Servers are amazing things. They are pretty much the heart of your computer network, providing the functionality, and the means for your entire computer system to function. In tech parlance, a server is a computer programme or a device that provides functionality for other devices, called clients. A server can distribute a process or a computation over multiple clients, which makes it an extremely useful type of architecture, allowing for easy sharing of resources and data across multiple points of access. Typical servers handle databases, file servers, mail, applications, web servers, and even games. A server is an important part of any computer network.
Typically, large organisations would assemble and operate their own servers on site or at a secure location. Smaller companies may rent out server space from third party vendors. But keeping a server up and running is a full-time job. Network administrators work round the clock to make sure that the physical machines are running well, that maintenance is done regularly, that backups are maintained, software is up to date, and system security is on point. Servers need to be kept in environmentally-controlled physical spaces, with proper power surge protection, temperature monitoring, fire protection, and redundancy. Taking care of this takes up a significant portion of a network technician’s time and resources ‒ time that could be spent building other systems and processes.
While having a server is important for any information system, offsetting the time-consuming portions of server maintenance will help increase productivity in other areas. Luckily, with the increased adoption of cloud-based services, this is very possible.
Azure ‒ Cloud-based Server
Microsoft Azure is a cloud-based infrastructure and collection of services that lets you emulate a physical server setup, but with much less hassle and a lot more additional services included. While some might question the advisability of replacing a physical setup with a virtual cloud-based one, Azure is as secure, if not more, than an on-site setup. The migration of server to the cloud is part of a greater trend of making services and applications globally accessible and always online. Cloud services are much more in demand now because they are dynamic and also much more scalable than a physical setup. Increasing the capacity of an on-site server room involves a significant amount of planning, investment, and work hours. While using Azure feels just like you’re using a physical server, you can increase RAM in just minutes instead of the days it would otherwise require to physically purchase and set up additional hardware.
Using Azure, network administrators can create Linux and Windows virtual machines in minutes. The service has support for Linux, Windows Server, SQL Server, Oracle, IBM, and SAP, allowing for a wide range of computing solutions, whether it be development and testing, or running applications. Instead of the weeks it would normally take to deploy an application, Azure enables you to deploy in minutes.
Virtual machines have many uses, and can be created for on-premises servers, or used in the cloud to better organise resources. They can be integrated into a data centre to be used for global load balancing when needed, allowing for hybrid cloud solutions.
Dealing With Data
The amount of data a company deals with and runs through their servers is immense, and making sense of it can be a chore. But Azure, using big data analytics through Hadoop and Spark technologies, can help organisations deal with and analyse the volumes passing through servers.
Using Azure for database servers has never been easier. SQL Database is a managed cloud database for developers and the service can be scaled on the fly as demands increase. Power BI and its advanced analytics can be embedded to easily create data reports without ever having to write any code.
In terms of reliability, Azure is maintaining 99.9% uptime for its services. Despite the fears that come with migrating to the cloud, Azure is actually more secure than a physical server. Microsoft has made a commitment to the protection and privacy of data by being the first cloud provider recognised by the European Union’s data protection authorities for a commitment to rigorous EU privacy laws. Microsoft was also the first major cloud provider to adopt the new international cloud privacy standard, ISO 27018. With Azure, you don’t have to worry about keeping all software up to date, because Microsoft does it for you.
Organisations will have to spend much less time managing and maintaining backup storage infrastructure and instead adopt a backup-as-a-service model, that can easily restore data from the cloud. Azure also has the most innovative disaster recovery systems implemented at a scale that is impractical to adopt at an organisational level.
Azure has built a lot of trust with the services that it offers. Over 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies use Microsoft Cloud, which includes Azure. Everything from small applications to massively multiplayer online games and even broadcasting the Olympics, has been built on Azure. There are other clients using Azure to achieve some pretty cool things as well.
Azure is a service that enables organisations: it can be integrated directly into current business processes without creating and disruption, and it can be used to speed up new businesses with the least possible amount of setup time. With Azure, you can spend less time on maintenance, reduce overheads, remove unnecessary burdens, and channel all those resources into creating something new. Azure lets you stop worrying, and start building.
Featured image credit: Technology Management Concepts