Home / Outstanding Azure Overview: Your Complete Guide to Microsoft Azure

Did you know Microsoft Azure was identified as the most popular cloud platform in a 2017 survey? And that it was “the one most likely to be purchased or renewed”, according to 28% of the survey respondents? While this figure may not seem so impressive, it’s the highest percentage for any of the public cloud providers featured.

But what exactly is Microsoft Azure, and why is it so popular? We’re here to give you a full Microsoft Azure overview. Our guide will help whether you’ve heard of Microsoft Azure or you’re curious to learn more about this cloud platform service.

Here’s how using Microsoft Azure can benefit your company.

What Is Microsoft Azure?

We know that Microsoft Azure is a cloud platform service, but what else?

The Azure platform is a cloud-computing platform launched by Microsoft in February 2010. It provides everything your business needs to run all of its computing operations from the cloud, virtually. You gain access to virtual servers, storage, networking and analytics among other things.

Initially, the only option available to businesses was to build and manage the physical appliances needed for computing. These included servers, disk storage, and ethernet.

Today, more and more companies opt for a public cloud computing platform to manage their data. This means brands can “rent” hardware resources as necessary.

Needs vary based on your business. With Azure, you can custom tailor your environment with various services to receive the support you need for your business operations. These include building, deploying, and managing applications.

One of the main advantages of using Microsoft Azure is affordability. As you’re renting the computing resources, you don’t have to deal with the costs and inefficiencies related to the physical hardware in the past. We’ll cover more on Microsoft Azure pricing later.

Azure allows you to add cloud capabilities to an existing network through its platform as a service (PaaS) model. Alternatively, Microsoft assists with all computing and network needs with Infrastructure as a Service (laaS). Whichever option you go for provides protected and reliable access to Azure data.

With Azure, there’s a range of ever-expanding products and services created to meet any business’s needs. And it’s through one convenient and easy to use platform.

Who Uses Microsoft Azure?

As mentioned, Microsoft Azure can meet any business’s needs with a variety of products and services offered. Businesses of every size find benefit in using the public cloud; a whopping number is using Azure today. Did you know that 85% of Fortune 500 companies are using this cloud computing platform?

Small and medium-sized companies also love using Azure for their business needs. One reason for this is because Azure helps small and medium businesses avoid large capital outlays for equipment.

Likewise, Azure also removes the concern of upgrades and maintenance. After all, smaller businesses may not be able to afford in-house technical engineers who are available to provide support.

Azure also makes it super easy to add or remove computing resources in a matter of minutes, compared to hours or days. That means there’s a lot of flexibility that businesses of all sizes wouldn’t usually have.

Where Will My Data Be Stored If I Use Microsoft Azure?

If your business hasn’t yet relied on a cloud-based platform, it may be a bit nerve-wracking making the move. If you’re no longer storing data on your own servers in your own server room, where is that data stored?

Microsoft manages the storage of data belonging to Azure users. Your company data will be stored in one or more of Microsoft’s data centers dotted around the globe. There are currently over 100 in 36 different regions, and the number is expected to grow in the future.

As a business, you can specify the region where you’d prefer your data to be stored. It’s recommended that data should be stored as close as possible to where most of your workers are located. This is because the farther away the data is stored, the more delay and latency users will experience.

To ensure data is promptly available, Azure will use a process called replication to create and manage various copies of data.

Customers can choose how they’d like replication handled. For example, two copies of data can be kept in the same location, or several copies can be stored in various locations around the world. The choice is completely up to the customer.

As so many companies hold specific compliance standards on their data, Azure provides an inclusive set of compliance offerings. These offerings include HIPAA, ITAR, and more recently, as of May 25, 2018, GDPR. The full list can be found on Microsoft’s website.

Is Data Secure With Microsoft Azure?

As with all major public cloud services, security is an important priority for Microsoft Azure. In fact, with the recent expansion of the Azure Security Center, Microsoft has been laser-focused on this issue.

The Azure Security Center works as a management tool for customers. This allows them to track and analyze Azure resources for potential security threats and concerns.

Using advanced analytics, the tool helps identify any malicious activity across the cloud. Then, it suggests remediation steps to combat the issue. You can then check the steps and decide the route of action to take.

Security Center comes with the Microsoft Azure subscription and it can be accessed from the main portal. Many features of Security Center are available for free while others will require additional subscriptions..

The free features provide access to the security status of your cloud resources but in other aspects, it’s limited. For those seeking more visibility from Security Center and to get more advanced threat detection options, you’ll need to upgrade to the paid standard selection.

What Can Microsoft Azure Do?

So, exactly what else can Microsoft Azure do?

