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The Azure Sales Strategy for Small and Medium Enterprises

The Azure Sales Strategy for Small and Medium Enterprises

  • On-premises: Using Windows Server, Hyper-V, and System Center
  • A Cloud operated by a Microsoft hosting partner: Using Windows Server, Hyper-V, and System Center
  • In Microsoft Azure: Based on Hyper-V

The unique selling point that Microsoft has is that they can provide once consistent platform that customers can use to run their business. If you want to remain on-premises, then you can. If you want to outsource in some measure with a local hosting partner, then you can. If you want to deploy in Microsoft Azure, then you can. If you want to use a mixture of any two or all three parts of this “cloud OS,” then you can. For SMEs, there might be challenges to lifting and shifting IT from on-premises to the cloud, but that does not stop you from supplementing those services with functionality from Azure. In fact, there are features of Azure that should be of great benefit those those customers. Here’s more about the three core scenarios that are part of the Azure sales strategy for small and medium enterprises.

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The Three Core Scenarios

It is easy to get lost in the vast array of developer, PaaS, and IaaS features that Microsoft Azure can offer. Most of the Microsoft partners that operate in the SME space have taken no more than a cursory look at Azure before now, so it would have been foolish for Microsoft to pitch out the entire range of services and say “Do X, Do Y, Do Z, offer A, B, and C, and don’t forget M, N and L.” Instead, Microsoft has identified three talking points for Microsoft partners that can solve problems for SMEs without using the big scary ‘push the cloud only’ message that other cloud vendors market. Each of these scenarios can supplement investments that SMEs have already made in on-premises IT and can solve some problems that they might face in the future:

  • Hosting websites
  • Deploying applications in Azure using virtual machines
  • Using Azure Online Backup for automated offsite backup

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Scenario #1: Azure Websites

Hosting of websites is not exactly a new concept. You can go to any of thousands of hosting companies around the world, and pay them a few bucks a month to host your website. Some of them even offer a store of some kind that will pre-provision a CMS and backend database for you, such as WordPress on PHP with a shared server MySQL backend database.

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Azure offers that same kind of service, but with the advantages that you get from hosting with a  big-3 cloud vendor. You can get a simple website (running in either a shared or dedicated hidden virtual machine) from Microsoft, you can scale the site up to a very powerful instance with lots of CPU and RAM, and you can scale it out to hundreds of load balanced web servers. The naïve IT pro might comment that this is all too much for an SME. Maybe it is; but why place an arbitrary limitation on how big a business can grow? Azure Websites allows “Mary the mechanic” to advertise her business using the same infrastructure as the likes of Citibank, HypoVereinsbank, or Barclays, all massive banking corporations. Mary can take a tiny bite out of Azure every month, paying either nothing (the low spec instances are free) or very little to market her business online. If demand, and therefore her business revenue, grows then Mary can scale up or scale out her presence on Azure and pay a little more. The benefit is simple: take advantage of a huge, globally located infrastructure and sell/market your business to your customers, no matter where they are, with great performance, and no that you can scale up/down to meet demands, with no long term capital investments; any business savvy planner should like the sound of that!

Azure Websites is based on IIS, but you can deploy a huge range of Microsoft and non-Microsoft applications and CMS systems, including WordPress, PHP, Joomla, Drupal, and more, all from the Gallery.

Scenario #1: Azure Websites

Hosting of websites is not exactly a new concept. You can go to any of thousands of hosting companies around the world, and pay them a few bucks a month to host your website. Some of them even offer a store of some kind that will pre-provision a CMS and backend database for you, such as WordPress on PHP with a shared server MySQL backend database.

Azure offers that same kind of service, but with the advantages that you get from hosting with a  big-3 cloud vendor. You can get a simple website (running in either a shared or dedicated hidden virtual machine) from Microsoft, you can scale the site up to a very powerful instance with lots of CPU and RAM, and you can scale it out to hundreds of load balanced web servers. The naïve IT pro might comment that this is all too much for an SME. Maybe it is; but why place an arbitrary limitation on how big a business can grow? Azure Websites allows “Mary the mechanic” to advertise her business using the same infrastructure as the likes of Citibank, HypoVereinsbank, or Barclays, all massive banking corporations. Mary can take a tiny bite out of Azure every month, paying either nothing (the low spec instances are free) or very little to market her business online. If demand, and therefore her business revenue, grows then Mary can scale up or scale out her presence on Azure and pay a little more. The benefit is simple: take advantage of a huge, globally located infrastructure and sell/market your business to your customers, no matter where they are, with great performance, and no that you can scale up/down to meet demands, with no long term capital investments; any business savvy planner should like the sound of that!

Azure Websites is based on IIS, but you can deploy a huge range of Microsoft and non-Microsoft applications and CMS systems, including WordPress, PHP, Joomla, Drupal, and more, all from the Gallery.

Scenario #3: Data Backup in the Cloud

Every business should have an off-site backup. There are many solutions for this, including those that are enabled by traditional on-premises backup solutions, and those made available from the myriad of online backup vendors and resellers.

