Cloud computing applications have taken the world by storm. They offer many advantages to different industries that operate with them. They make complicated processes easier and more secure. But some businesses still don't have this technology in their system.
While there are hundreds of reputable cloud computing platforms, Azure has been a big game-changer in the past. It provides various computing services to make your operations run more smoothly.
But what is Azure, and how does it work?
In this article, we'll discuss everything you need to know about Microsoft Azure. We'll take a closer look at its basics — including its uses and services. We'll also discuss the pros and cons of using it for your company.
What is Azure?
Formerly known as Windows Azure, Microsoft Azure is a public cloud computing platform like Google Cloud and Amazon Web Services. It gives you access to vital computing resources, such as virtual machines, data backup, and storage.
As of writing, Azure has more than 40 storage systems worldwide. Once your business connects to its data centers, you can access your previously stored data to your advantage.
Discover the major differences between the three biggest cloud computing services on our Google Cloud vs. AWS vs. Azure guide.
What is Microsoft Azure Used for?
Microsoft Azure lets you develop, run, and manage apps to meet your company's goals. You can use it in almost any industry, like e-commerce and finance. In fact, it's already made a name of its own with Fortune 500 companies because of its flexibility and efficiency.
In particular, you can develop cloud-based resources such as databases and virtual machines in Azure. You can also launch web and mobile apps without prior knowledge of coding. You can even incorporate them into your operations and store necessary company data.
What is Azure Cloud and Why Use It?
There are many reasons why your business should operate with Azure computing. You can develop new web applications, store numerous data, and integrate them into your operations in a centralized web portal.
Here's a closer look at each reason:
1. You can develop new web applications.
Companies may need personalized web applications to run their operations more smoothly. With Azure, you can create, test, and host new apps at arm's reach.
2. You can run virtual machines and hard drives.
You can create virtual machines and use virtual hard drives for added storage through Azure. This way, you can gather more useful information for your company.
3. You can store and recover vital company data.
As a cloud computing platform, one of Azure's basic functions is to store your data in its online servers. You can also use them whenever based on what works best for your business.
4. You can integrate different features into your operations.
Azure lets you integrate virtual devices and databases into your existing operations. This way, you can keep things going for your business.
What Does Azure Do?
Wondering what is Azure used for? You'll discover more than 200 services in Azure's web portal. You can perform cloud-based services such as:
- Data Storage
- Mobile and Web Development
However, we'll focus on three of the best Azure services in this guide — computing, data storage, and networking.
One of Azure's best suites is its computing features. With it, you can modify cloud services, functions, and virtual machines for your app development:
- Cloud Services: You can deploy scalable and configurable cloud-based apps easily. Azure will also monitor their health, load balancing, and more.
- Functions: You can develop new apps through different programming infrastructures on Azure.
- Virtual Machines: You can develop virtual machines under Linux, Windows, or more within a few seconds.
Azure also has storage services that store thousands of terabytes of data. It features blob storage, disk storage, queue storage, and table storage:
- Blob Storage: You can store text and binary data on Azure through this feature.
- Disk Storage: You can run virtual machines and store data on a hard disk drive (HDD) or solid-state drive (SSD).
- Queue Storage: You can transfer and store messages across different cloud-based services with this type of storage.
- Table Storage: You can store semi-structured NoSQL data through this feature.
Microsoft Azure cloud also excels in its networking services. You can use their CDN and DNS servers, load balancer, and virtual network:
- Content Delivery Network (CDN): Azure has a CDN that helps you transfer data worldwide.
- Domain Name System (DNS): Azure also has a DNS that lets you host domains through its platform.
- Load Balancer: You can ensure network performance to offset internet traffic through your virtual machines.
- Virtual Network: You can access Azure services privately and securely by performing network isolation and segmentation.
How Does Microsoft Azure Work?
Before using Azure, you'd have to subscribe to one of its customer support options — Basic, Developer, Standard, Professional Direct, or Enterprise.
After subscribing, you'll get access to Azure's basic services through its web portal. You can then play around with its cloud computing applications:
- Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS): Commonly used by IT administrators, IaaS does fundamental operations like processing, networking, and storage.
- Platform as a Service (PaaS): App developers prefer PaaS more because of its web development features like a programming language execution environment and operating system.
- Software as a Service (SaaS): Different users can use a single version of Azure’s program with SaaS. It’s centrally hosted and managed from a single source.
