on frequency of use and the geographic location of your customers.

GCP and .NET

Google also supports .NET technologies like SQL Server, Windows Servers, Visual Studio tools and offers a .NET Framework (currently in Beta) of the Windows dev stack featuring IIS, SQL Express and ASP.NET. You can also use Google’s Cloud APIs (with tons of supported libraries), Cloud Tools for Visual Studio and a even work in PowerShell using the Cloud Tools for PowerShell extension. It is impressive to see that Google is pushing for a more robust .NET environment, with help from people such as Jon Skeet and other notable developers. To learn more, check out this article: Making ASP.NET apps first-class citizens on Google Cloud Platform.  

Adoption Costs

There are inherent adoption costs to consider. While cloud platforms have common features, GCP, AWS, and Azure all offer unique services which promise faster time-to-market and lower costs. For example Google’s BigTable vs. Amazon’s DynomoDB vs. Azure’s DocumentDB. And for common features that everybody offers, implementation varies.

“In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.”

On one hand, there might be little new learning if your engineers already know a specific tech stack (e.g. .NET or Java or Node.js). While cloud platforms can be accessed in a variety of programming languages, some implementations are easier to use. Google is growing it’s list of “idiomatic” client libraries that are true to the flavor of each language, particularly .NET.

Likewise, infrastructure management operations performed by IT are unique to each platform. Azure has it’s “Blades” web user interface, while AWS and GCP have a more standard web console. As Adam noted in his intro report on Google Cloud Platform, the GCP portal feels like a middle ground between Azure and AWS’s portal:

My initial impression is that the GCP portal feels more approachable and snappier than the Azure portal. Another really impressive thing is how Google has really gone all out to make their tooling really accessible directly within the browser.”

Hybrid Cloud

Private servers are costly and difficult to scale, as opposed to public clouds. But you may be reluctant to give up private services and storage that are known to work well for critical applications. In this case, you might consider a hybrid cloud environment that uses a mix of public cloud with your own on-premise, private solutions. By moving the workload between the two, you can limit computing needs and manage cost more efficiently. This gives you greater flexibility and more options to deploy data when and where you need it. For example, you could use a cloud provider to host your development environment and less critical data.

An important caveat:  While AWS and Azure offer hybrid cloud infrastructure, Google does not currently support a dedicated hybrid cloud solution. Physical bulk data import and export can only be done via third parties currently. However, Google does offer simple data transfer options for business migrating from AWS onto GCP through Google Stackdriver (Google’s platform for managing applications on Google Cloud Platform and AWS). If a hybrid approach is necessary for your organization, you may want to wait until GCP catches up or look into AWS or Azure for a more robust hybrid implementation.


Security is one checkbox that no organization can afford to skip. GCP has numerous International Organization for Standardization certifications for its cloud security. The standards serve as assurance that Google has taken specific internal measures to secure its users’ data and protect it from unwanted intruders. GCP has the following certifications: SSAE16 / ISAE 3402 Type II, ISO 27001, ISO 27017, ISO 27018, FedRamp ATO (Google App Engine), PCI DSS v3.1 and conducts annual audits with an independent auditor.

Planning for the future

Although Google Cloud Platform is the new entrant to the public cloud space, it offers tons of capability, resources, and competitive pricing that is attractive to businesses considering a move to the cloud or switching from AWS or Azure. Google has put strong emphasis on growing its cloud platform and we will only see improvement from here on. Anticipating the future for your business begins with making the correct business decision. The first step starts here. Why not take a free spin with Google Cloud and see the benefit for yourself?.

This post originally appeared on Falafel Blog



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Why Brand and Messaging Should Be Part of Your Initial Strategy: A Look at Hipmunk

Building your company’s brand and messaging is immensely important as they tell the story of your product and company. According to Stanford, branding is what people say, feel and think about an organization. It’s a set of mental and experiential associations that, when taken together, tell the story of who you are.” Branding done right makes people say things like, “This brand reflects my personality” or “I like the values this brand stands for” which ultimately affects reputation, conversion and sales. Strong brand value gives companies an edge in a crowded marketplace and helps companies to compete on things other than price which leads to a stronger relationship with customers.

For many startups, branding and messaging are often only in the back of founders’ minds. There are usually more important things to take care of, such as the product, than focusing on branding from the start. However, there have been at times, companies who have attempted and succeeded to create a strong brand impression as part of their core strategy. Hipmunk is a company where the brand was conceived along with the idea of the business.

