You’ve probably heard of Microsoft Azure by now, but if you’re still in the dark about what Azure is, how it can benefit your business, and how to get started, you’re not alone in your cloud confusion.
There’s no arguing that the future of computing is in the cloud. People are using more and more cloud services (even if they don’t realize it), and businesses are moving to digitally transform their operations, utilizing the power of cloud computing to become more effective, efficient, and competitive.
Seventy-three percent of organizations have at least one application, or chunk of their infrastructure, in the cloud already, according to a recent report. A further 17% plan to make a move toward the cloud within the next year. Average spend on cloud computing is also increasing, rising from $1.62m per business in 2016 to $2.2m today. And it’s not just enterprises who are shelling out to ensure their business is at the forefront of this digital shift; SMBs now typically invest around $889,000 in cloud tech, up 210% on the average 2016 budget.
As a leader in the cloud tech industry, many of those businesses taking advantage of cloud services will be using Microsoft Azure. Earlier this year, Microsoft posted revenue of over $110bn for the first time in its history; a cash boost powered largely by Azure and Microsoft’s other intelligent cloud services.
It might seem like everyone is doing it, but cloud computing is still a fairly new phenomenon, and there’s still a lot of misunderstanding and misinformation about the cloud. But worry not, we’re going back to basics to offer straightforward answers to the questions you were too afraid to ask with our Microsoft technology FAQ series.
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What is cloud computing?
Let’s start off at the very beginning. Cloud computing is simply the practice of using the internet to access storage, software, and services, instead of storing, installing, and running programs on your own hardware.
So, you might use a cloud computing service like Microsoft OneDrive or Google Drive to store your files. Rather than saving these files on your own computer, where they take up space on your hard drive, they’re stored on Microsoft’s computers — huge servers that can be accessed whenever you need them via an internet connection.
Cloud software works the same way. The software will be installed and run on a remote server belonging to the company that makes the software, and when you want to use it, you connect to a website and access your account from there, using the web browser rather than a traditional desktop program.
There’s an almost limitless number of ways cloud computing can be used, which gives users access to massive amounts of computing power that they may not otherwise be able to generate themselves. There are a lot of benefits that come with cloud computing, which is why it’s taking off so rapidly.
All you need to access cloud apps and services is a device and an internet connection, meaning the burden of buying and maintaining hardware and servers is lessened for businesses. Cloud software is often cheaper and paid for on a pay-as-you-go basis, so companies don’t have to shell out huge amounts of money to buy the software upfront.
Cloud computing also makes software, files, and other services accessible anywhere, at any time, on any device, providing you have an internet connection.
What is Microsoft Azure?
Microsoft Azure is a cloud computing service offered by Microsoft. There are over 600 services that fall under the Azure umbrella, but broadly speaking, it is a web-based platform on which applications and services can be built, tested, managed, and deployed.
A wide range of Microsoft’s software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), and infrastructure as a service (IaaS) products are hosted on Azure. Azure offers three core areas of functionality; Virtual Machines, cloud services, and app services.
What are virtual machines?
One of the most popular and useful services available through Azure is virtual machines.
A virtual machine is a computer file, sometimes called an image, that acts like a real computer. VMs typically run in a window like traditional computer programs. This computer-within-a-computer is boxed off from the rest of the system so that any changes made or software run within the VM won’t “leak” into the host machine.
VMs provide a sandbox environment in which developers can safely test things like beta releases, access virus-infected data, build system backups, and run applications on operating systems they may not be naturally compatible with, without the risk of damage to the wider system.
Several VMs can be run simultaneously on the same machine, and each VM has its own virtual hardware, including CPUs, memory, hard drives, network interfaces, and other devices. The virtual hardware can be mapped to the physical hardware, cutting costs by reducing reliance on actual hardware systems and their associated maintenance costs.
What is Microsoft Azure used for?
There are hundreds of services available through Azure; practically any cloud computing product that a business could need can be found on the platform. In terms of scope, Azure covers more regions than any other cloud provider and is the only consistent hybrid cloud.