An article by Mark Moore, ACTS’ Cloud Secure Infrastructure Manager
Organizations across the world are turning to cloud services to help reduce their data storage costs, streamline their development workflows and enhance their decision-making capabilities. This cloud adoption trend is, in part, a reflection of how big data has transformed the modern business landscape and the high demand for agile management applications. According to a 2018 study by RightScale, close to 81% of enterprises have some form of multi-cloud strategy in place, with 38% of respondents viewing public cloud adoption as their top priority. But with so many cloud solutions available, many business leaders have struggled to find a platform that aligns with their day-to-day needs and long-term goals.
Currently, the public cloud marketplace is saturated with competition. Large technology companies and bright-eyed startups have been jostling for market share since the early 2010’s, leading to a digital gold rush of sorts. Despite how crowded the cloud computing services industry has become, three vendors have distinguished themselves as market leaders: Amazon, Microsoft and Google.
Thanks to their vast resources and talent, these large companies have been able to build intuitive cloud-based platforms, on-demand services and support frameworks that appeal to businesses of all sizes. While Google certainly carved out a niche in the cloud services industry, Microsoft Azure Cloud and Amazon Web Services are the clear front runners.The debate over Azure vs. AWS is still quite contentious, but rising adoption of Microsoft’s IaaS and PaaS offerings are starting to tip the scale. A 2019 report from Gartner found that Microsoft Azure’s market share grew 60% between 2017 and 2018. Considering more than 95% of Fortune 500 companies rely on Azure for their data storage and app management needs, it’s no surprise that Microsoft has become synonymous with cloud computing. But what, exactly, is Microsoft Azure Cloud and how can it benefit forward-thinking businesses?
What is Microsoft Azure Cloud?
Microsoft Azure Cloud is an expanding set of on-demand cloud services that help organizations store and manage their data, create complex web apps, improve their cybersecurity and compliance practices, and much more. Since Azure is a public cloud platform, users are able to scale up their infrastructure to align with their particular needs and create hybrid computing environments. Once integrated, Azure gives businesses the freedom to build, manage and deploy custom web apps using the development tools and frameworks they’re most comfortable with.
Microsoft Azure’s core services include:
- Azure Compute: This service group empowers companies to quickly provision Linux and Windows virtual machines, achieve high availability through autoscaling and supercharge app development using a serverless architecture. Users are able to create microservices, scalable cloud applications and APIs.
- Azure Networking: This feature set allows organizations to create hybrid computing frameworks that utilize both private and public cloud infrastructure. By doing so, users can seamlessly deliver their custom applications to thousands of virtual machines, ensure the highest levels of compliance and cybersecurity and monitor their network resources in real time.
- Azure Storage: Microsoft’s virtual datacenters provide companies with agile connectivity and scalable infrastructure, eliminating the need for on-premises hardware. All data written to Azure is encrypted and accessible over HTTP or HTTPS. This service is also compatible with a variety of languages, including .NET, Java, Node.js, Python, PHP and others.
- Azure Analytics: Azure supercharges business decision-making through its advanced analytics services, which offer unrivaled time to insight. Users can take advantage of a fully managed cloud Hadoop or Spark environment with real-time data stream processing, an enterprise-grade analytics engine and flexible AI development.
- Azure Backup: This group of services simplifies data recovery, allowing users to back up virtual machines, SQL workloads and on-premises VMware with a single click. Through Azure, companies can quickly restore data using VSS snapshot or fsfreeze without fear of application consistency.
- Azure Disaster Recovery: Microsoft helps keep critical applications running during planned and unplanned outages through its built-in disaster recovery tools. Users can replicate, failover and recover processes as needed, while also minimizing downtime by sequencing multi-tier applications running on multiple virtual machines.
Microsoft’s cloud-based services also benefit from a range of advanced features that may appeal to more technical users, from Azure IoT to Azure Blockchain and beyond. This high level of customization is one reason why Azure is so valuable for large enterprises and small businesses alike — organizations can choose the services, platforms and virtual infrastructures they actually need. But what other benefits does Microsoft Azure provide?