Hipmunk’s advisor and early team member, Alexis Ohanian, said when he first found out about the idea and mascot of Hipmunk, I see this as a huge advantage for us since none of the competition has any character with which to build a connection to their users. When people have a fantastic flight search experience on hipmunk, we hope they’ll associate that with the silly name and the cute logo”. With this mindframe, the Hipmunk founders set out to create a company centered around a chipmunk for users to identify with their brand.


Messaging on your site is equally as important. It is the marketing message and the first line of communication to your potential customers. It’s the first impression, the first part of the process to understanding your brand. People often confuse branding and messaging to mean the same thing. But it is far from the same. To make things simpler, we can use this metaphor: Branding is the mural, whereas messaging is the paint strokes. You need to lay down the foundations of brush strokes (value prop, assets, pic, headline) to ultimately create a beautiful mural (the company, story, characteristics).

Photo Credit: Professor Bop

The 8 Second Test & Value Prop

8 second rule

The average attention span of most people is 8 seconds. We can use this test to determine if a site’s message has been communicated effectively. In 8 seconds, can you understand what the site does? Were you able to effectively communicate your value proposition and offering?

I showed this site to my 12 year old niece, Kristina, for 8 seconds to see if she could understand the purpose of Hipmunk. She answered “I think it’s a website to help you travel better and they have a cute logo”. 8 second test passed!

Above the fold, the viewer can easily read Hipmunk’s value propositions.

Screen Shot 2015-12-18 at 4.15.13 PM

The location and benefit  are just as intended and easily convey what benefits the user will get out of using Hipmunk. “I watch new users interact with the site for the first time and you see these Hipmunk eureka moments or aha moments where they are like, ‘Wow, this is new, this is useful, this is the way it should be.’ When you have got that as a start and you can associate that with a memorable brand, you have got something that is going to stick around a little longer.” says Alexis Ohanian. “We’re building a consumer application, so we really need to build a brand that will win over regular people who are simply looking to take the agony out of flight search.”

The chipmunk mascot gave consumers something to remember that other travel sites lacked. It took a while for the brand to grow its userbase but now, Hipmunk is a common name for travel sites.

A look at the messaging history

Over the years, Hipmunk has evolved to better suit new and returning users. Let’s take a look at how their site has changed over the years using the messaging
framework conceived by Graham Hunter and taught in the Growth Track at Tradecraft. This framework says that good messaging consists of 4 things: explain, emotion, evoke questions, exclude/include. You don’t need to have all 4 elements at once, but ideally should strive for a balance or a mixture of the 4.

Oct 6, 2010

History 1

Hipmunk at the very beginning was very plain and had almost no messaging or any other assets, simply the words “Flight Search” and the chipmunk mascot. The user was left to figure out the product or services this site offered and lacked any connection with the user. A travel booking widget gave a hint that it was for booking trips (flight/cars/taxis?).

Dec 24, 2011

History 2
A year later, we saw some improvement with a Christmas theme and partnership with Rovio’s Angry Bird and social sharing icons for a more modern feel. The messaging had playful emotions especially during the holidays and sought to include a potential subset of users who are familiar with the game. In a way, it’s to align or piggyback (no pun intended) on a stronger brand which conveys a similar message.

May 11, 2012

History 3
In 2012, Hipmunk added an animated video as part of their marketing message. Animation explainer videos were the trend and offered an easy way for companies to explain their solution in a short and simple way. However, the video was located in the top right corner, and getting users to click on the video might have been difficult because the following year, they removed it from their site.

July 28, 2013

History 4
In 2013, Hipmunk completely redesigned their site. The chipmunk wasn’t as big and dominant as in previous years, and the background had a darker tone of blue, going away from the light blue of the early days of Twitter. The search widget was also redesigned for a faster and more simple search experience. The cartoonish clouds evoked a feeling of being sent away which adding social proofs from credible sources provided the user with more authoritative sites that both explained and provided credibility of their service. We also saw a more refined and simple nav bar.  It communicated the services available and allowed the user to jump to what they needed.

Sept 1, 2014

History 5

Little change from the previous year except an addition to their tag line: the fastest, easiest way to plan travel. “Popular destinations with Hipmunk city guides” was added as a way to entice visitors to book. The site continued to play with the emotion of the freedom of travel and evoking questions… specifically “where next?”


