Could Microsoft Azure save my business money?


Overpaying for cloud services is more common than you’d think. Craig reflects on how this happened to one of our customers and how Microsoft Azure helped.

The problem with old cloud backup solutions

A while ago we discovered one of our customers’ businesses was running on rented, legacy VMware cloud infrastructure. I liken this to never switching your broadband supplier: you miss out on all of the introductory offers and new features, and before you know it, you're paying more than your neighbours and getting less for it!

Unfortunately, this was exactly the situation this customer found themselves in – locked into an expensive and rigid technology stack that was hindering rather than assisting the business. We have been keen advocates of Microsoft Azure ever since it came on the market and, following a bit of research, it became apparent that this customer would fit in perfectly with the Azure ecosystem.

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After looking at the available options and what was possible for the business, it was a no brainer in all areas, including cost, features and flexibility. The cost savings were dramatic, which pleasantly surprised the customer as Microsoft Azure sometimes gets incorrectly branded as very expensive.

Migrating to Azure with minimal downtime

Our task as the IT provider was then to migrate the current infrastructure in its entirety to Azure, whilst minimising downtime. To be honest, the new Azure migrate service made this a breeze, even for a complex configuration that had been maintained by several different administrators over many years.

The ease of the move was testament to the reliability and backwards compatibility of Azure. During the majority of the migration, there was effectively no downtime. All we had to do was simply replicate the disks into the Recovery Services Vault – ready to be attached to freshly created Virtual Machines when failing over.

Interestingly, after speaking with an engineer from this customer’s previous infrastructure provider, I found out that when the servers were initially migrated they had spent over 30 hours migrating a particularly troublesome VM. The same VM we had up and running in Azure within an hour of the replication finishing. The difference is stark and almost unbelievable.

Improving the backup process with Microsoft Azure

After the successful replication of the VMs our next task was to standardise their dangerously simple backup processes, involving a very expensive and inefficient BaaS (Backup as a Service) solution provided by their current Cloud provider. This was a full VM, block-level backup that happened once per day and required a full VM restore to restore any data – even single files. This would often take hours to process. So, if a database needed to be reverted to a particular transaction, date or time it would take a long time to manually trawl through transaction logs to build the chain to roll back to.

With Microsoft Azure we now have hourly snapshots of each VM with file-level restore granularity and crucially, direct, point-in-time restore of ALL databases across the estate. As the individual who was responsible for managing the backups for this customer for several months before the migration, this was a huge relief.

Why we'd recommend switching to Microsoft Azure

It is difficult to quickly summarise the benefits of Azure when compared with private clouds (or even on-premises infrastructure), as the number of features and solutions that are immediately available is truly amazing. The immediate integration with the Azure DevOps toolset provided some real, tangible benefits, such as automated configuration management, Azure DevOps tooling, integrated CI/CD pipelines and one-touch deployment analytics for existing applications. After deploying their first analytics, the team managed to identify (and resolve) a long-standing bug which likely simply wouldn't have been discovered before Azure.

The true genius of Azure is the ease of deployment for services and the interoperability of those services. In the modern business landscape plans often change, so being able to quickly pivot to provide reliable solutions provides a huge competitive advantage.

Need to handle some extra load during a busy period? No problem, your VM can easily be resized in minutes, or even scale automatically. Need a geographically redundant recovery plan, that can be executed in minutes - mirroring the entire network inside a separate data centre? Azure has you covered. So, whether you’re looking for ways to save money or just optimise your systems, we’d recommend seriously considering Microsoft Azure.

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