Kevin Macdonald

DIRECTOR OF STRATEGIC RELATIONSHIPS WIREHIVE

Thoughts

Why you should choose Microsoft Azure

So you’ve decided that cloud hosting is the way to go.  Let’s face it, you’re probably right. But sadly that isn’t the end of the decision process. There are a number of different cloud providers out there, from the global giants through to the smaller specialist cloud providers.

In this article we’re going to look at some of the reasons you might choose to host your project with one of the biggest in the world.

Microsoft.

The scale of Microsoft’s cloud computing service is so big that it tends to be described as “hyperscale cloud”.  Officially it goes by the name of Microsoft Azure, and offers so much more than simply hosting that it is impossible to do it justice in a single article.  We’re not going to let that put us off though, so here goes – eight reasons you might want to use Microsoft Azure…

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1) Familiarity

It might be a little trite to suggest that you make a major financial decision based on simple familiarity, but it really is an important aspect.  If you’ve ever used a PC then you are already familiar with the way Microsoft works.  Azure is based heavily on Windows and since 1995 Windows has been the most popular operating system in use.

What this means in practice, is that if you are writing applications then you can use the languages you are already using for Windows - Visual Basic, C# etc.  You can also make use of the tools you are already likely using such as Visual Studio and ASP.NET.  Not only does this likely make it easier for you to develop applications, but it makes it easier for you to find developers with the requisite skills should you need to bring in extra staff.

If you are already using Microsoft Windows servers for your site, moving from a traditional hosting set-up to the cloud has never been easier.

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2) Security

One of the most frequently cited obstacles to adopting cloud computing is security.  Passing all your data to a separate provider and trusting them to ensure it remains safe is a big issue.  However, if you are ever going to truly utilise the full benefits of cloud computing, then you need to trust the cloud provider you are using.  And companies rarely come more secure than Microsoft.

They currently have more security certifications than any other cloud provider (source), and they are constantly striving to ensure that they maintain their position as one of the most secure options available globally.  They not only meet international industry specific standards such as ISO 27001 and HIPAA but they also meet a number of country specific standards such as the UK’s G-Cloud and Australia’s IRAP.  They also have more regions worldwide than any other cloud provider making it easier for you to ensure that your data is held where you want it to be.  They were also the first cloud provider to be fully compliant with ISO 27018.

With GDPR rapidly approaching it is also worth noting that Microsoft Azure is committed to full GDPR compliance.

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3) Scalability

One of the overall benefits to using cloud computing is that it offers scalability, but just like in everything else they do, Microsoft like to go a step further than pretty much everyone else.  When it comes to Microsoft Azure and scalability there are a number of things worth mentioning.

Azure scalability goes so much further than just reacting to website traffic and increasing your bandwidth in response to demand.  They take this principle and apply it to all the various services you can use.  Whether you are looking to develop, test, and launch new web applications, make use of the machine learning functionality and cognitive services available, utilise their data processing capabilities, or connect, monitor, and control devices using Azure’s Internet of things capabilities then you simply pay for what you use.  If you use more, you pay more, and conversely if you use less then you pay less.

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4) Software Development Kits

It’s safe to say that if you are looking to make the very most of Microsoft Azure then you will likely be developing your own applications to one degree or another and there is no place better for this than within Azure. Whether you are using .NET, Java, PHP, Python, Ruby, or any of a large number of languages then Microsoft Azure has a SDK for you whatever your platform of choice is.

Command Line Interface, Visual Studio, and Docker Tools are just a handful of the other useful things available to developers within Azure.

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5) Machine Learning and Data Analysis

Azure Machine Learning Studio comes with a huge library of algorithms   These algorithms can be separated into four categories, all with their own specialist purposes.

  • Regressive algorithms such as linear regression and neural network regression help predict the future by assessing the relationships between variables.

  • Anomaly detection helps identify outliers in the data set to help detect fraud, predict credit risk, and catch unusual readings in important equipment.

  • Clustering separates data into sets or intuitive groups. It allows prediction of customer tastes and enables accurate segmentation for marketing purposes.

  • Classification algorithms allow individual data points to be classified accurately early on in both a two-class method – is this tweet favourable or not? And a multi-class method – what mood is this tweet?

When these algorithms are combined they can be used to predict complex behaviours such as which products a potential customer is likely to want to purchase, and which promotions are likely to successful with specific customer groups.

The system works by analysing data to identify patterns.  And then applying those patterns to predict future behaviours. And no-one does it better than Microsoft.

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6) Cognitive Services

Everyone knows that AI is going to play a huge role in the future of digital, but no-one seems to be completely certain how that is going to happen.  No-one except Microsoft that is.

  • Azure includes an array of Cognitive services that are available to users, these intelligent algorithms can transform your business in a very real and tangible way.

  • Vision Services include algorithms that can carry out accurate facial recognition, through to automatic moderation of text, video or images.

  • Speech services can do things as simple as text to speech and back again, through to real time translation and individual speaker recognition

  • Language services offer the ability to translate text, correct spelling and grammar, through to understanding and acting on written commands form your users.

  • Knowledge services can do things from searching academic knowledge bases for relevant results, through to contextual decision-making systems that learn as they work.

  • Search APIs allow you to integrate the different aspects of Bing’s global search facilities into your application.

There is also the Cognitive Services Lab where new AI services are being developed. Here you can become part of a team testing and helping refine cognitive services for Azure before the become market ready.

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7) Sitecore

It would be remiss to talk about the benefits you might get from using Microsoft Azure without at least mentioning Sitecore.

If you are not familiar with it Sitecore is one of the most powerful and versatile enterprise Content Management Systems available today.  It allows you to own the digital customer experience end to end.  For data driven marketing teams, it provides detailed reporting on every aspect of your customers’ journey through the site, it integrates search engine optimisation tools into the site as it is created, and it also supports a vast array of customer relationship marketing tools and strategies, most importantly deep personalisation.

And yes, you guessed it.

Sitecore runs best on Microsoft Azure hosting.

It can utilise the data analysis and machine learning capabilities of Azure in order to predict customers’ behaviour in real time and respond appropriately.  There are so many reasons why you would choose to host Sitecore on Microsoft Azure that I am going to save them for a different article! (Edit - Here is that article)

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8) Managed Azure

Even now, well over a thousand words in, we have only begun to scratch the surface of what Microsoft Azure is capable of, and how it can impact your business in a tangible and realistic manner.  It is a hugely complex and detailed service, which when applied properly can revolutionise your site and your business.  However setting up and managing Azure can be a complex undertaking, and this can put many people off doing so.

At Wirehive we are partnered with Microsoft in order to offer a way in to their services for businesses.  We can set up and manage your Azure cloud services, and allow you to get on with what you do best.  Why not give us a call to see how we can help you make more money for your business with Microsoft Azure.

If you’re an agency and want to learn more about how Microsoft Azure can help build future facing digital products or roll out digital transformation projects join us and Microsoft at their Paddington offices on 27th November for an exclusive roundtable workshop. Sign up here.