History 6
The Hipmunk of today has a vastly different look from when it started. Gone are the cartoonish clouds and social icons of last year; and in their place are images of beaches and palm trees suggesting a more lifelike feeling of summer relaxing. We also see a value prop section, a stronger call to action for their mobile app and top destinations. The Chipmunk makes a bigger appearance in both the search box and value prop section. The 8 second test worked well in my initial test because it seems like the site has become more effective over the years and has now reached that sweet spot for that test. Overall, Hipmunk’s messaging has been consistent throughout the years signaling their value, to help travelers get to the best places in the easiest way possible.

Screen Shot 2015-12-18 at 4.32.33 PM

The chipmunk mascot of Hipmunk has become a beloved icon on the web. Hipmunk has done an incredible job of managing and leveraging the chipmunk to further its brand and get loyal fans to create user-generated content. They even launched several campaigns on social media such as the “Hipmunk Me!” campaign that incentivized users to interact with the company in exchange for renditions of the users with a chipmunk appearance.

Hipmunk’s mascot has been selected numerous times as one of the cutest brand mascots of all time. Using this mascot, Hipmunk has been able to create a lasting impression in the minds of their users and get them talking about their brand. The mascot has become the brand and what the company stands for.

Final Thought

As we have seen in Hipmunk, great branding and messaging does not happen overnight. Building a mural takes a lot of effort and patience. Sometimes you may need to redo a stroke or two but with practice and time, you will end up with a great piece of art. Hipmunk was able to achieve a strong connection with their users and used that as fuel to power their brand. Sometimes you just need to start on that first paint stroke on your way to building a masterpiece.

This article originally appeared on Medium.


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What I learned about the Bay Area startup scene 3 years later

I remember the excitement I felt when I left to Hong Kong in the summer of 2012. It would be the start of a new journey away from the failure of my previous startup. It would be a rebirth. The startup scene in the Bay Area in 2012 was more spread out with plenty of space like Hacker Dojo flourishing and many events around the South Bay.

It became too much. It felt very much like the thrill of trying speed dating for the first few times. Excitement, something new and plenty of opportunities seemed to lie in wait. However it soon became dull and tiring. People’s overly optimistic attitude felt unreal, almost like being in a rave party all this time. Hong Kong would give me a break and let my mind calm down I thought at the time.

Now that I’ve been back for several months, I feel like an outsider, almost outdated. Discovering the new “spots” and seeing that the whole startup scene sort of shifted north to San Francisco. Most young startups move there and fewer smaller startups in South Bay. This has created an influx of work force which has driven up prices and rents to staggering levels.

I asked a friend who works in the city of why this sudden shift and why some companies do not move down for cheaper office rent.

“There is mainly 2 reasons.

1. Most talent is found here in the city. If you move out, you’ll have fewer access and/or worst talent pool. Everyone in the world wants to come to city and thats where you find some of the brightest people.

2. The ecosystem is here. The chance of networking with other people and companies is too beneficial. Unless all the companies move south, you’ll be the only one and it will be like living on an island by yourself (if you do move south).

No one wants to be the first to make the jump to the island.

Also to save 30-40% on rent… Is it really worth it? We pay 10k in rent right now. If we found something south SF for 2k then sure! That’s enough saving for another hire. But to save 3k, it’s not worth it especially with VC money coming in so much”

Makes sense to me. I love San Francisco and its where individuality is accepted.

Another change I’ve notice is the attitude of founders. Founders nowadays seem to have big egos and many I’ve talked to very briefly at meetups seem to have a stick stuck up their ass. When you talk to them, it doesn’t feel genuine like they always have a sales mask on. I guess few more beers would help them to get rid of it but that seems like too much work. One founder even asked me to impress him. I’m suppose to impress you? Why don’t you impress me with your product? I have a lot more experience than you and I have yet to see something impressive from a kid like you.

However there are more startups than ever before and some offer very cool services such as one of my favorite Luxe, which offers on-demand (another word thats too used now) valet parking in the city. If you happen to sign up, use my referral code and we both get $20 bucks; JM1. Seems to be that there is a on-demand service for everything (moving, deliveries, house cleaning, gym equipment etc…) as we move into an on-demand economy.

Side note: On-demand services aren’t new in Hong Kong. People call instead of using apps but you can literally get anyone to do anything for you like moving, groceries, laundry etc…

Ill update back after I’ve settle in for a bit more but so far, I’m enjoying myself back in the Bay Area. The weather has been great and I’m getting a nice tan. Maybe someone will create an on-demand tan service…


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