In recent months I have been familiarizing myself with data centers. This time in the form of Microsoft-styled public clouds. The giant from Redmond has finally realized that it is not alone in this world and has decided to support other systems, platforms, databases, devices and programming languages. For the good of us all.
Moving IT infrastructure into the so-called cloud is quite promising and with the right approach quite advantageous. Global public cloud service providers create such economies of scale that almost no company deems it economically wise to consider owning their own infrastructure. But companies must contemplate other challenges if they wish to avoid losing themselves in the cloud, or even worse, getting burnt.
Invisible connection between the local and the cloud
Since building trust in the cloud takes time and is achieved gradually, it only makes sense for companies to explore various options, enabling them to verify the abilities of service providers to fulfill all promises (by providing SLAs). With such a gradual approach companies will initially migrate only a part of their data into the cloud – first, only the less critical data. But as employees need access to these data as well, it is up to the IT department to figure out how to connect the company infrastructure to the cloud, possibly through seamless integration, which makes sure that users won’t even detect when they are accessing a file or a folder from the cloud located several thousand miles away.
Most companies today use Microsoft Software, whether it’s for workstations and computers with the Windows operating system as well as physical and virtual servers with the Windows Server OS. Migrating these environments into the cloud—either directly to Microsoft or to a local host provider like NIL—is quite simple thanks to the Azure Pack solution. Company administrators are given an easy-to-use user interface, which enables transparent management of cloud IT resources as well as load management.
Even though public clouds seem like an unfailing choice, they are far from it. In Service Level Agreements (SLAs) a crucial part is intentionally being left out. While they successfully manage data storage on the infrastructural level (better three than two copies) the virtual server part is left without guarantees. In case a server crashes, you will not only lose data but you will also need an administrator to restore and set up the server once more. Make no mistake, we can find these conditions even with Microsoft, Amazon and Google—as you know, low prices will bring along certain limitations. And human resources in IT are frequently its most expensive aspect. Infrastructure-as-a-service placed in a cloud in reality means having to deal with IT problems ourselves. There's nothing wrong with this, of course, as long as we realize what we’re dealing with.
Absolute security and compatibility
Large-scale server farms and data centers are well hidden nowadays. Sometimes, their location is so low-key that not even local people are aware how many ones and zeros are being conveyed in their vicinity. Microsoft is adamant about separating the hardware and software parts of their data centers—this also applies to company personnel who cannot rotate between data center locations, leaving practically not a single soul that would know everything about these data centers. Numerous safety regulations and physical and digital mechanisms are put through regular inspections or audits conducted by independent organizations. Nothing is left to chance. Almost all companies in Slovenia cannot afford (or do not want to afford) this kind of security level. At Microsoft, the certifications that guarantee business operation transparency and conformity with legislature and regulations can be found in abundance.
Local support that makes all the difference
It's true, Slovenia (where NIL is headquartered) is a small place, which makes it less interesting compared to the big players. But the fact that Amazon and Google representatives aren't paying visits to Slovenian companies says a lot. Unlike these two companies, Microsoft has its own local partners throughout the world. They are not merely cloud service resellers but also offer their customers support, as well as assist them connect/adapt their processes and alike. Microsoft customers can truly leverage the wide business ecosystem of partners, NIL being among them.
Slovenian clients are demanding
What Slovenian companies mostly want from cloud services is adaptability. Others would consider them being spoiled, because they almost always want personalized IT solutions, but paying as little as possible. In the eyes of cloud giants they are actually boutique shoppers. I guess only public cloud infrastructures can come close to the ideal solution for Slovenian information specialists— to fly first class in the U.S. for the price of a local Ryanair ticket. For clients, transitioning to Microsoft clouds is most definitely a best-price option.
NIL is a certified Microsoft Azure partner with as many as 24 experts in the field on Microsoft software solutions. Using the Microsoft cloud infrastructure for our Flip IT solution has made us experts in this field.
Where to start?
As I mentioned earlier, we will not start off by moving all data into the cloud. I can give a recommendation of five different scenarios of using Microsoft Azure, which will enable you to test and verify if this is the right choice for your business operation:
- Data storage and backup copies in the cloud are the most obvious choice.
- The cloud platform is often an ideal solution for the development and long-term or short-term testing of your own solutions. It provides developers with a limitless and highly‑adaptable testing environment.
- The cloud can be a practical solution even in cases when the local server environment or data center is bursting at the seams, since this allows you to move a part of the load to the cloud provider.
- The cloud can also be used for migrating publicly available solutions, such as websites, online store, or other solutions that create only temporary higher loads. Covering the maintenance cost of expensive infrastructure just to cover these temporary traffic peaks is out of the question.
- A very obvious option for using cloud solutions is the Office 365 solution, which enables employees’ substantially simplified collaboration and file sharing. In addition to a complete set of office applications this solution ensures continuous accessibility on all devices.
The cloud won't bite – give it a try. Perhaps it will prove quite irresistible.