Cloud computing is an integral part of regular business operations for organisations around the world. The public cloud computing service leverages Microsoft-managed data centres for a variety of purposes, and has been one of the leading ‘as a Service’ platforms for more than a decade.
Stripped back to the bare elements, Microsoft Azure is a public cloud platform that encompasses a diversity of solutions across Software as a Service (SaaS), Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS). Through these solutions, users can take advantage of Microsoft applications and services for a range of purposes, whether it’s to host and store sensitive company data, set up virtual computing networks, mine customer data and derive valuable analytics for future decision-making, and much more. Read more
The major drawcard for business owners is that Microsoft Azure makes for a great addition (or a wholesale replacement) to on-premises servers – leveraging more than 40 Azure data centres, the most of any cloud provider. This is critical for time-strapped or resource-light operations that need to leverage the power of the cloud without pouring money and man-hours into building data centres from the ground up. Moreover, with a dedicated solution like Microsoft Azure ready to ‘plug and play’, there’s a suite of solutions to make your life – and your staff’s lives – much easier. Azure also boasts the highest compliance levels of all public clouds, which makes it a trustworth choice for business owners.
On the more technical side, Microsoft Azure is the cloud platform of choice because of its flexible, reliable and financially savvy nature. Users are free to increase or decrease compute resources as required. There’s support across most operating systems, languages and frameworks. 24/7 tech support means you’ll never be abandoned due to time differences or server issues. And, most importantly for the C-suite, you only pay for what you use with Microsoft Azure – which helps plan out budgets and scale as needed.
How long has Microsoft Azure been around for?
After being announced in October 2008, it was initially released to the public on 1 February 2010 and is still a hugely popular platform more than 10 years on. At the time of its launch, the platform was called Windows Azure before being renamed Microsoft Azure on 25 March 2014.
The platform’s success can be somewhat attributed to its massive diversity of solutions, starting as a humble cloud platform that now encompasses more than 600 dedicated Azure products across mobile and computer services, storage, data management, messaging, media, content delivery (CDN), DevOps, machine learning, Internet of Things and much more.
Available in 140 countries around the world, Microsoft Azure is the first hyper-scale cloud provider with a physical presence in Africa, and the platform is constantly looking for new ways to meet consumer demands. In fact, due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, Microsoft announced that its Teams usage had increased by 775% in Italy alone, lifting daily active users of Microsoft Teams worldwide to 44 million.
Below we’ll uncover the true value of Microsoft Azure, showcase some of its best features, and explore how it can provide your business with tangible benefits to streamline operations and improve your bottom line.
Features & Uses
You could fill several manuals with all the various facets and potential uses of Microsoft Azure, and how your enterprise uses Microsoft Azure will be different to how another organisation uses it – even within the same industry. It’s wise, however, to discuss its defined services, which is what the majority of business leaders will be looking at when deciding on a cloud solution for their specific needs.
Storage, backup and recovery
For any cloud platform to succeed – let alone remain as one of the most popular choices for more than a decade – there must be high-quality backup and disaster-recovery measures in place. With Microsoft Azure, you can rest easy knowing your sensitive data will be protected in the event of the unexpected – natural disaster or otherwise.
No matter the amount of data, your OS, or location around the globe, Microsoft Azure will back up your data according to your needs. Simply define how often you need data backed up and how much of it on, for example, a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Read more
Azure’s backup functionality stores three separate copies of your company data in one data centre on separate storage arrays. What’s more, Azure Backup offers up to 99 years of data retention with only minimal operational costs, and it integrates easily with architectures like Hyper-V and System Center.
Here are just a few of the storage, backup and recovery services available to businesses with Azure:
• Azure Site Recovery: This native disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS) solution is Azure’s built-in to protect what’s most important to your business – even during unplanned outages and disasters.
• Azure Backup: Back up your sensitive business data and tools without any additional infrastructure. One-click backup support also means you’ll never be without the latest version of your backups.
