Businesses around the country – and the world for that matter – have been spending quality time devising the right balance of on-premises vs. cloud computing, with many landing somewhere on the hybrid spectrum of solutions. But no matter how exactly it can benefit your small business, our current reality is cloud computing enables organizations of every size to grow well beyond previous expectations.
When doing research on the topic it may feel like the tools and resources are endless and boundless. From car dealerships to caddies and well beyond, tools aid in every kind of decision-making situation. No, we’re not talking about PAT from the 1999 Disney Channel Original Movie Smart House (did you know it was directed by LeVar Burton??), but instead a collection of advanced programs that give businesses everywhere tools they would otherwise not be able to afford to house.
While there are plenty of industry-specific tools that can aid in overcoming challenges, Microsoft Azure stands at the head of the pack for countless reasons. Today, we will cover what Microsoft Azure is, how your small business can best leverage its offerings, and finally, we’ll answer some common questions that pop up around Azure.
What is Microsoft Azure?
Born in 2008 and debuted to the public in 2010, Azure (now Microsoft Azure as a nod to its complete range of integrations) is a powerful web-based cloud platform that now serves Linux and other developers through data centers in 60 regions and 140 countries. The full range of services covers much more than relocating on-premises servers to the cloud.
In addition to Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) resources, users have access to a full range of Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS) options, affording organizations the opportunity to use cloud-based services without the need to manage a server. Developers can use Azure storage and services as building blocks, without having to worry about the security or reliability of the underlying infrastructure.
Microsoft Azure only has two real competitors, Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud Platform, so it stands tall as an ever-expanding collection of cloud-based services available to aid businesses, developers, government agencies, and anyone else looking for additional computing power without requiring hardware on-site. Azure offers hundreds of digital services affording developers the opportunity to build apps, as well as third-party products including Linux distributions and additional software.
With so much power available, Azure has been the fastest-growing business segment for the Microsoft organization in recent years and in recent years has grown to become larger than both Windows and Office in terms of revenue. Azure easily clicks into place with all of those Microsoft products, making it incredibly popular and at 10 years old one of the easiest to integrate into your business to compete with the best of the best.
What are the benefits of utilizing Microsoft Azure?
Every business is different, but it’s obvious that data and high-powered computing can and should be leveraged by organizations of every shape, size, and industry. And though it may seem difficult to quantify how specifically these programs will aid your team, there are some case studies that point to Microsoft Azure’s overall effectiveness and capabilities.
One of the top fashion retailers in the world, ASOS was looking to provide shoppers with targeted recommendations but needed a way to consolidate three separate solutions it used for its data models while additionally creating a pathway toward collaboration for its data science teams. Asos leveraged the Microsoft Azure Machine Learning service to standardize the different elements, reducing time-to-market for a recommendations model that increases marketing agility from six months to about six weeks.
“By unifying our tech stack and bringing our engineers in Big Data and online software together with data scientists, we got our development time down from months to just a few weeks.”
– Naeem Khedarun: Principal Software Engineer, Asos
As an automotive industry giant, Daimler is most well known for its family of automobiles, including Mercedes, which understood that lagging behind the curve was unacceptable. To put a little spring in their data’s step, Daimler used, and continues to use, Microsoft Azure DevTest Labs to develop solutions in Azure. The company can now onboard new developers in hours instead of weeks, connecting new ideas with infrastructure faster, and attracting top talent with a world-class development group.
“Since using Azure DevTest Labs, we’ve seen our developer onboarding process drop from weeks to hours."
– Peter Rothlaender: Manager of Cloud Solutions, Daimler AG
The above examples all touch on unique utilizations of the Azure platform, but the general capabilities are as varied as the organizations tapping into the resources. There’s the Azure SQL Database, a fully managed service that can be used as Managed Instances to migrate on-premises workloads or deployed from scratch to supply SQL database as a service, app development tools and services through Azure DevOps, Container storage and services to scale quickly, and MUCH much more.
FAQ about Microsoft Azure
While we can’t think of every single question you may have we find there are some regular questions our partners bring up about Microsoft Azure.
How much does Microsoft Azure cost?
Visual Studio, BizSpark, and Microsoft Partner Network members receive additional monthly credits toward the use of Azure, and there is a FREE ACCOUNT that includes up to $200 worth of credit for the first month as well as access to a handful of popular services that are free for the first year.
How should my business be using Microsoft Azure?
As developers … develop … new ways to use cloud-based resources, the possibilities somehow become more endless every day. But for now, most businesses are leveraging Azure for one of four things: Data Backup & Recovery, Hosting for Web Development & Apps, Distributing or Supplementing Active Directories, and Further Innovating with IoT Solutions.
How secure is Microsoft Azure?
It’s impossible to say anything is impenetrable, just ask the builders of the Titanic. (Sorry to spoil the movie for you – the book is better anyway.) But to Microsoft, and especially to the cloud developers who work with Azure, security and privacy are absolutely critical. Microsoft as an organization is committed to security – which you can read all about here – and offers the widest range of compliance offerings for any cloud provider in the market.
Does Azure work in my industry?
Why yes, reader, it does! No, we don’t need to know what industry you’re in because, quite frankly, if you’re using data or digital components at all there are ways to take advantage of Azure’s offerings. No matter what challenges your team faces, Azure addresses industry-specific through combinations of cloud products and services that aid your team in both solving today’s problems and planning for tomorrow’s challenges.
What do I do with my additional questions?
Let them fester in the pit of your stomach, of course. Wait… no… that’s the opposite of what you should do… If you have more questions, that’s why we’re here! Though the limit does exist somewhere, for most organizations that limit is capped by the imagination of those aiming to develop new solutions to new and old problems through our knowledge of its resources.
Cloud computing solutions aren’t just for big businesses, and those across industries that have taken a step into today’s futuristic product offerings are seeing their investments and efforts pay off beyond their wildest dreams. No matter how you choose to leverage your resources, it’s important you try… and sign up for the $200 credit with a free account if you’re looking to try things out.
To learn more about how Azure can improve your business, give us a call at (864) 552-1291 and we'll help you evaluate capabilities and options. Also, sign up for PTG Tech Talk for bi-monthly tech news and consider following us on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter!