October 9, 2022

An Introduction to Microsoft Azure and Cloud Computing

Cloud computing is among the most important technological advances of the modern age, and it has changed the very nature of how we live and work. Microsoft Azure is one of the leading providers of cloud computing services, and it offers a wide range of features and benefits. In this article, we’ll introduce you to Azure Cloud Computing, and we’ll discuss some of the key reasons why you should consider learning and using Azure for your cloud computing requirements.

What Is Cloud Computing?

Cloud computing is the delivery of computing services — including servers, storage, databases, networking, software, analytics, and intelligence — over the Internet (“the cloud”) to offer faster innovation, flexible resources, and economies of scale.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) defines cloud computing as follows:

[A] model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.

In other words, cloud computing is the ability to access technology services — like data storage or computer power — over the Internet, without having to buy or maintain the technology infrastructure yourself. This can save you time and money, since you use only the resources you need, when you need them.

Why Use Cloud Computing?

There are many reasons to use cloud computing, but one of the most important is that it saves money. With cloud computing, you can avoid the upfront costs of purchasing and maintaining hardware and software. Instead, you pay for what you use on a pay-as-you-go basis. This can help you keep your IT costs down and free up cash for other business expenses.

Another reason to use cloud computing is that it gives you access to scalable resources. For example, if you have a sudden spike in traffic to your website, you can quickly scale up your server capacity to meet the demand without investing in new hardware. And when traffic returns to normal levels, you can scale back down again, which, again, saves money.

Cloud computing can also help you be more responsive to change. When you can quickly provision and deploy new services, you can rapidly respond to market opportunities and customer demands. This can give you a competitive advantage in today’s fast-moving business world.

So there are many good reasons to use cloud computing. But before you make the switch, it’s important to understand your options.

Types of Cloud Computing Services

Over the last decade, cloud computing has become increasingly popular, as businesses of all sizes have come to rely on the flexibility and scalability of cloud-based services. There are three main types of cloud computing services: Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Software as a Service (SaaS). The difference between the three is mainly on how much you manage versus how much the cloud vendor manages

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS): IaaS is a cloud computing model that allows you to provision and use processing power, storage, and networking resources on demand.

Platform as a Service (PaaS): PaaS is a cloud computing model that allows you to develop, run, and manage applications without worrying about the underlying infrastructure — servers, storage, and networking. The third-party provider manages the infrastructure while the developers manage the applications.

Software as a Service (SaaS): SaaS is a cloud computing model that delivers software over the internet and makes it available through web browsers or mobile apps. The vendor manages everything; you simply enjoy the service at a fee.

Cloud Computing Deployment Models

There are four main deployment models for cloud computing: public, private, hybrid, and community.

Public clouds are owned and operated by a third-party service provider, which delivers its services over the Internet. Here, the vendor offers cloud services to numerous clients in the public cloud who, in the back end, share the same hardware. Private clouds are owned and operated by a single organization, which can be either an enterprise or a service provider.

Hybrid clouds are a combination of public and private clouds that are connected using technology like VPNs or data encryption. Community clouds are shared by a group of organizations with similar requirements. When governments from many nations establish a shared services division that houses all of the government’s IT, we frequently see an example of a community cloud.

The type of deployment model you choose will depend on your specific needs and requirements. For example, if you require high levels of security and privacy, then you would likely choose a private or hybrid cloud deployment model. If cost is a primary concern, then you would likely choose a public cloud deployment model.

Cloud Vendors

The three top cloud vendors are Microsoft Azure, AWS, and Google Cloud Platform. Each one offers a different set of features and services, so it’s important to choose the right one for your needs.

Microsoft Azure is a cloud computing service created by Microsoft for building, testing, deploying, and managing applications and services through a global network of Microsoft-managed data centers. Azure was announced in October 2008 and released on February 1, 2010, as Windows Azure, before being renamed to Microsoft Azure on March 25th 2014. 

AWS, on the other hand, is a subsidiary of Amazon that provides on-demand cloud computing platforms to individuals, companies, and governments on a paid subscription basis with a free tier option available for 12 months.  AWS’s services include computing, storage, database, security, and identity management among others.

Finally, Google Cloud Platform is a provider of cloud computing that offers both Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). Some of their IaaS offerings include preconfigured virtual machines, storage options (such as SQL or NoSQL databases), DNS serving, and content delivery.

The Big Three Cloud Vendors have comparable strengths and offerings; however, Azure is the perfect choice for larger organizations already using Microsoft products.

Azure also allows companies to get more value from their existing Microsoft investment through full integration with Office 365 and Active Directory. For companies moving their Windows Server to the cloud, Microsoft offers extended security updates. So, for any company using Windows Servers and the Microsoft stack on-premises, it makes sense to move to Azure. The integrated environment also makes it incredibly user friendly once you’ve made the move. While Azure has more functionality in general than AWS, it is simpler to use.

AWS is complex, and it involves lots of documentation, whereas Azure relies on tools that you and your users already know, like Windows, Active Directory, and Linux, so the transition to the cloud is less painful.

If you’re looking for a cloud platform that offers the most advantages over AWS and Google Cloud, then Azure is the clear choice.

If we dive deeper and focus only on Microsoft, in regards to Infrastructure as a Service, we have Azure Compute, which is the name for its virtual machines, and Azure Storage. In Platform as a Service, we have things such Azure Logic Apps, Azure Functions, Azure Web Jobs, and Azure Automation. And for Software as a Service, we have services as SharePoint Online, OneDrive for Business, Microsoft Teams, and the Power Platform. Those are just a few examples. Microsoft has over a dozen services in each of those categories.

The future of cloud computing is bright, and that’s why there’s a huge demand for professionals with expertise in Azure cloud computing.

Conclusion

In this article, we covered the fundamentals of cloud computing and explored one of the major cloud vendors — Microsoft Azure. We learned how cloud computing works, we learned about the different types of services and deployment options available, and we looked at Azure’s cloud services and some of its major benefits.

Now, you’re ready to take the next step. To begin, you could specialize in a specific Microsoft Cloud certification or course. Microsoft’s entry-level certification for Azure is called the Microsoft Certified: Azure Fundamentals, and it tests your basic knowledge of cloud concepts, like services they offer as well as pricing.

There are many resources available online for learning cloud computing, and that list will soon include Dataquest’s latest learning path, “Cloud Data Fundamentals with Microsoft Azure.” When you complete this path with Dataquest, you’ll receive a 50% discount on the Azure Fundamentals certification. You can check out the certification details here.

We’ve designed the “Cloud Data Fundamentals with Microsoft Azure” path for learners who want to learn, upskill, or improve their Azure cloud computing skills. We will be offering an industry-ready program, with the right blend of concepts and exercises to help you practice your skills. All the exercises will be on our platform, so you won’t need to install anything. We’ll also provide feedback on your progress so you will be able to see how you are doing.

We believe that our course is going to be the best way to improve your cloud computing skills in Microsoft Azure! Keep an eye on our blog for announcements about the release of this exciting, new path.

Dataquest

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Dataquest

Dataquest teaches through challenging exercises and projects instead of video lectures. It's the most effective way to learn the skills you need to build your data career.

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