03 Apr 2020

Azure’s Cloud Services Are Not Just for App Developers and Enterprises

Ashli LoppNews  

Although app developers and enterprises are Microsoft Azure’s traditional users, small and midsized businesses can also take advantage of its cloud services to build, deploy, and manage apps. Here are four new cloud services that small and midsized businesses might find particularly useful.

Microsoft’s cloud computing platform celebrated its 10th birthday recently. When the platform was officially rolled out to the world on February 1, 2010, it was called Windows Azure. It offered a small number of cloud services, which were mainly used by web app developers. At that time, most businesses were hesitant about using cloud services, including those being offered by Microsoft.

Both the business world and Microsoft’s cloud computing platform have changed a lot in the past decade. The platform, now called Microsoft Azure, offers more than 100 cloud services. No longer skeptical about cloud computing, many enterprises are using those services. Microsoft boasts that 95% of Fortune 500 companies use Azure.

But Microsoft Azure is not just for large companies. It offers many cloud services that small and midsized businesses can use to build, deploy, and manage apps. For example, they can set up virtual machines (VMs) to run apps or implement a single sign-on system for logging in to them.

Microsoft is continually introducing new services to Azure as well as adding new capabilities to existing ones. Small and midsized businesses might find the new Windows Virtual Desktop, Backup Reports, Backup Explorer, and Azure Arc services particularly useful.

 

Windows Virtual Desktop

Windows Virtual Desktop is a desktop and app virtualization service. It can come in handy if companies still need to upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 10. They can virtualize their existing Windows 7 desktops in Azure, enabling them to migrate their computers to Windows 10 at their own pace. The service includes Extended Security Updates through January 2023, so the virtualized Windows 7 desktops are secure.

Virtualizing Windows 7 desktops can also be beneficial for businesses that have already migrated to Windows 10 but have a few computers they cannot upgrade because the machines are running legacy business apps that are incompatible with Windows 10. With Windows Virtual Desktop, they can run their legacy apps on virtualized Windows 7 desktops in the cloud, while keeping their Windows 10 computers local.

Besides virtualizing Windows 7 deployments, companies can virtualize:

  • Single-session Windows 10 deployments
  • Multi-session Windows 10 deployments
  • Windows Server 2012 R2 and later versions
  • Office 365 ProPlus (Microsoft has dropped support for Office 365 ProPlus in Windows Server 2019)

 

Backup Reports and Backup Explorer

The Azure Backup service has been backing up companies’ on-premises computers and Azure VMs since 2015. After the service backs up a machine’s data, workloads, and system state, it encrypts and stores the backup files. Businesses can use the service’s built-in monitoring capabilities to find out basic information about their backups, such as what is being backed up and whether any alerts (e.g., backup job failures) were issued.

In 2020, Microsoft introduced two new services — Backup Reports and Backup Explorer — for those businesses that want to more closely monitor their backups. With Backup Reports, companies can track, audit, and analyze their backup and restore processes in order to answer questions such as “How has backup storage increased over time?” and “Which backup jobs have been consistently raising alerts?” Such insights can help businesses identify trends and trouble spots so they can plan accordingly.

Backup Explorer lets companies monitor the backups of all their Azure VMs in real-time from one location. This aggregated view lets them quickly find out information about what is and is not being backed up. The latter helps businesses find and close gaps in their backup plan, ensuring that all their data is being protected. Companies can also drill down into the data when more details about a backup is needed.

As of this writing, Backup Reports and Backup Explorer are in the public preview stage, which means they will likely be officially released in the not-too-distant future. In the meantime, companies can use the two services with some stipulations (e.g., they are excluded from Microsoft service-level agreements and warranties).

 

Azure Arc

Hybrid clouds can give companies greater control over their operations and data. However, they can be challenging to set up and maintain because the on-premises and cloud components need to communicate and integrate with each other. Plus, older on-premises servers running legacy software often can’t be included in hybrid clouds.

Azure Arc gets rid of these shortcomings. It is a new set of technologies that businesses can use to easily manage and secure hybrid cloud resources deployed within and outside of Azure. With this service, companies can include both new and old on-premises servers running Windows or Linux. “A physical x86 server running a decade-old version of Oracle on Linux can easily register itself with Azure Arc,” according to one security expert. Azure Arc can also be used to manage and secure VMs, Kubernetes clusters, and managed database services.

Furthermore, Azure Arc isn’t just for hybrid clouds. Businesses can use it for multi-cloud and edge deployments. Azure Arc is currently in the public preview stage.

 

Many Other Cloud Services Are Available

Windows Virtual Desktop, Backup Reports, Backup Explorer, and Azure Arc are only four of the many cloud services provided by Microsoft Azure. You can find a list of all the services in the “Azure products” web page. Alternatively, we can recommend cloud services that might be particularly useful based on your business’s operations and requirements.

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