Get Your Head In the Cloud: An Introduction to Microsoft Azure

Get Your Head In the Cloud: An Introduction to Microsoft Azure

With the market for cloud solutions growing faster than my cat’s current need to topple my Christmas tree down, most companies are now using some kind of cloud business solution somewhere in their organization.

And for good reason!

Today, cloud computing accounts for a hefty 33% of IT budgets worldwide. A considerable glow up from past data storage technology, the cloud lets businesses access applications from anywhere, decreases data loss with regular backups to other servers, and saves companies considerable money on server maintenance by using remote resources, among other things.

WHICH CLOUD SERVICE IS RIGHT FOR ME?

So you’ve decided to migrate to the cloud! That’s great! You even have an idea of some of the cloud computing technologies out there (hint: we highlighted the top five cloud computing technologies here to help you get started). Even better! But how do you know which one is right for you and your business needs?

That is the question.

Thankfully, we’re here to arm you with the information you need to make your decision a little easier. 

In the first of this three-part series on cloud computing technology, we will cover an introduction to one of the most popular and well-known cloud computing platforms: Microsoft Azure. 

Sit back, grab a cup of coffee, and get ready to dive into all things Azure!

AN INTRODUCTION TO MICROSOFT AZURE

Are you one of those people who’ve heard the buzzword “Microsoft Azure Cloud”, and landed here to see what the heck that term actually means? Don’t worry, you’ve reached the right place. And if you stumbled here by accident, stick around! We promise you’ll learn something you might not know you needed or wanted to.

As you probably already know, you can take advantage of cloud computing services that offer rapid, reliable, remote, and on-demand computing power for cheap. They help with costs, scalability, and security, among a whole host of other things.

Many companies offer cloud services, including Microsoft’s cloud service, Azure.

Azure is a cloud computing platform created by Microsoft that developers and IT professionals use to build, deploy, and manage applications through their global data centers. 

Suppose you check out the Microsoft Azure website. You’ll be blessed with a directory chock full of hundreds of different services you can use, including complete virtual machines, databases, file storage, backups, and services for mobile and web apps. 

Digging through these hundreds of services, you’ll see that you can do practically anything. And for anything Azure doesn’t offer, you can set up a Windows or Linux virtual machine that hosts whatever software you want to use. 

What’s even more impressive is that Azure is one of the most popular cloud services in the world. In fact, over 95% of Fortune 500 companies use it. It’s more affordable than Amazon Web Services (AWS) and provides a robust marketplace of trusted third-party applications. 

We see you, Azure. We see you.

WHAT DOES AZURE DO?

Now that you know a little more about what Azure is, let’s chat quickly about what it does, which is, quite frankly, a lot. 

The Azure platform provides over 600 (that’s right, 600!!) specific services to its users, including but not limited to: 

  • Basic Web Services
  • Running Virtualized Computers
  • Remote Storage
  • Database Hosting
  • Centralized Account Management
  • Intelligent Bots
  • Mixed Reality
  • Machine Learning

Sheeeeeesh! That’s pretty incredible.

However, it’s important to note that the infrastructure on Azure isn’t just a bunch of services like the ones we mentioned above. You need to understand the basic pillars: compute, network, and storage. 

Everything on Azure is built on top of those pillars, and they form a foundation for your cloud infrastructure too. You can build your own architecture from infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) products, such as Azure Virtual Networks, Azure VMs, Azure VDI, and Azure Disc Storage. Or you can take advantage of the platform-as-a-service (PaaS) offerings, such as Azure SQL and Azure app services. All are built on top of the pillars, but offer different layers to build your business applications.

Whatever your computing needs are, Azure can help.

AZURE PROS AND STRENGTHS

Now, this wouldn’t be a proper post if we didn’t talk about both Azure’s strengths and weaknesses. After all, how else will we be able to successfully help you decide which cloud platform will work best for you? 

While cloud computing as a concept is a way to offer various levels of services through IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS, each cloud vendor is better at some things and less so at others. Let’s first explore some of the pros and strengths that Azure brings to the table. 

  1. Azure has a lot of data centers, a lot, and they keep expanding. This means services and your applications will be closer to users. It also means specific legal requirements for certain countries when it comes to cloud computing are more likely to be met.
  2. Because Microsoft has been supporting on-premises customers for 40-plus years, they have an extensive hybrid cloud offering to get all of their existing customers into the cloud. They also have very good integration with existing tools and technologies such as Visual Studio, Active Directory, and File Storage. 
  3. If you have applications written in the .NET framework, Azure is almost a no-brainer as well. Azure has the most industry certifications of any cloud provider, which can be useful for certain countries or industries when adhering to these.

AZURE CONS AND WEAKNESSES 

While there aren’t many drawbacks or areas of improvement for Azure, there are a couple which we’ll briefly highlight below.

  1. Since Azure is trying to be all things to all cloud-computing peeps, at times some services just don’t get enough attention. This can mean that the new data analytics service you’ve made that uses a certain Azure feature might fall behind a bit as the feature disappears. 
  2. Azure will try to keep up with every single trend in cloud computing, so the number of new and renamed services (thank you, Microsoft) can be overwhelming. The key is to focus on just the ones you need for your project.

USAGE AND INTEREST IN AZURE IS GROWING 

You know you’ve landed a great cloud computing technology when it only continues to get better and bigger with time. 

And that’s exactly what Azure is proving to do.

According to A Cloud Guru’s State of Cloud Learning report, cloud engineers are showing an immense increase in interest in Microsoft Azure courses and training at a rate much higher than interest in Google Cloud and AWS. ACG saw a rolling 3-month average of time spent on Azure learning up nearly 800% year-over-year, compared to between 50–100% for AWS and Google Cloud.

GETTING STARTED WITH MICROSOFT AZURE

If you like what you’ve heard so far, it only gets better, friends. Microsoft Azure is free for anyone to try for 12 months, and sign-up comes with a $200 bonus to use on Azure Marketplace applications during your first 30 days. We say that qualifies as a win-win. 

There are many cloud computing services on the market. Microsoft Azure is one of them. It lets businesses and individuals create, run, and manage applications and solve technical challenges flexibly across various clouds and on-premises data centers. 

If you choose to go with Microsoft Azure for all of your business needs, you won’t be disappointed. Unlike me, whose cat was, in fact, successful in claiming his first Christmas tree take-down.

Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the next installment of this three-part series on cloud computing technology where we take a look at Amazon Web Services.


Wendi Hansen

About Wendi Hansen

Content Strategist

Oh hey, there! My name is Wendi, and I write the wordy words that help lead Inventive's marketing strategy and sales efforts. With over eight years of professional writing experience, there's nothing I love more than using the power of words and digital media to tell a story, inspire, connect and spark positive change. I speak fluent gify and still haven't met a pun or ridiculously bad dad joke that I didn't immediately fall in love with. My personal motto: Live big, love hard, be kind, and pet just all of the doggos. Have an idea or project you want to collaborate on? Let's chat! I'd love to hear it.

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