Microsoft Azure, formerly called Windows Azure, allows you to offload network infrastructure, business-critical servers and applications to Microsoft's secure, easily accessible public cloud. Azure offers dozens of cloud-based services including the ability to host Windows and Linux-based virtual machines (VMs), on-demand storage, data management, unified messaging, and backup/recovery. Azure services are subscription based and Azure resources are dynamically allocated so you can immediately ramp up or ratchet down compute and storage capacity. Since you pay only for what you need, resource utilization is high, which is one of the major attractions of public clouds along with immediate provisioning and automatic maintenance and updates.
Office 365 Exchange Online, which is based on Azure infrastructure, is popular among small businesses who rely on Exchange and has helped establish Azure as one of the most technologically advanced public cloud platforms. However, many businesses are not ready to move all their infrastructure and applications to the cloud for reasons that include legacy systems that are not easily migrated, government regulations or business standards that require some IT resources to reside exclusively on-premises, performance issues for speed-critical applications that are poorly suited for virtualization, high-availability or disaster recovery considerations, cost, management flexibility, or company culture. Microsoft continues to introduce and enhance technologies that allow you to build and manage so-called hybrid environments that seamlessly integrate physical on-premises IT resources with Azure-based cloud services. This enables you to create a custom network solution that aligns optimally with your business needs and budget.
Progent has helped businesses of all sizes to plan, implement and administer networks based on a variety of hybrid models that combine Azure resources with physical datacenters. Progent can provide affordable online assistance to help you evaluate the potential benefits of different Azure services for your business, and Progent can help you integrate your physical IT resources with the Azure cloud services that make sense for your organization. Progent can help you set up virtual machines on Azure Virtual Machines, configure cloud-based storage on Azure Storage services, streamline identity management with Azure Active Directory, and design backup and restore systems with Azure Backup. Progent can also show you how to create secure connections to Azure for desktop and mobile device users by setting up and troubleshooting firewalls and VPN IPsec tunnels.
Key Microsoft Azure Products
Dozens of cloud-based product families and hundreds of associated services are available under the Microsoft Azure banner. This expanding set of integrated cloud services provides the applications, network infrastructure, management tools and development resources needed to support most IT solution for organizations of any size. Additional products such as Office 365 Exchange Online rely on Azure network infrastructure and management tools. (Visit Office 365 Exchange Online consulting services.) Important Azure offerings supported by Progent include:
Azure Virtual Machines allows quick provisioning and easy management of VMs on Microsoft's Azure cloud infrastructure. You can deploy virtual machines for Microsoft Windows Server and Linux operating systems. Pricing of virtual machines depends on CPU power, memory size, storage capacity and I/O performance. Azure-based VMs running Windows are accessible through Remote Desktop Connection (RDP). The Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) features of Azure Virtual Machines allows you to run Windows workloads like SQL Server and Microsoft Dynamics as well mainstream Linux distributions such as Red Hat, CentOS, Debian, Ubuntu, CoreOS, RancherOS and FreeBSD.
The enhanced deployment model for Azure VMs, called Azure Resource Manager and introduced in 2014, replaces Azure Classic and offers streamlined virtual machine management by supporting VM groups with a shared lifecycle. Previously, Azure cloud services for deploying, scaling and managing VMs had to be handled individually. Resource Manager deployment options include Azure Portal, Azure Resource Manager template, Azure PowerShell and Azure Tools for Visual Studio. Progent can help you create and manage Azure environments with maximum efficiency by providing expertise with all of these technologies.
Azure Storage offers dynamically scalable, load balanced primary storage on the Azure cloud. A General Purpose Storage account gives Azure subscribers access to storage services for Blobs, Tables, Files, Queues, and VM disks. Each account has a 500 TB capacity limit. For faster performance, you can subscribe to a Premium storage tier and run VM workloads on solid state disks (SSDs).
Azure Blob storage for General Purpose Storage accounts is designed for large volumes of unstructured data like documents, social media, archival storage, web content and logs. Blobs are arranged as containers, which makes it easy to assign security policies to object groups. To transfer blobs that are too massive to move via the Internet, you can physically ship a disk drive to Microsoft.
A special-purpose Blob Storage account is available for apps that only need block or append blob storage. You can specify frequently used or infrequently used access characteristics for block and append blobs (but not for page blobs). The ability to define hot and cool access patterns in Azure storage accounts allows you to achieve the right price/performance trade-off.
