INSIGHT ARTICLE

Getting started with Microsoft Azure

SUMMARY

Azure, Microsoft’s public cloud platform, offers more than 300 products and cloud services designed to help organizations build, run and manage technology solutions with tools and frameworks that help them bring them to life.  In this article, we’ll answer some common questions about Azure.

You probably hear a lot of talk about going to the cloud, but what does that really mean?

The cloud is defined as a computing service offered by a third-party provider over the internet. There are multiple cloud architectures including public clouds, which are available to anybody who wants to pay to use them.

Public cloud infrastructure can be deployed faster than on-premise infrastructure and offers an almost infinitely scalable platform. When managed correctly, a public cloud also can support faster go-to-markets and expanded profitability.

Azure is Microsoft’s public cloud platform and offers more than 300 products and cloud services designed to help organizations build, run and manage technology solutions with tools and frameworks that help them bring them to life.  Some highlights of Microsoft Azure include:

  • More than 90 compliance offerings—the most in the industry—spanning numerous industries and countries
  • 95% of Fortune 500 companies trust some part of their business to Azure
  • Microsoft makes a $1 billion investment per year in security to protect customers’ data from cyberthreats

RSM has extensive experience with public cloud technology and implementing Azure. This allows us to help you optimize one or many Azure services to fit your business needs and meet you where you are in your cloud journey.

1. How are businesses like mine using Microsoft’s cloud today?

Microsoft offers a broad, ever-expanding set of cloud-based technology services that are available to businesses, developers and government agencies.

Microsoft’s cloud technologies can be classified into three main categories:

  1. Software as a Service (SaaS): Software solutions that are completely managed by a third-party and made available over the internet. Examples of Microsoft SaaS solutions are popular business applications such as Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Dynamics 365.
  2. Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS): Pay-as-you-go infrastructure, such as storage, networking and virtualization.  Microsoft Azure has a number of different IaaS options.
  3. Platform as a Service (PaaS): Solutions enabling applications and data solutions.  There are a number of Microsoft Azure PaaS solutions enabling data analytics, artificial intelligence and other solutions.

2. Is Azure secure?

Yes, security and privacy are foundational for Azure. Microsoft is committed to the highest levels of trust, transparency, standards conformance and regulatory compliance—with the most comprehensive set of compliance offerings of any cloud service provider.

Azure security is multi-layered and starts with secure physical datacenters, infrastructure and operations at Azure’s global datacenters worldwide. The Azure cloud itself is built with customized hardware, has security controls integrated into the hardware and firmware components, and offers added protections against threats such as denial of services (DDoS) attacks.

Microsoft also has a team of 3,500 global cybersecurity experts who work to safeguard business assets and data in Azure using advanced technologies such as machine learning, behavioral analytics and application-based intelligence.

While Azure provides a secure, highly available foundation from which businesses can build, it is important to understand that all public clouds operate using a shared responsibility model. This means certain security tasks are handled by the cloud provider, and certain tasks are handled by the cloud user.  Just because Azure is secure does not mean you can’t configure your assets in an unsecure manner.  Fortunately, Azure provides a number of tools to help you implement and maintain secure solutions.

Learn more about the Azure shared responsibility model

3. Will Azure really help me save money?

With no upfront costs, you only pay for what you use. Azure provides a number of flexible purchasing and pricing options for all your cloud scenarios and offers extensive tools to help manage the costs of your cloud.

But while today’s cloud is designed for cost optimization and reducing the capital expenditures associated with on premise technologies, some customers are not always aware of what is going on in their environment and can be unpleasantly surprised by their cloud invoices.

To avoid surprise bills and optimize your technology budget, consider working with RSM to architect your cloud infrastructure and manage your ongoing cloud spend. We are a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner and keep our focus on you, your business and your goals.

Talk to RSM to learn more about best practices.

4. Does using Azure mean I’m moving all of my applications to public cloud?

Not necessarily. Some applications are a better fit for a private cloud or no cloud at all. The question should really be: What should I put in the cloud?

When evaluating whether a particular application is suitable for the cloud, some of the factors to consider are the application’s ability to migrate, performance, security and cost.

When performing cost versus benefit analysis regarding moving applications to the cloud, some important factors in your analysis should include internal hardware costs and whether existing infrastructure can be leveraged; license costs for third-party software, internal operational expenses for managing internal infrastructure and software, power and cooling costs; data privacy and industry-specific compliance requirements; and for capital purchases, the cost of capital leases and depreciation.

The answers to these questions, along with guidance from a trusted partner like RSM, can help you decide where your workload should reside. This could be in a centralized datacenter if you have multiple facilities, in the co-located RSM cloud or completely in a public cloud such as Azure.

Learn more about the 950 consultants across the U.S. and Canada that support RSM’s technology consulting practice and help customers determine their cloud strategy.

5. Once we move applications to the cloud, how difficult is it to move them again if it doesn’t work the way we planned?

Not as difficult as you think. This is part of the power of cloud computing.

RSM has orchestration tools that can help make these types of changes when needed. For example, we can look at a workload and make decisions about where it should be located based on factors such as its usage and performance.  

Applications with unpredictable usage may be best suited to public cloud with its elastic IT resources. Workloads with more predictable characteristics can often run on-premise at a lower cost than public cloud.  RSM can help you make decisions about moving workloads to the RSM cloud or back on-premise.

Many companies today are opting for a hybrid cloud strategy where private clouds, public clouds and on premise technology are all utilized allowing applications to be placed where it makes the most sense.

Learn more about hybrid and multicloud solutions with Azure.

6. Is Azure only for Microsoft applications?

No. There are close to 300 different types of services and technology workloads you can put into Azure.

For example, RSM often designs systems that reside in Azure and include both Microsoft and industry-specific RSM-built applications. Microsoft even provides services licensing Linux and data analytics solutions from other technology vendors. In addition, your IT development team can develop its own applications using Azure.

Learn more about RSM’s industry-specific solutions

7. So where do I begin?

The best place to start in your cloud journey is to focus on your business needs first, then carefully build a strategy and roadmap to help you get there.

Trusted partners like RSM and Microsoft Azure can meet you where you are in your cloud journey.  Read more about how we can help you along the way.

Speak to an RSM Microsoft advisor today!

Geoff Hopkins

Principal