You might have heard of Microsoft Azure, but do you know what it is?
And are you aware of the business benefits of Microsoft Azure?
This blog will tell you what you need to know, we’ll cover how Microsoft Azure protects and manages your data and how the Microsoft Azure Cloud works.
Firstly though, just to reassure you – here at OfficeTechHub, we’ve been building traditional IT networks since 1986 and we we’ve been working with Microsoft Azure since 2013. As a result, we’ve had plenty of time to explore what works and what doesn’t, so you’re in safe hands.
We’ve helped many businesses successfully migrate their company networks and systems to the cloud either fully or using hybrid cloud environments (a combination or cloud and local based options).
We understand people are wary about cloud services, and it’s common for clients to initially prefer to keep their servers and data in-house, however, when it comes to security, disaster recovery and data back up, cloud solutions are the safest and best option.
Microsoft Azure is a cloud platform.
Microsoft Azure consists of ‘building blocks’ that allow IT developers and designers to ‘build’ whatever IT related products they need / want to. These building blocks include hundreds of services and products which can be combined to create bespoke cloud solutions.
For example, this could be servers, networks, telephone systems, apps, websites, back-up systems, operating systems, data storage and more. The difference is that everything is built with “the cloud”, i.e. over the internet rather than on hardware situated on location at an office, home or workplace.
No, “cloud” is a generic term. There are three main cloud platforms.
The original and perhaps (currently) most used is Amazon Warehouse Services (AWS) which was the first platform of this kind. Here at OfficeTechHub, being early adapters when it comes to IT solutions, we initially used this platform. However, we switched to Microsoft Azure back in 2013 and have continued to use and recommend Azure ever since.
The third cloud platform is Google Cloud, familiar to many and consisting, not only of the recognisable Google mail and Google Drive but of many other solutions and products.
Without doubt there are three core benefits of Azure Cloud; security, backup and the ability to complement existing IT infrastructure.
Without doubt security has to be one of the biggest benefits to businesses using Microsoft Azure. The reason for this is the way data is stored…
Microsoft has a global network of data centre warehouses where all data is stored. Each of these data centres benefit from unrivalled security, fire safety and power back-ups. These data centres are very secure, you can’t get into them without having a pass, some have bio-metrics, face/finger print recognition etc.
Within this, each data centre potentially contains thousands of machines. This set up is replicated multiple locations around the world. The data stored within your systems will be stored within one of these data centres but additionally, Azure back up means that your data is replicated into other data centres as back up. As a result, if one data centre goes down, your data exists in another data centre where it can be easily (if set up correctly) accessed quickly to ensure minimum, (if any) disruption.
Cloud networks are very secure, more so than a local network. Local networks (those located on your device or on servers within your premises) are unlikely to have such extensive protection. If you have a fire, break in or flood – data stored this way is at risk. By putting into the Cloud all those risks are covered.
The Cloud has to be built securely so you can access it remotely, by building in security and access to the data; if one piece of hardware fails it automatically goes on to another piece of hardware. It’s got redundancy and reliability built in.
Because of the resilience built in to the cloud, data is more secure, nothing can get into that environment unless we open it up.
“Cloud security is like your home, Azure is the building blocks of your house, the builder chooses whether to include key locks on the windows, door locks, security cameras up, child locks on drawers. That’s what cloud security is, it’s secure, but ultimately it’s down to the builder/designer of whatever is being built to make it secure.”
David Wheeler, Technical Development Director, OfficeTechHub
The Cloud can be more secure than on premise options because more features are available. For example, take dual authentication – you can have it on premise but it’s easier to implement on the Cloud, where it’s also cheaper to run that kind of technology.
When working within the Cloud, back up is instantaneous. A common mistake people make is that when they’ve got a local PC and that’s backed up to the Cloud, they assume they’re safe. However, when working this way it can take three days for the initial back up to work in the Cloud.
This is all well and good, but if the network goes down, chances are that it’s going to take the same time to get it back. Imagine how much disruption this causes and how much it could potentially cost an organisation in the way of down time.
This is particularly crucial to companies using devices that generate cash for example cash tills – how much time can a retail organisation afford to lose if it’s tech goes down… every minute will be costing £££s. Therefore if these systems are set up and backed up within the cloud, recovery and and getting back on track can take minutes rather than days.
Implementing Azure doesn’t have to be a case of re-creating your IT infrastructure or networks from scratch. You can choose to work with a hybrid system whereby parts of your IT functions are in the cloud.
Examples of this include:
All that technology and much more is built into Azure and 365, you link the various cloud technologies together and it gives you the product, that’s just one thing that we can put into the Cloud and provide for customers.
Azure allows small businesses to benefit from the same technology as a Fortune 100 company – it’s the same data centre, the same kit. It would incur a cost, but this is comparatively low for the tech they’re benefitting from.
This is how it works. Within Azure we can access our Microsoft Cloud Solution Provider Program (CSP). When one of our team logs in they can see a list of all our customers. Our technician can click on one of the customers and access their specific portal and manage that customer’s whole network. Everything – including discs, network, remote access, servers, PCs from just that one place.
This enables us to manage applications across the Cloud for customers in the UK, and Hong Kong or anywhere in the world. The management of the network is simplified massively and as a result costs are decreased without the need to travel, response times are faster and the whole process a lot easier to manage.
Whatever your current infrastructure set up is, we can move as much as you want us to, from on premise onto the Cloud.
This can include phone systems (which helps with security), servers and PCs as well as company specific applications or programmes.
The only thing we can’t move into the Cloud is the cables around your building and Wi-Fi because you need the cables or Wi-Fi on premise. However, once there’s no traffic going through wires of your local network the cost is minimal, you can have so much more over Wi-Fi, you don’t need expensive switches because there’s not much data going across the cables. The main restriction is your band width in your location.
We are a Microsoft Gold Platform specialist, this means we’re specialists in Cloud Infrastructure, as such, we’re listed in the Microsoft Azure Marketplace – a directory for Microsoft partners.
If you’re in a business that is making money from your PC directly then it’s probably a good time to consider going migrating to the Cloud to pick up those benefits and never lose access to the PC that is generating the money.
On a larger scale network, a good time to upgrade is when it’s time to replace servers or other hardware. (Servers tend to be upgraded every 5 years or so, PCs every 3 years.) It’s a good time to change as we can discuss the options of how and what can be moved to the Cloud. Many organisations know they will be spending money at this point so it’s wise to check the best way to invest in their IT infrastructure. If you’ve got an IT review planned or budgeted then it might be the time to review your options and consider the Cloud.
The three key benefits of Microsoft Azure for businesses are:
Security – the Azure cloud, is safer and more protected than any on-site servers or networks.
Back-Up – the Azure cloud has multiple options for back up, meaning that should anything happen, IT systems and networks can be back up and running with minimal disruption in a very short time.
It complements existing IT structures – thanks to the in-build products, services and capabilities, Microsoft Azure can be built to run alongside or incorporate systems already in place.
Let OfficeTechHub get you up and running with Microsoft Azure
Get in touch to see how OfficeTechHub can help your business work smarter.