• Azure Storage: Data centre management is made easy with Azure Storage. It’s highly scalable to your business activity, cost-effective and is the easiest way to migrate your storage needs to the cloud.
Azure Security Services
With so much data to keep secure, businesses need to know they can trust Microsoft Azure to protect their most sensitive assets while also having the tools to manage their own security needs.
• Azure Security Center: Physical, infrastructure and operational controls all combine to keep Azure – and your business solutions – secure. With Security Center, you’ll be able to manage your security posture, get enhanced threat protection and even extend your security beyond Azure.
• Azure Sentinel: Combining the power of the cloud and artificial intelligence, Azure Sentinel is a next-generation security solution that lets you see and put an end to threats before they have a chance to harm your business.
Azure Cognitive Services
Azure is also at the forefront of new and fascinating cognitive technologies, leveraging the technological power of artificial intelligence and machine learning, as well as knowledge mining and more.
• AI services: Artificial intelligence is becoming increasingly beneficial to numerous industries, and with Azure’s dedicated platform you can develop AI on your own terms, adopt and deploy effective AI strategies, empower your development team with mission-critical tools and much more.
• Search: Knowledge mining: Azure Cognitive Search capabilities truly elevate the power of search. Thanks to constant improvements and updates, your team can derive much more valuable insights and metadata from the cognitive search pipeline.
• Azure Machine Learning: Build and deploy business-critical models faster with Azure ML – an enterprise-grade machine learning solution that allows you to innovate, be more productive and empower your developers and data scientists.
Innovation in the IoT Hub
To innovate in the modern business world is it succeed. Microsoft Azure enables your organisation to do exactly that through its IoT Hub, where you can manage countless devices and monitor endless reams of data in a single repository.
In your hub, you can parse the data to glean valuable insights for future decision-making, potentially improving the customer sales funnel, lowering your costs, improving time-to-market and simply making smarter decisions.
Web and mobile apps
Operations looking for hosting solutions need look no further than Microsoft Azure. The same goes for teams developing web or mobile apps. The platform lets you link your web app to an on-premises app, meaning stakeholders and staff alike can access vital information and resources from anywhere, anytime.
Automatic patch management, autoscaling and ongoing deployment support also make managing web and mobile apps more secure and streamlined.
Microsoft Azure and bots
You can use Azure to improve your customer experience and reach new audiences by utilising the power of bots. Thanks to the purpose-built Azure Bot Service, you can build and deploy any type of bot to help improve your business offering, streamline your operations or eliminate time-consuming, repetitive tasks.
Take a business-ready solution like QBot. This teaching and learning bot developed by Antares Solutions is designed to help students and education providers stay more engaged, collaborate better and never risk losing their voice amongst the noise. It’s already worked its AI magic with students at the University of New South Wales, and its potential as a valuable business tool is incredible.
Cloud Collective empowers Mission Australia with Microsoft Cloud Technology
Read how Cloud Collective has worked closely with Mission Australia to plan the migration of its on-premises workloads from a private data centre into Microsoft Azure Cloud. We have also developed a framework for analysing survey results and sentiments using Microsoft Text analytics and natural language with Artificial Intelligence technology.
GWA Group flush with agile opportunity thanks to cloud transformation
ASX-listed company GWA Group has been in the business of supplying bathroom, kitchen and household fittings for over three decades – and constantly seeking ways to build a better business. As the company behind well-known brands such as Caroma, Dorf and Methven, GWA is now exploring how intelligent technologies can streamline operations and boost its business.
How does Azure work?
If you’ve never heard of ‘virtualisation’ technology, it’s essentially a tool that uses a hypervisor as an emulator for a real-life computer’s functionality inside a virtual machine (VM). Microsoft Azure is a cloud platform that runs virtualised software and services for its customers – i.e. its users. As of 2014, Azure Resource Manager lets users define groups of similar solutions so they can deploy, manage and monitor them at the same time.
Watch our short video below about Azure Active Directory to learn a bit more about how it works.
