Cloud server technologies and Microsoft’s Azure platform is now able to provide not just a service that can compete with those typically run on an on-premise server, but surpass it on aspects such as security, flexibility and accessibility.
Furthermore, because cloud services are commonly provided on a subscription basis, you pay ‘little and often’ for an eternal and ever-updating cloud service, rather than making a large one-off purchase for a physical server – which will be fixed-in-time from a hardware point of view – for the 5-7 years you own it.
The three key functions that a server typically hosts for are: domain controller, file storage and line-of-business applications such as Finance, Manufacturing and Sales software. This article looks into the role of these three functions and the advantages of performing them from the cloud, just as you may already have done with your email system.
One of the primary functions of a server is to manage your Domain, this is the nerve centre of your IT infrastructure. A Domain Controller enables you to, among other things, manage and control your users from a centralised point.
Microsoft’s cloud technologies have developed to such a point that many of the complex operations performed by a Domain Controller can be fulfilled effectively through Microsoft’s Azure Active Directory service. This is a comprehensive, highly available identity and access management cloud service, which helps your employee’s sign in and access internal and external resources.
With Active Directory, you can control the information that will stay in the cloud, who can manage and use that information, and which applications can access that information. And because it’s cloud-based, its functions can be controlled remotely.
A server provides the central point for users within a business’s IT infrastructure to store files for common access within the network. File storage is one of the most commonly known functions of the cloud, and it’s a function it’s far better at delivering than a hard drive or memory stick.
Storing your data on a cloud server makes it accessible from any web-enabled device that has the permissions to do so. The risk-free and safe environment the cloud offers allows users to share files or sync them to the server with ease.
Cloud file storage is also very flexible and can be scaled up or down at the touch of a button’. If you reach capacity on your cloud server subscription it can be extended quickly and easily – a feature not offered by a physical server. This is also useful in the event of a project that requires a large amount of storage for a short period of time, you can make a short-term change to your storage and return to your usual specification when not needed.
Lastly, servers are often required to host industry-specific line-of-business applications, these are critical for many businesses in managing service delivery. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems are a great example of a line of business application, a CRM system enables a business to effectively manage its interactions with existing and potential customers.
Hosting a CRM or another line-of-business application, such as your accounts or manufacturing software in the cloud means it can be accessed from anywhere, at any time, on virtually any device. You will no longer have to worry about the hardware environment it runs on and providing power, storage and heating. This is all handled by the hosting provider, you simply just consume the service when and where you need it.
Being part of your IT infrastructure, rather than a separate online portal, also means it can integrate with other applications on your desktops or other devices. The result is a more seamless experience for your employees and better continuity between all locations.
Another key advantage of having your line-of-business application in the cloud is that it’s maintenance will often be in the hands of the software developer. Updates will be carried out in a timely way and any issues you experience can be handled by the developer’s customer support directly.
What else does a cloud server offer?
The benefits of cloud computing are wide-ranging, but a few notable perks of hosting services in the cloud include:
- Security – when hosted on an appropriate cloud hosting platform, your service will be provided from a secure datacentre complying to regulations such as ISO 27001, HIPAA, UK G-Cloud, FedRAMP, SOC 1 and SOC 2.
- Compliance – having automatic ISO 27001 compliance is a significant benefit for those that store sensitive data or if it is a requirement in a project tender.
- Flexible capacity – it’s not just capacity that can be adjusted, it’s performance too, you can temporarily or permanently increase or decrease computing power to your needs.
- Affordability – with a cloud service you only pay for what you use – no costly, surplus space or unutilised performance.
Stay tuned for more on cloud servers
Over the next three months, we’ll dig a little deeper on the cloud solutions to Domain Controllers, file storage and line of business applications. Each of these can be fulfilled by cloud services in a number of different ways – which cloud solution you should choose depends on how your business operates and what your requirements are. These upcoming articles will help shed more light on the options available to you and the opportunities and benefits they offer.
How can Microtrading help?
The comprehensive range of cloud solutions we offer is designed to deliver an IT infrastructure that is optimised towards your needs and allows you to capitalise on all that cloud computing has to offer.
Microtrading can advise on, specify and implement your migration to the cloud. Once your cloud migration is complete we can support it on an ongoing basis, with our Managed IT Services which ensure the smooth running of your IT infrastructure.