Microsoft has launched an Azure cloud offer worth US$200. Before we look at what small and medium sized-enterprises (SMEs) can do with this offer, let’s discuss how the cloud helps growing businesses. What are the benefits of cloud, in practical terms?
The SME’s new friend
For SMEs, the cloud means two big opportunities. First, it means being free of the limitations of your own hardware. If you want more computing power or storage, instead of spending the time and costs to purchase and install, you also have an option to rent and turn it on online. That frees up capital and avoid being locked into long-term infrastructure purchases.
Second – and more importantly – it means freeing up your IT staff. Whatever technical skill you have in-house, you can get them to step away from mundane tasks, like maintaining infrastructure. Instead, channel their energies on activities that are likely to quickly impact your business — like how people work and collaborate, and how you can use IT to operate more efficiently.
The expanding Azure cloud
Now for the Microsoft cloud service: Azure is a big collection of integrated cloud services, and growing. It includes Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), which is virtualized hardware, and Platform as a Service (PaaS), on which organizations can install and connect their own applications. It also provides Software as a Service (Saas), that allows users to connect to and use cloud-based apps over the Internet.
All Azure services allow you to flexibly scale up or down as required, without up-front or termination fees. And it is this pay-as-you-go model that is proving to be a big attraction to growing businesses, with their fast-changing needs.
What SMEs gain from the cloud
For growing businesses, the main benefits of Microsoft’s Azure cloud are:
- Cost savings Economies of scale make cloud services inherently less costly than in-house IT environments. For example, many organizations have seen savings of up to 60 percent when moving from local storage to cloud storage.
- Scalability and seasonality You avoid having to spend capital on IT infrastructure. You also avoid having to spend time and money installing it. You can scale up or down quickly based on activity peaks in test & development environments — and only pay for what you use.
- Security and maintenance You get outside experts to do the difficult work. Your virtual machines, databases and applications are maintained to the highest security levels by experts in each technical field. You eliminate routine tasks for your in-house IT team.
- Hybrid cloud solutions You gain a highly flexible, open environment in which to build your optimal suite of IT. Microsoft provides a truly hybrid cloud platform, which means you can connect different IT services from on-premises servers, to third-party service providers and the Azure cloud. A common set of technologies means a consistent experience.
The Microsoft US$200 Azure offer: what you could do with it?
With the benefits of cloud in mind, here are three suggestions to get started, by utilizing Microsoft’s free US$200 Azure credit:
Option 1: Go virtual
Azure virtual machines (VMs) enable SMEs to expand their computing needs to the cloud. Virtual machines can be used in a variety of ways, from production to test & development. There multiple advantages to using Azure VMs:
- Azure VMs are quick to set up: a fully configured Windows/Ubuntu/Red hat server or SQL server can be up and running in about 10 minutes.
- The environment is ultra-scalable: you can scale up or scale down to meet your needs.
- It’s a low risk approach: because payment is consumption based, you only pay for the resources you use. When you’re finished with the VM, you can delete it.
- Minimal licensing hassle: for the most part, licensing is included when you use a VM template. This includes licensing for Windows Server, SQL server, Red hat server, and many more.
What’s the cost?
Here’s some numbers for you. A Windows Server VM in the Southeast Asia region with two processor cores and 3.5GB of RAM will generally cost you $0.18 per hour on Azure. I have included 135GB disk space in the price. If you run your Virtual Machine 24 hours per day, this will cost $133 per month. Options are also available for virtualization on Redhat and other open source platforms.
Option 2: Protect your critical data
Alternatively, you could use a US$200 Azure credit to experiment with some high-grade back up, security and protection. Security is critical, and cloud service providers like Microsoft engages with experts to secure your data and protect it against fast-evolving threats.
Azure Backup is a scalable data protection solution for cloud-hosted data — and many organizations use it to back up on-premises data as well. With 99.9% availability for backup and restore, you do not have to worry whether your data is successfully backed up or how you will get it restored.
This is attractive for SMEs because of the minimal operating expense. Of course, the cost depends on the number of machines or instances you are going to protect and the size of the machine being protected. But with Azure, you can back up two physical machines along with four virtual machines (500GB each) for $132 per month.
All the usual cloud benefits apply to Azure Backup. The pricing is scalable and there are no upfront costs or termination fees. You pay only for data you use, and you do not pay for restores, outbound bandwidth or storage transaction.
Option 3: Host your SQL Server apps in the cloud
Another option is to run your on-premises SQL Server applications in Azure. This will help you assess how Azure could help reduce your capital investments and optimize your operational costs. With SQL Server on Azure VMs, the price depends on the number of cores and the SQL edition, but the options include the SQL Enterprise, Standard and Web editions.
A SQL Server Standard VM with two processor cores and 3.5GB of RAM will cost you $0.58 per hour. This assumes 135GB of disk space. If you run this for 14 days (24 hours per day) the cost would be $194.
*All estimated prices are subject to change. To simulate the workload and price to fit your business needs, visit https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/pricing/calculator/
Take advantage of the $200 free Azure and sign-up today!
The $200 Azure offer is a superb way for SMEs to take the first step to experience cloud technology —in virtualizing your development servers, top-grade back up, or SQL storage. You can get a feel for the easy-to-use Azure portal tools, see for yourself the difference a cloud strategy makes to your bottom line.
If you would like to know more about any of these options, contact us at 1 800 886 295 or send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Prabhath Mannapperuma is a Software Engineer at Microsoft Sri Lanka evangelizing the value of Microsoft Azure to partners and customers. He is also the co-founder of Windowsgeek.lk.
Ashiq Niyas is the Partner Channel Marketing Manager for SMB Sri Lanka helping small-medium enterprise customers to grow their business though technology. In addition to this, he is an advocate of Modern Marketing and closely working with Microsoft partners transform their Cloud business.
Reach out to him online via: LinkedIn