Why does Microsoft Azure matter for businesses?
Organisations look to the cloud to solve a variety of their day-to-day problems. For some owners, this will involve consolidating the majority – or, in best-case scenarios, all – of their software into a single repository, allowing staff to find the tools they need in the one location. Others need secure hosting and backup capability to protect their sensitive materials.
Whatever the case, migrating your organisation’s infrastructure to a secure public cloud service like Microsoft Azure means you can outsource all your maintenance and hardware requirements and therefore free up time to spend on actual business problem-solving and strategising. Read more
Consider a software development company that currently uses Microsoft Visual Studio. They need a service that integrates seamlessly with their internal systems and lets users build and ship software faster. Microsoft Azure does exactly that thanks to continuous integration (CI) and continuous deployment (CD).
While plenty of technical businesses get the most out of Microsoft Azure’s offering, others simply want a set-and-forget solution that is scalable and cost-effective. Microsoft understands that businesses often need to pivot at a moment’s notice, and Azure’s scalability ensures the platform adapts to company needs as they change over time.
You can optimise your cloud costs while leveraging the power of the cloud by exploring Azure Cost Management + Billing. Alternatively, with a pay-as-you-go (PAYG) model as well as the ability to opt-in to an enterprise agreement, business leaders can build in cloud running costs from the outset. The Azure dashboard even lets you calculate your future needs (databases, RAM, CPU, instances, etc.) to determine costs on a month-to-month or annual basis.
Microsoft Azure is by far and above the best in class. But of course you need to do your due diligence and research what other products might compare, so here is a listing of the ones that would be in the running alongside Azure.
Microsoft Azure stands apart from its competition mainly because of its comprehensive hybrid model, allowing users to do almost anything they need to for their own industry-specific purposes. A keen focus on AI, data and analytics, and the Internet of Things is also a major differentiator, as is the ability to build, deploy and run apps across a variety of locations through Microsoft’s Azure Stack.
As a constantly evolving product, Microsoft is in fierce competition with a range of other cloud providers, with some of the biggest players including:
- Amazon Web Services (AWS): Like Azure, AWS has a wide variety of global cloud-based products and features, including analytics, networking, developer tools, IoT, storage and enterprise apps. However, a lack of use-cases means users unfamiliar with the platform may struggle to implement and use the API Gateway.
- Google Cloud Platform: Billed as a time-saver and holistic solution, Google Cloud Platform works best as a simple solution. Like any solid cloud platform, it allows users to design, test and launch applications on the platform itself. Users switching over from Azure of AWS may find that Google’s versions of certain services – like Google Maps API and Google Custom Search – are poor replacements for other cloud providers’ apps.
- IBM Cloud: Powered by the artificial intelligence Watson, IBM lets users deploy their applications securely and efficiently in the cloud. Combining PaaS, IaaS and SaaS capabilities, it integrates DevOps, has a range of backend and mobile services, and offers database and analytics mining. However, the quality of technical support may not be adequate for more experienced users.
- Oracle Cloud Infrastructure: After shifting its on-premises customers to the cloud, Oracle is seeking new audiences with its IaaS and PaaS offering. However, the platform performs at its best when being used as a software provider.
- VMware Cloud Services: Arguably a smaller player in its own right, VMware has ties to larger cloud operations as it’s a partner of AWS, Azure and Google Cloud, and is a parent entity in Dell Technologies. VMware Cloud Services’ best aspects are its virtualisation capabilities and fully adopted containers.
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to integrating Microsoft Azure into your business. Instead, every organisation will have a different cloud journey, and adoption can be challenging for some enterprises as it demands more than a traditional technology deployment.
How can you integrate Microsoft Azure into your business?
Transitioning your business to the cloud requires a solid transformation strategy and a firm knowledge of the platform you’ve chosen. It’s recommended that you follow a dedicated Cloud Adoption Framework if you are already familiar with shifting business processes to the cloud. However, to make your life easy and to ensure a smooth transition to Microsoft Azure, expert Gold Partners like the Cloud Collective can take care of everything for you.