Table storage is affordably-priced storage intended for developers creating non-relational, schemaless metadata such as address books, device information, or web applications. NoSQL Table Storage works with the OData protocol for advanced querying and supports JSON and XML-based AtomPub formats. Queue storage facilitates the creation of messaging applications by supporting asynchronous communication between application components across cloud and physical environments. Azure File storage accommodates SMB shares, which makes it easier to move legacy applications to Azure.
Microsoft Azure Active Directory, or Azure AD, is a cloud based directory and identity management service that supports a wealth of features including multi-factor authentication, password synchronization across hybrid cloud/on-premises environments, device registration, self-service password and group management, privileged account management, fine-grained role based access control (RBAC), plus monitoring of application usage and security. Azure AD provides single sign-on (SSO) access to thousands of Microsoft and third-party Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications such as Office 365, Salesforce.com, and DropBox. Azure AD can also provide secure mobile/remote access to on-premises applications.
Azure AD Connect integrates on-premises directories with Azure AD for single-identity access in hybrid environments
Azure AD Connect is the preferred tool for integrating on-premises directories with Azure AD, replacing Azure Active Directory Sync (DirSync) and Azure AD Sync (AAD Sync). AD Connect includes basic synchronization services with single sign-on (SSO) support, optional Active Directory Federation Services (AD FS) for configuring hybrid environments that use an on-premises AD FS infrastructure, and Azure AD Connect Health for monitoring and reporting.
Azure Backup is a cloud-based backup service that can be used to protect on-premises datacenters, data in the Azure cloud, and data shared across hybrid cloud/on-premises deployments. With basic Azure Backup services, three copies of backup data are stored at one of Azure's datacenters. An expanded service stores three extra copies of target data at another Azure datacenter located in a different geographic region. Microsoft offers SLAs for 99.9% availability and data retention for up to 99 years. Azure Backup allows you to schedule backups on a daily, monthly, weekly and yearly basis and can recover data more quickly and less expensively than tape technology. Azure Backup encrypts data before sending it over a secure connection to the Azure datacenter for storage. The encryption key for the data is kept locally and not at the Azure datacenter.
Other features of Azure Backup include throttling to improve productivity by shifting backup activity away from peak usage hours, plus data compression and incremental (change-only) backups to enhance performance and reduce storage requirements. In addition, Azure Backup can be combined with Microsoft System Center Data Protection Manager (SCDPM) to take advantage of SCDPM's awareness of key Microsoft applications such as Exchange Server, SQL Server and SharePoint. For example, SCDPM offers mailbox recovery for Exchange, database-level restore for SQL Server, and Item Level Recovery (ILR) for SharePoint Server.
How Progent Can Help You Integrate Your Microsoft Azure Solution
Whether you want to migrate your business network to the Microsoft Azure cloud or create a hybrid ecosystem that combines on-premises resources with Azure cloud services, Progent can help you understand the benefits of Azure vs. competing public cloud platforms, select the cloud services that align best with your needs and budget, integrate your solution following proven practices, show you how to manage your cloud-based and local resources, train your IT team and end users, and provide as-needed consulting and technical support to make sure your network environment continues to provide maximum business value.
Progent can help with each phase of your Azure migration including requirements analysis, readiness assessment, system design and testing, deployment, tuning, license control, disaster recovery preparedness, security and compliance, and management automation. Progent can help you determine which of your applications are a good fit for Azure and can assist you to update your legacy apps so they can be hosted on Microsoft Azure. Progent offers affordable online expertise to help you resolve occasional technical roadblocks or comprehensive project management services to guide you through your Azure migration on schedule and within budget.
Azure can host a broad range of solutions from Microsoft as well as third-party suppliers. For Microsoft servers, apps, management tools and development resources, Azure offers special optimizations, but Azure also provides extensive Linux support. Linux images available in the Azure Gallery or Marketplace have been created by various Microsoft partners, and for Linux flavors not on Microsoft's Endorsed Distribution list Microsoft supports a Bring-Your-Own-Linux option. Microsoft has steadily enhanced Azure's support for hybrid networks that combine on-premises networks with cloud services. Progent's Microsoft Gold-certified consultants can provide expertise support for Windows-based technology integrated with Azure by offering services such as Windows Server configuration, Exchange migration and support, SQL Server integration and programming, SharePoint planning and support, Office 365 integration and training, Skype for Business setup and troubleshooting, System Center Data Protection Manager consulting, System Center 2016 Virtual Machine Manager hybrid cloud management, and Microsoft Dynamics GP programming and training.