Top Business Benefits of Microsoft Azure Cloud
Now that we have a sense of the core services offered by Microsoft Azure, it may be helpful to dive into how they benefit modern businesses. First, it’s important to note that every organization has different needs when it comes to data storage, application development and resource management. For example, smaller companies that do not collect customer data may not require a massive amount of storage space, but may need a flexible and agile testing environment for their web apps. The trick to successfully integrating Azure is pinning down the exact capabilities and services an organization needs before signing up.
With that in mind, here are the top business benefits of Microsoft Azure:
1. On-demand scalability
Business needs change over time, whether for growth or downsizing, which makes scalability a core concern for any infrastructure-related investment. Microsoft Azure’s public cloud framework allows organizations to increase their storage space and computing power on demand, ensuring maximum capacity during short-term bursts of traffic and long-term expansion projects. Azure was designed to scale alongside businesses, meaning users can adjust their service agreements to prevent disruption of their high-load applications.
2. No on-site hardware required
Owning and operating on-premise data storage equipment comes with high upfront costs and consistent overhead, which can eat into a company’s IT budget. By moving their data, applications and computing processes to the cloud, organizations can essentially eliminate the need for on-site hardware. Businesses looking to keep some of their processes on private servers, whether due to convenience or compliance issues, can build a hybrid cloud environment using Azure’s advanced networking features.
3. Cost-effective subscription models
Microsoft Azure’s consumption based pricing structure allows small businesses and large enterprises to better manage their IT budgets and leverage the exact cloud features they need. This usage-based model is highly effective for decreasing infrastructure costs, reducing the burden placed on in-house IT management and streamlining cross-departmental workflows. If issues arise, users are backed by Microsoft’s extensive knowledge base and 24-hour support team.
4. High availability
Unlike many of the competing cloud service vendors, Microsoft Azure provides high availability and redundancy across all of its data centers. The tech giant operates in 55 regions worldwide and is available in 140 countries, making Azure well-suited to companies with a global reach. Because of its massive presence, Microsoft is able to offer a service-level agreement that ensures 99.95% availability, which amounts to under 4.5 hours of downtime per year.
5. Enterprise-level development tools
With Microsoft Azure, organizations can build, deploy and manage their own custom web apps using a variety of popular tools and programming languages, including .NET, Java, Python, Kubernetes and much more. This flexibility enables users to create next-generation applications for web and mobile devices, while also utilizing a host of management resources, from container orchestration to automatic updates. Additionally, Azure’s end-to-end development platform features dedicated testing environments that help companies optimize their internal web apps and customer-facing experiences.
6. World-class cybersecurity
All data stored on Azure is protected by an advanced encryption process, and Microsoft’s data centers are outfitted with two-tier authentication, proxy card access readers and even biometric scanners. When paired with existing cybersecurity systems and policies, Azure’s built-in security tools can help maintain the privacy, integrity and availability of sensitive customer information. Through its multi-layered security model, Microsoft helps companies ward off data breaches, malware, DDos attacks and other evolving threats.
7. Advanced compliance features
Over the years, Microsoft has become quite familiar with the need for strong and adaptive compliance controls. That’s why Azure offers more than 35 compliance offerings specific to the needs of key industries, including health care, government, finance, education, manufacturing and more. Through its built-in compliance tools, configuration management features and guidance resources, Microsoft helps organizations keep pace with the evolving regulatory guidelines like HIPAA, ISO 27001, GDPR and more.
If your organization is looking to take full advantage of Microsoft Azure Cloud and its expanding suite of on-demand services, the experts at ACTS can help guide your implementation and ensure your IT systems align with your long-term business goals. To learn more. Contact an ACTS representative for a personalized consultation.
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Azure is a cloud computing service created by Microsoft in 2010. Azure has the ability to set up and deploy numerous environments with multiple options.