Microsoft Azure features a growing selection of managed services, with more being added often. All the elements necessary are available to build a cloud-based virtual base and deliver applications and services to an audience worldwide. These include:

Virtual Machines

Microsoft or Linux virtual machines (VMs) can be created in a matter of mere minutes. This is from a huge selection of marketplace templates or your images. These virtual machines will host operating systems, your computing apps and services as if they were home in your own data center.

SQL Databases

Azure offers managed structured query language (SQL) relationship databases ranging from one to an unlimited number as one of their services. This saves customers overhead and expensive charges on hardware, software, and the need for hired in-house expertise.

Azure Active Directory Domain Services

This service allows customers to remotely manage group policy and authentication. Moving security structure partially or in whole can be done in a matter of a few clicks.

Azure Application Services

Using Azure, it’s easier than ever before to create and deploy applications globally that work across all popular web apps and portable platforms.

Reliable and accessible cloud access allow customers to respond quickly to business flow, saving both time and money.

And with the introduction of Azure WebApps to the Azure Marketplace, customers can manage the production, testing, and positioning of web applications.

Visual Studio Team Services

The visual studio team services are an add-on service under Azure. It offers an application life-cycle management (ALM) solution found in the Microsoft cloud.

Using the service, developers can communicate and track code changes, complete load testing, and deliver applications to production while cooperating in Azure from across the globe.

The services streamline development and delivery for big companies or new ones working to build a service portfolio.

Storage

Azure’s global infrastructure provides secure and accessible data storage for companies. They offer massive scalability and a fair pricing structure. This allows customers to store big data as well as uncommonly accessed data with large savings. This creates a safe yet affordable storage plan, which is ideal with Microsoft Azure.

What Are the Benefits of Using Microsoft Azure?

Today it’s argued that the on-premise data center will die out like the mainframes and dial-up modems used before. Instead, the room must be made for the influx of available and affordable cloud solutions, like Microsoft Azure.

There are many players in the cloud service sphere, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), IBM, and Apple’s famous iCloud. So, what makes Microsoft Azure stand out from the rest? And why are top-dog companies such as 3M, BMW, and GE opting for Microsoft Azure as their cloud-based storage and services provider?

We’ve heard what Microsoft Azure can offer to businesses, but let’s go through some more benefits of the service.

Flexibility

Using Azure, customers can spin up brand new services and scale data storage capabilities as and when they please. A static data center would need new hardware and OS purchasing, provisioning, and deployment before making a real impact.

Such a new and improved modern flexibility makes Azure an effective solution for businesses of any size.

Cost

Not only does Azure make it quicker and easier to add and scale computing infrastructure, but it also makes it cheaper too.

Think about it – physical services and devices including routers, load balancers, and more can add up. Depending on the size of your company, this could be thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Not to mention the IT expertise necessary to run and manage the equipment, which amounts to costly payroll overhead.

By making use of Azure pricing and its huge infrastructure and expertise, the annual IT budget – including salaries – can be cut by impressive figures.

Likewise, customers won’t have to make a huge initial venture when building an on-site or remote datacenter. Plus, the use of a cloud computing service like Azure cuts the need to buy extra software for further development or increased workloads.

Replacement hardware won’t need to be bought, as most computing hardware lasts for around two to three years. Plus, the costs linked with service calls and warranty renewals can be avoided too.

Azure charges per second used, so you only pay for the resources that you need and use.

Applications

Azure makes developing and testing apps simple; it’s easy to migrate an application from test to production mode across a globally distributed network.

Azure also offers discounts for businesses moving their existing applications to Azure. This offers even more opportunities to save cash.

Disaster Recovery

You need access to data in real-time. What do you do when the unthinkable becomes the immediate reality? Another impressive benefit of using Microsoft Azure lies in its high-speed infrastructure. This has limitless selections of disaster recovery plans, should that nightmare occur!

Make sure that your critical application and data can run from redundant sites during the recovery process. Your outage will last minutes or hours instead of days or weeks.

Time is money and Azure can guarantee continuous and effective service delivery. This is even in worst-case scenarios, like when data disaster strikes!

Azure Overview for Beginners

Microsoft Azure continues to see exponential growth. New features and services are released on a regular basis as the service progresses further and further. If you’re looking to join the masses of top brands already using Microsoft Azure, hopefully, you’ve found this Azure overview useful.

And if you need some help using Microsoft Azure for your company, we’re here to help with all the tricky business.

Here at IncWorx, we offer a full range of professional support and consulting services for Microsoft Azure. Learn more about our consulting services and how we can help your business succeed with the use of Microsoft Azure. Or, you can contact us with any questions.

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