Cloud Computing deployments has blown up in recent years and the reasons are evident. We still have isolated or hybrid environments but services like MS Azure are making it easier to provision computing services day by day.

Let’s start with a very basic question - What is cloud computing?

In simple terms cloud computing is a collaboration software applications, services, and hardware on the internet. It helps companies and its administrators from using local servers or personal computers to run business.

There are many dominant players in the market. You must have heard of Amazon Web Services, Adobe Creative Cloud, Google Cloud Platforms etc. etc. Some companies prefer to specialise in specific areas, like storage. Dropbox is such a provider. There is some tight competition from other market leaders as well like Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive and Apple iCloud. Some other providers like Microsoft provide a plethora of services to manage each and every requirement of your business to run successfully.

How does cloud computing help your business to grow successfully?

In simple terms cloud computing can serve as your technology backbone. Cloud computing is evidently one of the most technological advantage in ages. It allows users to manage their work remotely, collaborate with peers in real time. Everything is accessible and at the same secure as well. Moreover, the burden of regular maintenance is now taken off the shoulder of each business and is managed by the service provider. This is a huge relief and you’re always working with the most up-to-date version without any headaches.

Microsoft Azure is one of the cloud computing platforms that provides IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service), PaaS (Platform as a Service), SaaS (Software as a Service) and supports a wide range of Infrastructure, storage and other tools.

Let’s pause here for a moment. Before we move ahead, it’s worth elaborating what above terms mean.

Infrastructure as a Service

Infrastructure as a Service or IaaS helps your business to efficiently deal with challenges of maintaining the servers and physical infrastructure locally in their own premises. Microsoft Azure lets your business scale “on-demand” as per the needs almost instantly. This doesn’t mean that your own premises setup cannot scale, but many a times this scale ups are not economically viable for the business.

Software as a Service

Software as a Service or SaaS, as it’s usually called, are cloud software applications that exists on the internet that you access from your web browser. It doesn’t matter if you’re running them on a Mac, PC, Smartphone or tablet. One of the benefits of a SaaS product is they can run on multiple devices (and quite often for a nominal subscription fee – or sometimes free). Examples for such a SaaS application is Microsoft Office 365.

Platform as a Service

Platform as a Service or PaaS is a cloud-based environment that’s designed to support the build, running, and management of applications. Microsoft Azure is an example for this. One of the key benefits of introducing PaaS to your business is that it can often shield you from maintaining lower-level infrastructure components and helps you manage the whole platform from a browser.

What Azure has in its kitty

With a plethora of services in the platform, Microsoft Azure has you covered. You could manage all these services from the Azure dashboard. Portal.azure.com is the command centre from where you can create and administer servers, computing services, and monitor your existing cloud infrastructure.

Apart from the well-known features like VM management, Database Service, Application Service etc, I am putting light on some of the other feature that benefits the developer community.

Azure Data Factory

The Azure Data Factory lets you process structured on-premise data such as SQL Server together with cloud data like Azure SQL Databases and Blobs (binary large objects). These datasets can be modified during processing to get the data model the way businesses want it.

For example, you might want to process a large volume of social media input along with the data from your internal source. You can do all the transformative analytics while the Azure Data Factory handles all of the hard work associated with such tasks.

Azure Search

Search is an essential component for almost all web-based tools and applications. Microsoft Azure Search is a service that allows you to embed rich search functionality into your applications and provides a search engine that can be managed with the API using REST endpoints.

Some of the key features of this service include, but are not limited to:

Rich structured queries: Combine search with structured filters, sorting, paging, and projection to introduce application-defined restrictions and presentation options.

Faceting: Compute hit counts by category.

Suggestions: Building block for implementing auto-complete.

Chatbots

With Azure, you can build chatbots using Azure Bot Services. Integration with Microsoft Visual Studio is seamless and helps give developers a richer coding experience.