Adoption Hurdles Avoided with Key Pillars
The good news is that Microsoft recognises the sometimes-bumpy nature of transitioning to the cloud and has established six key pillars to follow for a successful adoption:
1. Define your strategy: What’s your motivation behind the move to the cloud? How will it benefit your enterprise in the short and long term, and what are the financial implications? Finally, set your expected business goals and outcomes, and make sure to measure the results consistently.
2. Plan according to your needs: Your cloud-adoption plan should encompass your current digital inventory, workload priorities as well as how the migration will impact your business (e.g. anticipated downtime during the transition, employee buy-in, speed of uptake, etc.). Also, put together your cloud strategy team and ensure there is an overarching strategy for cloud execution.
3. Ensure everyone and everything is ready: Get buy-in from your team, ensure business processes are updated to reflect the ‘new cloud norm’ and double-check that your IT environments are prepared for the move. Governance is a key consideration here.
4. Adopt (whether migrating or innovating): Are you looking to migrate your existing business structure to the cloud or instead build something from scratch through innovation? Whatever your reason for moving to the cloud, this stage is the heart of the technology integration.
5. Define cloud governance: What do your IT policies look like for on-premises functions? How will cloud governance support – and improve on – those policies? Governance should be an overarching theme throughout the transition.
6. Manage the environment and ensure security: Like governance, managing the environment needs to stay front-of-mind during the entire process. This means monitoring, managing and improving (or optimising) your cloud environment to adapt to your current business goals and deliver your anticipated results. You also need to ensure security is front-and-centre for your chosen cloud provider, as protecting your data is just as important as gleaning insights from it.
Is Azure free? What does it cost?
Is Microsoft Azure free?
For single entities and smaller organisations with tight budgets and a reduced need for cloud services, the Microsoft Azure free account provides access to more than 25 Azure services all year round. However, users will be unable to access the full extent of major core services such as compute and storage. Instead, products like the IoT Hub, Face API, Bing Speech and the machine learning studio are made available for free accounts.
If you want like to take advantage of everything that Microsoft Azure has to offer, your costs will depend on what products you use, your storage and backup needs, and more.
How much does Microsoft Azure cost?
Microsoft Azure pricing is determined by what products you use and how you use them. As each organisation will have different needs, it’s recommended that you calculate your estimated monthly costs according to your unique combination of Microsoft Azure products. You can calculate those costs here.
To find out more about your organisation’s needs and pricing for Microsoft Azure services, contact the experts at Cloud Collective today.
Get Azure now
How can I get Microsoft Azure? What are the Pros and Cons of Microsoft Azure? And how can the Cloud Collective help my organisation successfully migrate to Microsoft Azure?
How can I get Microsoft Azure?
Depending on your needs, you may decide to take advantage of Microsoft Azure’s free service to ensure it’s the right cloud partner for your enterprise needs. You’ll receive 12 months’ access to the platform’s most popular free services, as well as $280 in credit to explore Azure’s full range for 30 days. Whether or not you decide to take up a larger offering, more than 25 services will remain free on your account.
To sign up, you’ll need to provide your phone number, credit card, as well as details of your GitHub account or a Microsoft account username (previously called a Windows Live ID).
At the end of those 12 months, you will be charged at the standard PAYG rates according to your region availability and the resources you decide to use.
If you’re looking for advice on what Microsoft Azure resources would best align with your enterprise needs, your budget and your long-term cloud goals, speak to the experts at Cloud Collective. We will work closely with you to determine the ideal Azure products for your business, and then make sure it fits with your financial capability. We can also help transition your business to the cloud, ensuring streamlined uptake and fewer headaches for leadership.
Pros and cons of Microsoft Azure
Microsoft Azure is one of the best public cloud computing platforms on the market, but no system is perfect. Let’s explore some of the biggest pros and cons of Azure.
• A diverse and holistic offering encompassing IaaS, SaaS and PaaS solutions.
