Azure explained: what is it and why do you need it?

Microsoft Azure is arguably the software giant’s biggest product, and that makes it a big deal for businesses. The cloud computing platform provides users with access to more than 600 individual cloud services, which businesses can mix and match to develop and scale their own applications. As the name suggests, the sky’s the limit – but this doesn’t get us any closer to the tangible benefits that Azure provides.

Cloud computing is a challenging subject to explain at the best of times, and perhaps never more so than in the case of an enormous platform like Azure. Here then is a brief primer on Microsoft’s cloud platform: what Azure is, why it’s important, and how harnessing Azure and the power of the cloud could be beneficial for your business.


What is Microsoft Azure?

As outlined above, Microsoft Azure is a cloud computing platform. What this means in physical terms is an untold number of data centres around the world, filled with powerful, networked computers. These computers can be harnessed to provide a number of services that would be beyond the capabilities of most businesses. By utilising Azure, they can pay for only the resources they require for the period they need them.

The services available through Microsoft Azure fall into more than 20 separate categories, from analytics to integration to content delivery. Of these, the most widely used are probably compute and storage. Compute resources allow you to create virtual machines (VMs), essentially a computer operating system hosted in the Cloud. From these VMs you can develop, test and run applications, which can take a variety of forms and purposes.

Storage is what it sounds like – hard drive space – though this can also take a number of forms. It is primarily sorted into structured data (formatted, searchable information such as in databases) or unstructured data (text files, images, videos etc). Beyond this however, cloud storage is also used to host big data projects, where enormous amounts of customer or usage data are collected for analysis, as well as for long-term archival purposes.


The value of cloud computing

Cloud computing has two key advantages for businesses: reliability and scalability. If you want to develop, test and host your own applications, you need a sophisticated IT infrastructure. This is not just expensive to deploy, but challenging to maintain, and requires significant expertise and resources.

Moreover, the resources you need to develop and host applications can vary depending on how demanding they are, how popular they become, and how long you intend to host them for. You may for instance predict that substantial resources will be required to host an application, and invest in expensive hardware. Once the application is no longer in service, your IT infrastructure is suddenly idle, squandering your investment.

On top of this, maintaining your own servers and IT infrastructure is a 24/7 job. With online services being available at all hours – and many businesses serving customers around the world – an outage outside of business hours could be devastating, both financially and reputationally. Even if you employ external IT support, the inability to access your physical infrastructure could prevent them from rectifying any issues.

Cloud computing allows you to circumvent all of these issues by outsourcing your cloud computing requirements. By using Microsoft Azure – or another cloud service provider – you’re not only gaining access to near unlimited resources, but resources which are managed and maintained for you. This allows you to scale your investment up or down as your requirements change, and removes any concerns about downtime or data loss.


How Microsoft Azure can help your business

The greatest benefit of Azure for businesses is its flexibility. As a flagship Microsoft product, Azure has the capability to provide enormous compute power and storage space at a moment’s notice. Their myriad of data centres around the world provide 24/7 access to the Azure suite of services, with the ability to scale your investment in line with your needs. Whatever service you need to deploy, you can be sure that Azure has both the capacity and strength of infrastructure to pull it off without a hitch.

Beyond this though, it’s the sheer number of possibilities that Azure affords businesses, and how it allows smaller firms to compete on an even field. Where the resources to build and operate software on a large scale were once limited to the companies that could afford the hardware, businesses of all sizes can now launch leading apps, operate internal software and analyse big data. The ability to rent hardware in the Cloud means businesses can experiment with software deployments in a way that just wasn’t possible until recently.

Familiar programming tools and languages allow your IT personnel to develop a range of cloud based applications, without having to worry about the infrastructure that supports them. As a Microsoft product, you can also expect full compatibility with apps such as Office 365, allowing you to integrate your Microsoft software into a single environment. Beyond this, however, Azure also offers a range of pre-built software for specific industries, including software tailored for financial companies and the public sector.

Azure gives you a trusted, reliable platform to achieve that with, but also one of immense scope and possibility. The hundreds of services that can be immediately deployed using Azure VMs make it quick and easy to implement new IT projects, and start to transform your business. Getting an edge in the modern business landscape increasingly means improving your digital presence, and Azure gives your IT personnel a set of tools with almost limitless potential.

The scale of Azure and the possibilities of cloud computing make it a difficult topic to break down, but the benefits to your business are numerous. By liaising with your IT department or staff, you’ll be able to get a fuller sense of exactly how Azure can help you to support your software deployments, and get the edge on your competitors.

Whatever software you need, internal or external, Azure can help you launch it – and Sota can help you get set up with Azure. To learn more about Azure and how you can harness the power of the Cloud, get in touch with Sota today.

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