So why would you be interested in Microsoft’s online backup solution. Right now, it’s a very simple solution that is light on management, especially when compared to the many vendors of online backup – partner reselling and management is sorely needed in Azure because most SMEs outsource their IT management. However, Azure Online Backup has one big advantage: price per GB per month. Microsoft can purchase and deploy storage at costs that only Amazon and Google can compete with, and Microsoft is determined to be competitive or cheaper than the other big 2 vendors when it comes to cloud storage. I have seen a number of cloud backup resellers double-take when I’ve told them about the pricing of Azure backup. I know, for example, that Azure backup is 33% cheaper than the online backup solution that one of the traditional block storage vendors owns.

There are two ways to leverage this service. The first is aimed at the smaller business that might have a single small server, or maybe a couple of virtual machines on-premises. An agent is downloaded to these machines, and they can backup direct to the cloud – note that you can continue to use Windows Server Backup to backup locally to USB for regular restores. A bigger solution is where you supplement on-premises backup, such as System Center Data Protection Manager, and selectively send a copy of backup data to Azure.

Note that the data is pre-encrypted (trust no-one or TNO) before it leaves the customer site and Microsoft never has the secret passphrase to decrypt the data. The data is also optimized – in my tests a 1.6 GB selection requires 660 MB of data to backup and restore.

Thanks & Regards

Vijay Jain

M : +91 9870291860 +91 9967873052

 

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The Top Three Cloud Security Myths : BUSTED

The top three cloud security myths: BUSTED

 

The rise in global cyber-attacks and the subsequent high-profile press coverage, understandably makes businesses question the security of cloud. After all, the dangers of hosting anything in an environment where data loss or system failure events are attributed to an outside source are magnified. As a result, many CIOs are also still struggling to identify and implement the cloud services most suitable for their business. In fact, research finds over three quarters (79%) of CIOs find it a challenge to balance the productivity needs of employees against potential security threats. Moreover, 84% of CIOs worry cloud causes them to lose control over IT.

But is cloud really more vulnerable than any other infrastructure? And how can organisations mitigate any risk they encounter? The reality is that all systems have vulnerabilities that can be exploited, whether on-premise, in the cloud or a hybrid of the two. It’s safe to say that people fear what they don’t understand – and with cloud becoming increasingly complex, it’s not surprising that there are so many myths attached to it. It’s time to clear up some of these myths.

Myth 1: Cloud technology is still in its infancy and therefore inherently insecure

Cloud has been around for much longer than we often think and can be traced as far back as the 1970’s. The rapid pace of cloud development, coupled with an awakening realisation of what cloud can do for businesses, has thrust it into the limelight in recent years.

The biggest issue CIOs have with cloud is their increasing distance from the physical technology involved. Indeed, many CIO’s feel that if they cannot walk into a data centre and see comforting lights flashing on the hardware, and then it is beyond their reach. As a result, many organisations overlook instrumentation in the cloud, so don’t look at the data or systems they put there in the same way they would if it were on a physical machine. Organisations then forget to apply their own security standards, as they would in their own environment, and it is this complacency that gives rise to risk and exposure.

Myth 2: Physical security keeps data safe

It is a common misconception that having data stored on premise and on your own servers is the best form of protection. However, the location of data is not the only factor to consider. The greatest form of defence you can deploy with cloud is a combination of strict access rights, diligent data stewardship and strong governance.

Common security mistakes include not performing full due diligence on the cloud provider and assuming that the provider will be taking care of all security issues. In addition, it is still common for organisations to not take into account the physical location of a cloud environment and the legal ramifications of storing data in a different country. Indeed, a ruling found the Safe Harbour accord was invalid as it failed to adequately protect EU data from US government surveillance. Cloud providers rushed to assure customers they were dealing with the situation, but the main takeaway from this is to not believe that a cloud provider will write security policy for you – organisations need to take ownership.

Myth 3: Cloud security is the provider’s responsibility

All of the major public clouds have multiple certifications (ISO27001, ISO27018, ENISA IAF, FIPS140-2, HIPAA, PCI-DSS) attained by proving they have controls to ensure data integrity.

The real risk comes when organisations blindly park data, thinking that security is just implicit. Unless the data is protected with encryption, firewalls, access lists etc., organisations remain vulnerable. The majority of cloud exposures can in fact be traced back to a failure in policy or controls not being applied correctly – look at the TalkTalk hack for example, and consider the alternate outcome had the database been encrypted.

Education and ownership is the future :

The speed at which cloud is evolving can understandably cause a few teething problems. But it is the responsibility of providers and clients alike to take ownership of their own elements and apply security policies which are right for their business, their risk profile and the data which they hold. As with any technological change, many interested parties quickly jumped on the cloud bandwagon. But the allure of a technology can inhibit a lack of critical thinking, and the broader view of choosing the right application at the right cost, with appropriate security to mitigate risk, is lost. Remember, the cloud is not inherently secure and given the fact it stands to underpin enterprise operations for years to come, it’s worth approaching it not as a bandwagon but as an important part of enterprise infrastructure.