- Serverless function: There’s no need for servers with Azure’s serverless functions. Instead, you can rely on their back-end services and machine resources on demand.
These cloud-based services let you run virtual machines and databases for your business. You can also host Domain Name System (DNS) servers, networking, and the Azure Structured Query Language (SQL).
On top of this, Azure allows you to create archival data storage for backup and disaster recovery.
You can even launch third-party apps through its web portal for an added cost.
Using Azure gives your company a competitive advantage. It helps you develop apps easily while protecting your data and lowering expenses.
Here are some of the benefits of using Azure:
1. Backup and disaster recovery
You can back up and recover your data anytime on Azure. Thanks to its offsite replication, it can store your vital company data for up to 90 years across its data centers. Besides this, you can schedule your backups daily, weekly, or monthly to prevent downtimes.
2. Web and mobile app development
Azure can help you with your app hosting, development, and management needs. It supports all languages and frameworks and streamlines your codes. This way, you can focus more on improving your app and customer experience.
3. Enables continuous company innovation
Azure is highly scalable, flexible, and secure. It lets you operate hybrid seamlessly by connecting, monitoring, and managing multiple devices on the platform. You can also get useful insights about your company to ensure its continuous improvement.
Although Azure has many advantages, it isn't perfect. It has a fair share of disadvantages when using it.
Here are some cons of using Azure:
1. Azure’s web-based portal has limitations.
Since Azure is a cloud computing platform, it can't perform its functions properly if it's not connected to the internet. It also uses a lot of bandwidth, making it run slower than programs installed on your desktop.
2. Azure is challenging to learn for beginners.
Azure has four different cloud computing services – IaaS, PaaS, SaaS, and its serverless function – that are challenging to use. There could also be hidden fees during its data transfer which could be a big headache for companies.
3. Azure has slow customer support.
Since Microsoft owns Azure, we can expect high volumes of customers reaching out to their customer support team every day. So getting them to answer your questions and concerns may take some time.
Microsoft Azure Case Studies
You can use Azure's services regardless of your company's niche. In fact, hundreds of case studies have proved that it can work in almost any industry.
Here are several real-life examples of where you can use Azure:
Example 1 - Fresh food & delivery industry
A company from the food industry wanted to modify its existing delivery system. It wanted to study its customers' buying patterns and deliver more fresh goods through its temperature-controlled vans.
Since its existing system uses Microsoft technologies, Azure's SQL, mobile, cloud, and storage services provided positive results to the company. Its new system can now handle huge amounts of data from millions of customers. It can also store and analyze their buying behaviors.
Example 2 - Media broadcasting industry
Another company that used Azure to address its problems comes from the media broadcasting industry. The company's mission is to provide entertainment and information through TV shows, radio, and live events.
This media broadcasting agent wanted to minimize its downtimes and storage costs to meet its viewers' demands. But unfortunately, it doesn't have an infrastructure to manage structured and unstructured user content.
With the Azure technology, it had access to storage, health monitoring, traffic control, and active directory services. Thus, it can now host more than 500 events with fewer downtimes. It also incorporated the 'Go-LIVE' feature into its existing system.
Overall, Microsoft Azure is a robust cloud computing platform. It has comprehensive functions and services to help you develop, deploy, and manage apps. You should now have a good overview of what is Azure and its functions, benefits, and drawbacks.
You can learn Microsoft Azure today to know how to use its services to your company's advantage.
Ready to become an Azure expert?
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Is Azure easy to learn?
No, Azure isn't easy to learn. You'd need to put enough time and effort into learning it. But the platform provides comprehensive samples and guidelines to navigate its web portal easily. And if you've used Amazon Web Services before, using Azure will be easy because of their similar infrastructure.
2. Does Azure require coding?
No, you don't need any prior knowledge in coding to use Azure. It's a web-based portal with its functionalities and services on the cloud.
3. What skills are needed for Azure?
You'd need problem-solving, management, communication, and critical thinking skills for Azure. Having prior knowledge in cloud-based app creation, testing, and security are also a plus. You can check our Azure interview questions to know how to evaluate developer candidates.
4. When did Azure launch?
Microsoft began its development for Azure in 2008. After two years, it officially launched the cloud computing platform as Windows Azure. But in 2014, they renamed the program to Microsoft Azure.