A critical piece of any hybrid cloud solution is furnishing a safe, easy and reliable way for on-premises and remote users to connect to cloud-based resources. Progent has extensive experience configuring IPsec VPN tunnels and setting up or troubleshooting firewalls to access Microsoft Azure services. Progent offers online access to Cisco-certified CCIE network infrastructure consultants and firewall experts certified by top suppliers such as Symantec, Barracuda, SonicWALL, WatchGuard, and Check Point to assist you to configure or debug firewalls for integrating your on-premises network with Microsoft Azure. Progent also supports mobile users by providing the help of Apple iPhone and iPad technology consultants, Google Android integration consultants and RIM BlackBerry specialists to show you how to configure and manage smartphones and tablets connected to your Azure environment. When you encounter problems with your Azure solution, Progent has experience working with Microsoft's Azure support engineers to fix Azure-related issues efficiently.
Common examples of online consulting services that Progent has provided to small businesses to help them support their Microsoft Azure solution include:
Additional Public Cloud Integration Support Available from Progent
- Design or review the architecture of hybrid Azure/on-premises environments
- Build Virtual Machine images for Windows or Linux systems to be hosted on Azure
- Configure Azure Active Directory and Azure AD Connect
- Design and test backup and restore solutions based on Azure Backup
- Set up and troubleshoot virtual hard disks (VHDs) for Azure
- Define and implement security policies
- Identify and repair problems with IP addresses
- Resolve synchronization issues with Office 365
- Configure and debug IPsec VPN tunnels for remote connectivity to Azure
- Set up, update and troubleshoot firewalls from Cisco, Barracuda, WatchGuard, Symantec and others
- Configure Cisco AnyConnect for accessing Azure resources
- Streamline the management of software licenses
- Fix problems with certificates
- Configure management, monitoring and reporting tools
As public cloud technology becomes more sophisticated and cloud service offerings multiply, it becomes increasingly difficult for small businesses to wade through the hype and technical jargon to determine the best path for their information network to take. Progent can help you evaluate the various public cloud services available and design and deploy a cloud solution that fits your business goals and budget. In addition to offering support for Microsoft Azure integration, Progent can provide advanced consulting for these cloud platforms:
Office 365 Exchange Online allows you to use cloud-based servers, mailboxes and other email infrastructure to lower hardware costs and management overhead. You can use Exchange Online to host all your mailboxes, or you can run a hybrid solution that combines on-premises and cloud-resident mailboxes. Progent's Microsoft Gold-certified consultants offer budget-friendly online support to assist your small businesses to evaluate the potential advantages of Office 365 Exchange Online, design a network topology that fits your functional requirements and IT budget, plan and implement an efficient migration from your existing Exchange organization to one that incorporates Office 365 Exchange Online, train your IT managers and end users, and provide ongoing consulting and technical support whenever you need help. To learn about Progent's consulting services for hybrid Office 365 and on-premises Exchange environments, see Office 365 integration with on-premises Exchange.
Amazon Web Services (AWS) is a leading public cloud platform offering a full set of cloud services including Elastic Compute Cloud for hosting virtual machines, Amazon Simple Storage Service for cloud-based storage, and Amazon Glacier for low-cost long-term storage. Progent can help you asses the comparative benefits of Amazon AWS against alternate public cloud platforms and help you to plan and implement a full migration to Amazon AWS or to create a hybrid solution that integrates on-premises resources with Amazon's cloud services. For details about Progent's consulting support for Amazon AWS, see Amazon AWS cloud integration consulting.
Amazon Marketplace Web Service (Amazon MWS) is an extensive library of application programming interfaces (APIs) that allow businesses who sell via Amazon's online retail network to integrate their internal software applications for functions such as product listings, customer orders, payments, product fulfillment, and reporting with Amazon's services. By integrating internal applications and work flows with Amazon's online network, companies can extend their reach, reduce selling costs, create a better buying experience for their customers, and grow their profits. To find out more about Progent's software development consulting for Amazon MWS, visit to Amazon Marketplace Web Service (MWS) development and integration consulting.
Contact Progent for Cloud Integration Consulting
If you need help with any aspect of integrating your network with Microsoft Azure or other public cloud platform, call Progent at 800-993-9400 or visit Contact Progent.