Microsoft Azure is an awesome platform for small businesses (SMBs) to build from. This article will briefly describe Azure in terms that any SMB owner can understand. It will also provide context for the business drivers that lead to Azure solutions and map the pros and cons of utilizing Azure’s technology. Let’s dig in!
What is Microsoft Azure?
Microsoft has built a global network of data centers, and you can purchase as much or as little as your business needs. This network is highly reliable, extremely flexible, and affordable even on an SMB budget. Whether you are looking to replace or upgrade your existing servers or avoid investing in a server all together for your business, Azure is a fantastic option. Azure offers much more than just servers “in the cloud”, but many novel server-less resources that businesses need, including access management tools through Azure Active Directory or backup and disaster recovery tools for your entire IT infrastructure.
When to Choose Azure?
The pathways that lead SMBs to Azure are numerous. If you are just starting a business, the capital requirements to purchase servers and network infrastructure can be daunting and risky. Choosing Azure can help a business operationalize their expenses and reduce capital outflows (see our OpEx vs. CapEx article). If you are an established business and are looking for a proof of concept (PoC), Azure is ideal for quickly spinning up some resources for you to test, put on hold, or scale up or down as needed. And if you are looking to add new servers or replace existing ones, Azure presents a great opportunity to make that transition while requiring minimal cash up-front with the potential for maximum flexibility moving forward.
Azure is ideal for those just starting out with a business or an idea, and for SMBs adding new or replacing old servers. Azure can also be a way to fast-track your backup and disaster recovery protections for your business to ensure you can dodge disruptions.
When to NOT Choose Azure?
We find that Azure is not an ideal fit for a few types of SMBs. There are some businesses with a lot of sunk capital costs in servers and network equipment at their offices or facilities, and they simply haven’t gotten their full return on their investment. While there may be some valid business reasons to leave some of that initial investment on the table, like a business that puts a premium on business continuity concerns or if their current network keeps crashing or going offline. However, the best time to transition to Azure is when some or all of your existing on-premises technology is getting toward the end of it’s usable life or is causing notable business disruptions.
Another reason not to go with Microsoft’s platform is if you are not currently a Microsoft 365 (M365) customer or if you have plans to create custom software for your business. Amazon Web Services (AWS) is more dominant and preferred by SMBs who are not currently using other Microsoft products. While you can absolutely use a tool like Google Workplace for your messaging and documents and utilize Microsoft Azure, at Net Friends we see more synergies between Google and AWS, and we would encourage any Google customers to look at AWS first. We’re pretty sure Microsoft representatives would strongly disagree with that, but we’ve seen first-hand how the overall design and choices within Microsoft Azure just feel logical to M365 customers, but less so to Google Workplace customers.
Why Is Azure Good for SMBs?
There are 5 major reasons why SMBs benefit from Azure. Briefly, they are:
- Speed of Deployment: You can have an Azure server running in the time it would take to add a product to your shopping cart. In a world with supply chain woes and difficulties sourcing all types of parts, this counts for a lot!
- Reliability: No other hosting provider can provide greater redundancy and failover options. Azure also has a 99.95% Service Level Agreement (SLA), which roughly translates to a guarantee that you will not have anything more than 4 hours of downtime per year.
- Connectivity: Not only is there basically unlimited internet access and speeds with Azure worldwide, but you can also put your resources strategically close to where your staff and/or customers are located.
- Scalability: You can adjust your resources as needs change and adjust up and down on the fly. This kind of scalability just isn’t possible when you purchase your own hardware outside of Azure.
- Lower Maintenance Headaches: You no longer need to worry about hardware failures on your existing equipment, and there’s no related equipment to maintain. There also isn’t any eWaste hardware you need to physically replace and appropriately dispose of when it reaches the end of life.
There is a different mindset needed by business owners who are using Microsoft Azure to meet their server and computational needs. You will not be able to visit your server and look at the soothing green or blue blinking lights, and you won’t be able to walk by and hear the server fans humming away. You also don’t have to worry about your servers being damaged by a severe weather event, or deal with trying to diagnose what part failed when they don’t spin up.
Microsoft Azure also requires some unique expertise to optimize and manage the power of this tool from a web-based portal. Your experts at Net Friends are here to help you start your Azure journey, assess how you can benefit from Azure, and continue to help you get the most value out of this resource for years to come. Connect with us today!