Whilst network-based computing has been around for over fifty years, the term ‘Cloud’ was first used in 2006, when then Google CEO Eric Schmidt introduced the term to an industry conference. Since that time, virtually all IT vendors have developed a cloud offering, and businesses have embraced the many benefits that cloud can bring. But before we jump into what Microsoft Azure is, we need to explain what cloud computing is, and why is Microsoft now leading the pack with their Azure offering?
What is Cloud computing?
Cloud computing is an alternative to owning and running a dedicated IT system of servers and storage. It allows businesses and individuals to access shared technology services, such as compute power, storage, databases, and applications, on a flexible and scalable pay-as-you-go basis.
In the words of Microsoft:
“Cloud computing is the delivery of computing services—including servers, storage, databases, networking, software, analytics, and intelligence—over the Internet (“the cloud”) to offer faster innovation, flexible resources, and economies of scale. You typically pay only for cloud services you use, helping you lower your operating costs, run your infrastructure more efficiently, and scale as your business needs change.”
Now you know what cloud computing is, we can move onto the next part.
What is Azure cloud?
Azure cloud is Microsoft’s cloud computing offering. Azure cloud runs across more than 200 global data centres. It is highly available, with a service level agreement of 99.95% availability together with 24 x 7 technical support. It supports most operating systems (not just Microsoft) as well as the majority of programming languages, tools, and frameworks.
What Cloud models does Azure support?
It offers various levels of service, including Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Software as a Service (SaaS).
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) allows businesses to add their own operating systems, middleware and applications to an Azure provided cloud compute power (server) and storage environment.
Platform as a Service (PaaS) sees Azure providing and managing the operating system and middleware layer, with a business providing the application.
Software as a Service (SaaS) provides the option of Microsoft and 3rd party applications being available as part of the Cloud offering. Azure provides the entire solution stack, including relevant licences.
Who uses Azure?
According to Microsoft, over 95% of Fortune 500 companies trust Azure to run part or all of their IT systems. There are over 1,800 worldwide Azure case studies including more than 750 in Europe. All industry areas are covered, with sectors such as professional services, manufacturing, banking, government, and retail being the most cited.
Because of the pricing structure for Microsoft’s cloud offering, where you only pay for the services you use, when you use them, Azure is used by businesses and organisations of all sizes and indeed individuals.
What can you use Azure cloud for?
Azure cloud is more than a simple off-premises replacement of hardware, software, and networking. Azure can be configured to include a large range of services and applications, on a pay-as-you-go basis. For example, AI and machine learning applications include a Bot service, which allows consumer facing businesses to create conversational AI experiences to enhance their customer support. Another example is content moderation, which can be used to automate image, text, and video monitoring.
Analytics is a popular use of Azure, allowing data mining and the managing of Big Data repositories. Application development is also fully supported, with the ability to build, manage and continuously deliver cloud applications, using any platform or language. Load testing services are also available.
What is the Azure Marketplace?
The Azure Marketplace is an online store that offers Microsoft and third-party applications and services that can be used as part of the Azure offering. All the offerings are certified through the Microsoft Azure Certified program, to ensure full compatibility. You can find, try, buy, and deploy the software and services needed to build new solutions and manage your cloud infrastructure. The catalogue includes solutions for different industries and technical areas. Many of the offerings include a free trial as well as support from the supplying Microsoft Partner.
Is Azure used for Disaster Recovery?
Cloud based DR offers a secure and scalable end-to-end backup and disaster recovery solution which can be integrated with on-premises data protection systems. The nature of Azure means that a company’s back up data will be stored off site and available in the case of an on-premise IT issue. As the data is stored outside a company’s core IT systems, it is also more protected from issues such as ransomware. Multiple copies of back up data can be created and stored on different data centres in the Azure cloud.
In the case of a major IT failure, a business can quickly and simply create cloud-based systems, using the back up data, to recover business functionality. Because of the pay-as-you-use nature of Azure, this provides a very cost-effective solution for a business, only paying for the cloud-based services in the rare case of an in-house IT failure.
How expensive is Azure?
The cost of Microsoft Azure depends on what services you use, so there is no simple answer. There is the option of starting a 30-day free trial, which also includes some free services for the next twelve months. This may help an individual or small business to evaluate Azure in an extremely cost-effective manner.
Whilst Azure offers competitive pay-as-you-go pricing, for larger projects and businesses, there are fixed-cost options for periods of 12 to 36 months, which offer substantial discounts.
How can I find out more about Azure for my business?
The best way to find out more about Azure is to work with an accredited Microsoft Cloud Partner such as Mintivo. With no sales calls, obligations, or charges, we would be pleased to discuss how Azure can help your business. Mintivo have worked with many valued customers to help deliver IT solutions to meet their business needs. To find out more about Azure and how Mintivo can help, please get in touch.