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An engineer’s journey into Microsoft Azure, what should we know?

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Back in 2021 we welcomed the very lovely Ben Osbourne to #TeamCorbel. Having hit the ground running he has the most wonderful rapport with our clients, gaining glowing feedback on his professionalism and expertise for his on site work. Alongside this, his enthusiasm and drive to seize all opportunities led to him completing his Microsoft Azure Accreditation, supporting us, as your local IT support experts, to offer unrivalled cloud services in Ipswich.

Here, in this weeks blog Ben personally shares what he has learnt from becoming an Azure expert and what you really need to know.

Recently I undertook training in Azure Fundamentals, this is a course offered by Microsoft which gives you an expansive overview of what Azure is, how it’s costed, what it is capable of and how to take advantage of it. Microsoft Azure is a cloud hosted service which means you only need an internet connection in order to take advantage of it.

The cloud. It really feels like another buzzword at this point or a public Wi-Fi you can connect to at a train station, but the truth is you probably use it more than you even realise.

The iCloud or Google Drive you pay for on your phone, your Microsoft 365 subscription you pay for to gain access to those useful apps, the cloud gaming service you boot up after a long day at work to relax and switch off. All of these are a utilization of a cloud model that you probably didn’t put too much thought into even being a cloud service in the first place – I didn’t!

1. What is the cloud?

What is the cloud? Is it one of the many fluffy shapes floating about in the sky? Is there a way we can accumulate 9 of them to achieve a zen like state? I hate to break it to you but it’s actually none of those things.

At it’s most basic, the cloud is a service or resource you access that is not local to you. The data you’re accessing is not on your device in your hand but actually in a datacentre somewhere else in the world and you’re likely accessing it though your terrestrial internet connection.

Some common cloud services you may already be using:

  • Microsoft 365
  • Dropbox
  • iCloud Drive
  • Google Drive
  • Netflix
  • Disney +
  • Xcloud
  • Geforce Now

The list goes on!

2. What is Azure?

Azure is Microsoft’s cloud solution for scaling computing into the cloud. Microsoft Azure can host many services, currently in the hundreds and will soon be in the thousands! An easy way of understanding how it could be useful to you is thinking about it in the following way.

Scenario 1 – On premises

You are about to undergo an IT refresh, your IT infrastructure is ageing and well past the point of a needed upgrade. You spend £20k on a new server, backup solution and network infrastructure. That equipment is now yours and you own it, you are also responsible for all physical maintenance on the equipment and keeping the software up to date. You also must pay for the electricity costs to run the hardware and pay for replacement parts when they’re needed if your device falls out of warranty.

Two months down the line you pick up a new contract and need substantially more storage space for data, the server you own doesn’t have enough physical room for more drives. You have to buy a disk shelf and 10 hard drives at an additional upfront cost to your business.

A year later, the contract doesn’t renew. You now have a load of infrastructure that is not being utilized and is no longer needed. You do not want to sell the drives due to potential data breaches so you have to write off the cost of them and have them professionally destroyed. You sell the disk shelf at a fraction of the cost you spent on it a year ago.

Scenario 2 – Azure (cloud) hosted infrastructure

You are about to undergo an IT refresh, your IT infrastructure is ageing and well past the point of a needed upgrade. You build a virtual network in Microsoft Azure, build a set of new servers in Azure and transfer your data to them. You learn that you can actually host your business applications through Azure as well, you cut off your on premises hosting costs and host them in Azure.

Two months down the line you pick up a new contract and need substantially more storage space for data. You scale up your requirements in Microsoft Azure and add substantially more storage to your storage server. You add this onto your current bill and pay monthly for the extra data.

A year later, the contract doesn’t renew. You scale you needs down in Microsoft Azure and remove the monthly cost for the additional storage needed.

3. Benefits of Microsoft Azure?

Microsoft Azure is a platform totally scalable to your business needs, you cut out the hardware and maintenance costs and just pay for what you use. If hardware in the datacentre fails it’s fairly unlikely you’ll notice it, this is because Microsoft Azure uses something called regions and availability zones. This means if one datacentre decides to pack up your services are automatically moved over to an available location that can host it for you.

Of course there are alternatives to cloud hosted infrastructure such as AWS and Google Cloud as well as some smaller players in the space such as Linode. The huge benefit you get with using Azure if you get the calibre of a Microsoft product and the SLAs that come with using their services.

4. Potential drawbacks of Microsoft Azure?

Microsoft Azure is cloud hosted so reliant on an internet connection. If the internet connection goes down your access to your infrastructure is stifled. That being said, I can’t think of any modern business that could function without an internet connection for any sustained period of time. At some level, that connectivity enables all businesses to function.

There is a monthly cost to Microsoft Azure, often people see this and think the upfront and self-hosted route is more financially viable. My response to that is to add all the cost of expansion, replacement and then an actual refresh of all infrastructure a few years down the line and Microsoft Azure nearly always works out cheaper.

5. So, what’s next?

My hot take personally, is that nearly everything we consume and how we trade and do business will continue to take the trajectory to cloud hosted infrastructure. It’s already been heading that way but with the growth and expansion of Microsoft Azure, cloud computing and cloud hosted infrastructure will become the standard in our industry.

I think we’ll access more of our work through tablets, phones and augmented reality. I think within the next 20 years a lot of us will work within in a metaverse model attending virtual offices and accessing and working on resources in completely different geographical locations to us virtually.

If you would like any further information on Cloud Backup, Cloud Solutions or even Disaster Recovery check out our website, or give us a call with any IT support and services questions you have to 01473 241515.

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