Microsoft Azure

Are you being held back from migrating to the cloud as you still need to run desktop-based software?

Microsoft Azure is a public cloud made up of more than 100 interconnected data centres around the world, each running thousands of servers. Microsoft Azure allows businesses to move server workloads to the Cloud, allowing them to move away from physical hardware and purchase the virtual services they need on a monthly subscription. In 2020 the number of people working remotely jumped from 7% to 66%[1]. Cloud hosted infrastructure provides a scalable and flexible remote desktop experience. Due to the effect of the Covid 19 pandemic more of our clients are considering the move to the cloud. Could this be the right time for your business?

Why move from Server Infrastructure to Azure?

There are numerous things to consider when your hardware renewal date approaches.

  • What would it mean for your business to run the apps and data currently on your server in the cloud?
  • Is now the right time for you to move away from physical hardware?
  • How secure is the cloud?

Lugo have migrated numerous businesses email to Microsoft 365. Many businesses now use SharePoint alongside Microsoft Teams to give them a collaborative remote working environment in the cloud. If you decide early enough, and can change the software you are running, you may not even need a server in your office or in Azure…

Microsoft identify three main areas of benefit of cloud infrastructure.

Let’s explore each of these:

 

Cost Savings

 

Many businesses we support budget and plan for major infrastructure investment around every 5-7 years. Assessing the amount to spend and the technical requirements the company will need over the next five years can be a tricky process. As we have seen this year, we have to expect the unexpected and many businesses can be faced with significant increases or decreases in their infrastructure needs over a five-year period.

A major benefit of Microsoft Azure is that there is no longer a need to budget for a large server hardware investment every 5 years when physical hardware becomes end of life. Azure works on a monthly subscription model where you only pay for what you use. If your business requirements change you have the ability to either increase or decrease your usage.

Moving to the cloud also removes the burden of running, maintaining, updating and repairing servers. You need to consider how much you would save if you did not have to pay for the physical space needed to store servers, the electricity to run them, and the warranty to protect against hardware failure.

 

Flexible Modernisation

 

Microsoft Azure gives businesses the ability to run Windows Server in Azure Virtual Machines. This allows your business access to enterprise-grade server infrastructure without having to run your own on-premise servers and storage. Windows Virtual Desktop allows your employees to access their remote desktop seamlessly and from any location. Windows Virtual Desktop combines the scale, security, and cost benefits of Azure and Microsoft 365 to deliver a virtualised modern desktop.

If you are not able to transition to a fully cloud hosted infrastructure, you don’t have to move all of your services to Azure at once. Azure allows you to migrate parts of your infrastructure to the Cloud at the pace that is right for you. For example, you may wish to relocate desktop based applications and databases to Azure Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and leverage Microsoft 365 Software as a Service (SaaS) for other elements of your IT infrastructure, such as email.

One of the main advantages of Azure is that you don’t have to predict the infrastructure needs of your business for the next five years, as you can easily increase or decrease your requirements. Traditionally, you have to buy a server that will need to last 5-7 years. This means purchasing a server that has a high enough specification to cope with the demands of software and applications as they change over time. You also have to assess what your staff numbers could be over the next 5-7 years. Each of these elements are difficult to gauge, therefore, at times, businesses end up having to make further investment in hardware expenditure before the end of the 7-year period. Alternatively, they waste money on hardware that is surplus to their needs. Azure’s cost per usage model removes this difficulty. If your business needs a new server, this can be quickly and easily created. If you no longer need a piece of infrastructure you can decommission it and instantly reduce your costs. It’s worth noting at this point, if you commit to certain time periods for services in Azure, you can receive substantial discounts making it more viable. This means you will pay less if you commit to 3 years of services instead of a monthly commitment.

 

Security and Business Continuity

 

Cyber security is now at the forefront of any planned infrastructure upgrade. Cyber threats continue to adapt and evolve, and the current pandemic has brought new challenges to businesses as they try to provide secure remote connections for their teams. Many people have reservations and concerns about the security of the cloud. Microsoft have a wealth of security expertise and offer more security than the majority of other hosted data centres. They currently invest $1billion a year on security and employ 3,500 security experts to protect your information.

Azure also has inbuilt tools to help you secure your environment including identity, network, threat protection and management. Azure Active Directory services allow you to centralise data and access management (how people log in) to improve the security of your network.

The location of your virtual servers is important from a GDPR perspective. Microsoft allow you to choose the location of your servers.

Another important consideration is that you control your Azure environment. This means if you choose to move IT provider or outsource your IT support, it is easy and seamless to transfer the support of your network to another provider. This is a key benefit of Microsoft Azure over other virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) solutions. If you choose to go with a VDI provider that host their own infrastructure, you are reliant on them for advice and support. If you experience difficulties and issues you may be stuck in a complex situation and unable to move easily and gain the support and advice you need.

 

Lugo’s perspective on the benefits of Microsoft Azure

Microsoft Azure may not appear to be the cheapest solution, but it is the option that allows for the most flexibility. Microsoft are developing Azure services to allow clients a more flexible approach for remote workers to be more collaborative. Microsoft Azure becomes part of the Microsoft 365 ecosystem along with Azure Active Directory.

This flexibility of Azure services will be even more important over the next few years as technology continues to adapt and change. Cloud infrastructure is growing exponentially. 95% of Fortune 500 companies are using Azure today[2].

Microsoft Azure services tap into the trend of moving capital expenditure to operational expenditure. If your business is planning capital expenditure on IT hardware, you need to consider your long-term IT infrastructure plans and whether continuing with a physical solution is the right option for your business. I would encourage any business considering the cloud as an option to speak to Lugo to explore the benefits and possibilities cloud infrastructure offers.

Don’t take our word for it, here’s what one of our valued clients has to say about Azure…..

As a progressive firm of Chartered Accountants, we have relied on Lugo to proactively support our systems since 2004. We knew our servers were coming up for renewal in 2020, and we had been considering moving them to the cloud for a while. With the impact of COVID-19 and the increase in homeworking, it seemed like the right time to make the move.
Lugo presented a solution through Microsoft Azure which would remove the need to replace any hardware. This would see all of our applications move to the cloud, giving us more flexibility for remote working. Our main compliance application is CCH by Wolters Kluwer which is desktop based. This is now installed on our Azure server, giving everyone access to perform their role from any location.
I’m very happy with being on cloud in the current climate. The transition was smooth and the speed of the new setup is great! I’m confident in the level of multilayer security we have in place and would highly recommend speaking to Lugo if you are considering moving your infrastructure to the cloud.
Steven Cunningham, Partner at Alexander Sloan, Accountants and Business Advisers

We’d love to have a chat with you about moving your server to Azure, so why not take up our offer of a free initial cloud consultation:

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References

[1] (i)Before the Coronavirus, telework was an optional benefit, mostly for the affluent few, Pew Research Center March 20, 2020. (ii) Working from Home during the Coronavirus Pandemic: The State of Remote Work, Clutch, April 16, 2020. (iii). https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/blog/update-2-on-microsoft-cloud-services-continuity/. 4. https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/overview/what-is-azure/

[2] Microsoft Azure Customer Pitch Deck