Chatbots built and hosted in Azure can be accessed in many channels like websites, Skype, Facebook and much more!

Azure Machine Learning

Machine learning involves using historical datasets to help predict future outcomes. From search engines, online recommendations to real-time digital advertising, email spam detection, complex machine learning algorithms are behind these services.

Azure Machine Learning is a cloud-based, fully managed service that provides you with the power of predictive analytics, thereby making machine learning more accessible to a broad community.

Cognitive Services API and Artificial Intelligence

Microsoft has commoditized and democratized algorithms into easy-to-use APIs that can be configured and published from the Azure Dashboard.

Services such as LUIS, the Language Understanding Intelligence Service allow you to build solutions that can understand human language.

The Cognitive Services APIs that ship with Azure also include artificial intelligence that lets you process vision, sound, and speech so you can develop intelligent and innovative solutions.

Azure Redis Cache

Azure Redis Cache gives you access to a dedicated Redis cache that is secure. Any cache you create using Azure Redis Cache is automatically available in any application within Azure.

As your application load increases, Azure Redis Cache make your application more responsive and helps reduce latency.

How Azure can benefit your business

We discussed some of the benefits earlier and I think it make sense to touch them again as the Azure features can benefit your business directly.

Cost

Microsoft Azure allows you to have a trial subscription for free so you can validate the features before you decide to start using the platform in production. After your free trial, you can choose from a variety of plans that fits most with your business needs. You can also monitor the cost from your dashboard, test with the usage calculators, and also use the budgeting feature to put a cap on you spends on resources like CPU, RAM, network, IP addresses, database instances, and so on.

Hardware Maintenance

One of the substantial advantages you get by moving to cloud is that you effectively outsource all hardware and platform maintenance to the provider. It unties you from the maintenance and troubleshooting and helps to focus more on solving real business problems.

Scale on demand

Business requirements varies by time and to manage it you need to respond quickly to the varying requirements. You would need a platform where scaling up or down -either horizontal or vertical – would be possible in no time.  With just a few mouse clicks, you can have new virtual machines setup or modify existing ones in minutes with the configuration of your choice. Azure also ships with predefined server templates to help get you started. Your server can be easily connected just like a traditional server with Remote desktop connection session.

Flexibility

The IT landscape is continually changing and to help your business keep atop of latest technology, you need a platform that adapts quickly and effortless. Microsoft Azure lets you do this from a centralized dashboard.

With Azure, you can provision various OS instances giving your business real flexibility regarding the applications it can run and support.

How Cloud Computing helped businesses during the pandemic.

Before we conclude, lets also check how Azure and other cloud computing services helped businesses thrive during the pandemic of Covid-19. Businesses were on the lookout for technologies that not only enable them to operate during this crisis, but also remain competitive and relevant. The pandemic has radically changed the ways in which people do business.

There were many applications that helped people to collaboratively work from their remote locations via video calls. Business data and documents were centrally available with the help of cloud-based data management applications, ensuring that each employee is getting access to the current version of information.

Enhanced Customer Service and Experience

The current business scenario is all about pleasing your customers more than your competitors and the process goes on as such. Even otherwise, the present circumstances warrant an exceptional customer service. By having access to real-time data over the Cloud, your employees are in a much better position to address customer needs and queries promptly. This in turn elevates the whole Customer Experience (CX) to a great extent.

Work From Home and Remote Connectivity

During the pandemic, remote work is the norm rather than exception. The Cloud, it appears, is purpose built to make remote work a seamless affair. According to a recent study during the pandemic, nearly 75% of entities want to reduce in-office employees.

These employees, being a valuable resource, will be both effective and in a much better position to serve customers in real-time over the Cloud. They will have seamless access to real time organizational data, over a multitude of devices and operating systems (OS).

Summary

In this article, we’ve discussed about cloud computing and Microsoft Azure, discussed some of the features, how to use them, and how it can help your business thrive to success. Hope you find it useful