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Templafy Blog

What is Azure? Microsoft's Cloud Service explained

By Henrik Printzlau

Published Apr 12, 2016


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Launched in 2010, Microsoft Azure is one of the biggest commercial cloud infrastructures to date, recording growth in the triple digits.

Powered by a worldwide network of Microsoft data centers across 22 regions, Microsoft Azure offers a growing collection of integrated cloud services and functionalities – analytics, computing, database, mobile, storage, and web – which seamlessly integrate with your local environment for ultimate flexibility, efficiency, and scalability.

But what is Microsoft Azure really and what are the benefits when you move past the buzzwords?

What is Microsoft Azure Cloud Service and the three levels of services?

Microsoft Azure offerings fall into three main categories: Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Software as a Service (SaaS).

This is what you get with the different levels of cloud offerings:

IaaS is the most basic Microsoft Azure offering, which at bottom gives you a server in the cloud. Opting for that service, you are in full control over the virtual machine, and are responsible for managing everything from the operating system up to the application you are running. You can learn more about Azure IaaS here.

In addition to the infrastructure, PaaS also provides an operating system, a database, a web server, an environment for executing your code, and additional services such as identity management. By choosing PaaS for your project needs, Microsoft Azure Cloud Service puts up with all of the tedious operating system details for you, so you can focus all your energy on what really matters to you – developing business applications your customers will love. Get started with PaaS services here.

SaaS applications are built and hosted through third-party vendors that usually charge for a certain amount of service – Microsoft Office 365 is one such example. Today, most SaaS applications are built on a cloud platform due to the low cost of entry and the ability to scale up as your customer base grows.

 

Under the Microscope: Microsoft Azure Features Explained

Virtual Machines provision infrastructure as needed and allow the running of Windows or Linux in the cloud. This is a great option if you need additional computer capacity for existing applications, however don’t want to add more servers to your own data center. You can easily migrate workloads to the cloud without having to modify network configurations while still being able to connect the virtual machines to your on-premises corporate networks.

Web and Mobile Services are offered as Backend as a Service solution and include features that support the development and deployment of web and mobile applications along with services for API management, notification, and reporting.

Cloud Services provide an on-demand runtime environment. Published APIs allow you to build or extend enterprise applications onto Windows Azure with high availability and elastic scale. You can also deliver applications as SaaS solutions to customers worldwide.

Websites Services enable the quick deployment of scalable websites using a wide range of different web application frameworks such as ASP.NET and Node.js or open source applications. Integration with Windows Azure services include SQL Database, Caching, Content Delivery Network (CDN), and Storage. This service is an optimal solution for your web presence to start small and scale as traffic grows.

Media Services offer features to create, manage, and distribute media. In fact, the platform provides everything you need for delivering content to a variety of devices – ranging from Xbox, Windows phone, Mac iOS, and Android. Opting for that service, you can ingest, encode, and protect your content with both on-demand and live streaming capabilities or convert media to various formats.

 

Like a wink and a smile: Azure and Microsoft Office

The fact that you can make use of Azure’s cloud-based services and applications regardless of whether you work from your office, at home or on the go makes Microsoft Azure particularly valuable in the context of Microsoft Office.

Since the introduction of VBA (Visual Basic for Application) in Microsoft Office, all macros and add-ins have been carried by the philosophy of locally stored Office documents, corporate templates, and configuration files. While very cumbersome to deploy and maintain, it worked based on the typical Microsoft Office user at that time.

Things have changed. With the world becoming increasingly mobile, users opt for alternative Office productivity platforms such as apps on iOS, Android, Windows Mobile, and Office Online in their web browser of choice. In order to make content and services available to any device and operating system, Microsoft has introduced a new add-in model (and store) for Microsoft Office, which can be used across platforms with deployment made a lot easier: While all app logic is handled in the cloud, content is delivered directly to any device.

 

What Microsoft Azure can do for your Office templates

Chances are your employees work with a variety of Office templates and business-related content every single day. If that resonates, utilizing Microsoft Azure as your backend solution is definitely a choice you should consider in today’s world of cloud-based computing.

Why? Instead of having to maintain locally installed add-ins manually eating up your time, resources and nerves, Microsoft Azure allows you to manage and update all of your Office templates and business-related content with a click of a button in real-time, providing instant availability to up-to-date, compliant templates and content. All while granting employees everywhere access using single sign-on removing the need for VPN.

Making use of the many features that come with Microsoft Azure can certainly boost your template management efficiency while minimizing IT efforts. Reach out to our experts at Templafy if you have any further questions on how you can benefit from the cloud-based platform.


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