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Leveraging the Power of Azure – Dipping Your Toes in the Cloud

I was recently speaking at a Microsoft-sponsored Azure workshop held at Select Technology. Talking to the customers it become clear very quickly that lots of them struggle with inflexibility and lack of scalability within their current IT infrastructure.

Unlike some of the enterprises I have worked for in the past, small businesses are not always fortunate enough to have large and redundant server/ network infrastructure which can be used for unexpected workload increase or simply research and development (R&D). Sometimes it can simply down to physical growth, the server room cannot host any more hardware.

In fact, I was recently talking to one of our clients who were looking to upgrade, or even possibly replace, two of their core business applications. The challenges they had were: one, no hardware to utilise for R&D and two, they preferred to test the product before investing in it to establish if its fit for purpose. The only option they believed they had was to put some capital investment into server and storage hardware, to be able to test these applications. We will see later on in this blog how we addressed these challenges for the client, without any investment in the hardware.

In this blog we will see how you can start looking at Azure to migrate workloads. Azure is a truly hybrid public cloud, which gives you the ability to leverage the power of the cloud in conjunction with your on-premise infrastructure.

Hybrid Public Cloud? Another IT buzz phrase?

Not really. How many of you out there are already using Microsoft Office 365, or online accounting packages, and still have files and applications on on-premise servers – if you do, you are hybrid. More and more application vendors are now providing online alternatives for their products, so hybrid environments are becoming more and more common.

So how can you start dipping your toes in the Cloud?

Research and Development – Azure gives you the ability to test new applications by quickly spinning up virtual infrastructure. It gives you the ability to get it wrong – yes that’s right, you don’t have to worry about over or under spec’ing hardware or a solution. Going back to the example at the beginning of the blog, we created 3 virtual machines for the client in Azure to test their new applications and make a decision on whether or not they wanted to adopt the application. It gave the developer the freedom to work on the application and right size the servers before going Live. The biggest advantage that they had was that they could simply turn it off and it will not cost them a penny, but what if the client had invested in the hardware to test the application, and then discovered it’s not fit for purpose?

Storage in Azure – Many of you Infrastructure engineers out there will be able to relate to this. Storage is one of the very expensive components in the IT infrastructure but no one really wants to own the data. People leave but data never leaves, it’s kept for that “just in case moment” and it’s the same with shared and application data. So it makes sense for such archive data to be migrated to Azure storage. Typically for the same amount of SAN storage, you can buy 4 times the Azure storage for archive data.

Extending your current infrastructure – If your infrastructure is at its full physical capacity, Azure becomes an obvious choice as it’s truly hybrid. It supports site to site VPNs and dedicated express routes into the Azure. You can host services into Azure without physically expanding your current server room.

Backup and Disaster Recovery (DR) – Many of the small to medium size businesses operate from a single premises. Data is backed up to a backup server on the same site and most of the time in the same server room. The only form of offsite backups are tapes or external hard drives. Gone are the days when once an evening backups were sufficient. Businesses want frequent backups throughout the day (refer to my colleague Russell’s blog of 16th May here). In addition, what about DR if you don’t have a secondary site? Azure’s site recovery manager gives you the ability to easily and economically have a DR solution without having the need for a secondary site.

Public Facing Apps – Businesses no longer operate in isolation. There is an increasing demand on businesses to share data with clients, partners and suppliers. If your infrastructure has the capacity and your internet lines are fast and resilient, you can probably achieve this internally. But what if they are not? I will give you an example of another client we recently worked for, who was in similar situation. The Customer had a 70-30 split between mobile engineers and office based staff. They were looking to upgrade their “Field Resource Allocation” software, accessed both internally and by the mobile engineers. It made sense to host the software at an easily accessible and central location and Azure was the obvious choice for them. The application is now in Azure, and accessible by both office based and mobile staff.

The sky is the limit when designing new solution and incorporating Azure, due to the hybrid nature of the platform. Above are just a few examples to provide food for thought but just imagine the possibilities of working with more mature workloads such as:

High Performance Compute
Business Intelligence and Analytics
SAP and SharePoint on Azure

At Select Technology we have a hybrid cloud-centric ethos and this is reflected by our Microsoft Gold Small and Midmarket Cloud Solution Partnership. Speak to us and we can help you with the options you have available to leverage the power of Azure.

Written by Mantej Yadav, Senior Project Consultant, MS Office 365 and MS Azure MCP.

With over 12 Years’ experience in Technical Roles ranging in Public, Private and Charity sectors, Mantej brings the experience working in the large corporates and passion for utilising IT tools to achieve business objectives.

With keen interest in virtualisation and cloud technologies, he is the in-house Cloud-Evangelist – “I get a buzz out of working with clients to identify their business IT requirements and design an IT solution which enables them to achieve their business objectives”.  

In addition to the providing IT Consultation to the clients, Mantej is keen on presenting and benefits of modern IT tools and speaking at events like Kent Vision Live 2020 and at Microsoft sponsored workshops.