• Extremely low downtime – with SLAs of up to 99.99% (depending on the service), or around 52.56 minutes of downtime per year, which is difficult for most competitors to match.
• Powerful enterprise-class data security bolstered by multi-level protection, with greater user control through multi-factor authentication (MFA), password management and more.
• Highly scalable according to your organisation’s cloud demands.
• Cost-effective solution with a payment model that changes as you need it to. PAYG means you can expand or limit your usage depending on your current cash flow and budgeting needs.
• Because compute power is managed in the cloud, some organisations may prefer the physical control of an on-premises solution.
• May require some level of cloud expertise for business administrators.
How can Cloud Collective help with Microsoft Azure migration and adoption?
Cloud Collective is a strategic alliance between three leading Microsoft Gold Partners. We have more than 30 years’ combined experience in managing and delivering challenging projects for both public and private enterprises – locally and abroad.
Together, we will deliver the expertise you need from a team that truly understands the inner workings of Microsoft Azure and what it can provide your organisation. From Antares’ depth of knowledge in Azure PaaS and Quorum’s experience with Azure IaaS and Azure Sentinel, to the award-winning communications integrator and managed services provider IComm, we are Australia’s leading cloud experts.
We are a proud Microsoft Azure provider who can help you make the move to the cloud – whether you want your organisation to become more cost-effective, more innovative, or simply stay ahead of the competition.
Here are a few articles about Microsoft Azure
Myths Busted: 6 Myths About The Cloud That Need To Go
There are many myths surrounding the public cloud, with the most common surrounding cost and security. In this blog, you will if you are falling prey to the myths surrounding cloud computing.
Why the cloud is (or can be) more secure than on premises
When it comes to choosing and deploying new IT systems, security has never been more important. In fact, 82 percent of CEOs consider cybersecurity one of their top three risks. Read the blog
Answers, Questions, Data & Racing – Azure vs AWS Redeux
A recent study which included survey responses from mostly decision makers, found that many businesses are looking at deploying Microsoft Azure rather than going with public cloud market leader, AWS. Really? Find out why.
Microsoft Azure is an open and flexible cloud platform that enables you to quickly build, deploy and manage applications across a global network of Microsoft-managed datacenters. As a platform it enables end users to engage in agile cloud computing, and is designed for creating and managing apps.
Microsoft Azure has a short but vibrant history and has developed significantly since 2008. Microsoft announced its first open and flexible cloud platform almost 12 years ago and it was released to the public on February 2010. Ever since then Azure services has continued to evolve over time as the needs of its users demand more.
Azure has limitless capabilities, it is extremely flexible, and allows you to use multiple languages, frameworks, and tools to create the customised applications that you need in cloud data centers. As a platform, it also allows you to scale applications with unlimited storage and security.
Microsoft Azure is a cloud platform that runs virtualised software and services for its customers – i.e. its users. As of 2014, Azure Resource Manager lets users define groups of similar solutions so they can deploy, manage and monitor them at the same time.
For almost all organisations who use cloud services need Microsoft Azure to solve a variety of their day-to-day problems. You can rely on Azure for data storage, create and manage complex web apps, improve cyber security and compliance practices, hence it’s no surprise that Microsoft has become synonymous with cloud computing.
The cloud computing market is growing rapidly, apart from Microsoft Azure that stand apart for its comprehensive hybrid cloud model other top cloud providers are Amazon Web Services(AWS), Google Cloud Platform, IBM Cloud, VMware Cloud Services and Oracle Cloud Infrastructure.
Transitioning your business to the cloud requires a solid transformation strategy and a firm knowledge of the platform you’ve chosen. It’s recommended that you follow a dedicated Cloud Adoption Framework if you are already familiar with shifting business processes to the cloud.
The Azure free account provides access to all Azure products and does not block customers from building their ideas into production. The Azure free account includes certain products—and specific quantities of those products—for free. Refer Microsoft Azure Free Account FAQs