The IT industry is pretty renowned for its ambiguous buzzwords that are really tough to get your head around. Perfect example – ‘the cloud’. It’s awesome and amazing and everyone acknowledges that it’s the future and the future is here. Just don’t ask them to explain what the cloud is, because you’ll get a blank stare.
Luckily, we covered that one in this blog post. So read up and start spreading the word of the cloud!
Today we’re going a little deeper and we’re going to talk about one of the cornerstones of cloud computing, Microsoft Azure. This is probably also a term you’ve heard before. It sounds nice and shiny and has IT nerds like us enthusiastically nodding their heads. Used by everyone from small start-ups to massive enterprises like Coca Cola and Airbus, it has to be amazing… but what is it? Let’s take a look.
What is Microsoft Azure?
Microsoft Azure is an ever-growing, commercial cloud infrastructure, offering a collection of cloud-based computer services to users across the world.
It’s a huge public platform, with data centres in 54 regions, on which applications and services are built, deployed and managed. Networking, storage, database, analytics and computing functionalities seamlessly integrate with your local IT environment.
The cloud services offered by Azure basically provide an alternative for physical hardware. Instead of running your own hardware, you simply pay for access to the resources on offer through Azure.
And what, you may ask, are some of the things you can do through Azure? Well there’s hundreds of services that allow you to be imaginative and do practically anything. The offerings are classified into three main categories: IaaS, PaaS and SaaS.
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
This is the most basic and fundamental of the three categories offered by Azure, and probably the easiest to get your head around.
In IT terms, infrastructure is your physical and digital computer system. It’s your data centre, your storage, networks, security and servers.
In the past the infrastructure always operated under the roof of an organisation’s IT department. But with Azure, it’s moved to the cloud, where you basically take control of a virtual machine.
Azure provides and manages the infrastructure, while you take care of the software on the machine, from the operating system to the applications.
Platform as a Service (PaaS)
PaaS is the next rung up the Azure ladder. While IaaS allows users to build the most suitable computing environment for their organisation, PaaS allows for cloud-based development and deployment of applications.
In a nutshell, it’s a framework that allows developers to create services and apps, from building them to keeping them updated. The platform and the tools are both managed and kept updated by Azure. Developers are in complete control of what they do, yet thanks to Azure’s PaaS the amount of time-consuming coding they have to do is decreased
The tools reduce the amount of coding developers have to do, and costs are kept down because they only pay for what they use.
Still with us? Let’s see what the third and final category of Azure is.
Software as a Service (SaaS)
Azure’s SaaS category would probably be the one people are most familiar with, because it encompasses the ever-popular Office 365.
As well as their own cloud-based products, Azure facilitates businesses with deploying cloud-based software. It manages the necessary software and hardware, ensuring data security and providing the cloud infrastructure.
A Software as a Service is cloud-based, so you access the application over the internet rather than having it saved and stored on your computer. Let’s take Office 365 as an example – there’s all the tools like Microsoft Word and Excel, as well as email, communication and calendar services. They’re accessed over the web and available 24/7, with extensive support provided by Microsoft.
What are the Benefits of Microsoft Azure
We’ve gone through the three categories of Microsoft Azure. Remember if you have any questions about them, Smile IT will talk you through it.
Now let’s see how Microsoft Azure can provide value to your business.
Azure is Scalable and Flexible
It doesn’t matter if you operate out of your garage or are part of a multi-national enterprise, Azure can be scaled to fit your business and IT demands. When you grow, Azure will grow with you. If you scale back, Azure does too.
By moving all your applications to the cloud, you can immediately enjoy the cost savings of not having to maintain in-house hardware and software. Plus the flexible expenditure of only paying for what you use will please any finance department! There will also be significant ROI in terms of the efficiency and productivity boosts your organisation will enjoy.
If anyone understands the significance of cyber security, it’s Microsoft. With a full-time security team managing Azure, they’re the leaders of the pack when it comes to protecting your data. Secure one-time sign-on, threat detection, encrypted links and data and DDoS protection are available to all users, no matter the size of their organisation.
Disaster Recovery and Backup
Your data is the cornerstone of your business, so you don’t want your datacentre to be vulnerable to floods or fires or electrical faults. With Azure, everything is stored in the cloud and there are built-in disaster recovery options that can restore your data within hours.
Microsoft has a wide footprint encompassing the entire globe. Thanks to their world-wide network of servers, the speed of deployment and operation is guaranteed to be fast no matter where you are. This global architecture allows you to step outside your current location and reach new markets.
Are you starting to get the picture of what an effective tool Microsoft Azure can be for your business? We hope this guide has been a useful introduction to what it is and why you should consider integrating it into your business IT infrastructure.
If you have any questions, please give us a ring on 1300 766 720. Our team are all big fans of Azure and we’d love it if you choose Smile IT to have a chat to you about i!
When he’s not writing tech articles or turning IT startups into established and consistent managed service providers, Peter Drummond can be found kitesurfing on the Gold Coast or hanging out with his family!