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What to Consider When You’re Considering Azure

Microsoft Azure is popular because it can support everything from identity and access management to disaster recovery to serverless computing. Here’s how and where to get started.

Microsoft Azure adoption grew nearly 35 percent over the past year, to 58 percent of the enterprises surveyed in the “RightScale 2018 State of the Cloud Report.” That’s good news for companies considering whether and how to migrate to Azure. They have plenty of opportunities to learn from real-world examples.

At CDW, the most common question we get from customers considering Azure is, “What should our first steps be?” Many of those customers already have Microsoft Office 365, which uses Azure Active Directory for identity and access management (IAM). That foundation gives them a quick and easy starting point to extend Azure Active Directory to other user-management processes in their organization, such as multi-factor authentication and conditional access.

By enabling a wide variety of ID management options, Azure provides another layer of protection. That’s because half the battle is being able to identify and track every user to ensure appropriate access to necessary resources is granted, and inappropriate behavior can be identified quickly.

Include Disaster Recovery in Azure Strategy

Regardless of whether or not you use Office 365, any Azure strategy should include a review of current disaster recovery and business continuity (DR/BC) plans. Even if you already have a DR/BC plan, any review of Azure strategy is an ideal time to reassess it. For example, have you tested and validated the plan? If the answer is no, consider leveraging Azure’s built-in tools for site recovery and backup. Azure also can integrate with your existing on-premises backup solutions, such as Commvault and Veeam. It’s straightforward to configure Azure to serve as their backup target.

I worked with one enterprise that was uncertain if its disaster recovery plan would actually work because its complex, multisite environment made it challenging to perform a full failover test. Rather than continuing to run on faith, it sought help from CDW in migrating its business continuity strategy to Azure Site Recovery, which included the ability to test restore the environment to a sandbox. By failing key infrastructure elements into the Azure sandbox, the organization could prove to auditors that its disaster recovery plan was solid.

Consider Infrastructure as a Service

As your organization implements a DR/BC plan utilizing Azure, it is also an ideal time to consider Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). For example, if you have servers, storage area networks and other infrastructure approaching the end of useful life, and are currently backing up those infrastructure elements to Azure, it might make sense to perform a planned failover event, and simply not fail back to your old equipment. CDW can help you identify which pieces can provide the biggest bang for your buck.

We also can help you be more selective in determining which workloads to move to IaaS, and in which order to move them. For example, some applications are best left on-premises because that makes it easier to comply with regulations such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) or Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS).

Microsoft spent a lot of time planning and designing how Azure will integrate with third parties. For example, Azure uses common standards and protocols — REST APIs, direct bash scripting, use of GIT repositories, and so on — allowing IT staff to use what they’re already comfortable with. Azure also works with open-source protocols such as Linux; in fact, nearly half of all compute utilized in Azure is on open source platforms.

The bottom line is that Azure has a lot to offer — so much, in fact, that to get the most out of it, enterprises are increasingly seeking help as they develop and execute their migration strategies. By this time next year, your organization might be the success story that others can learn from.

Learn more about Microsoft Azure and the partners that CDW is working with in this ecosystem.

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