At first look, Azure may not have the allure of Google Cloud or AWS but there are solid reasons why you may opt for Microsoft’s cloud service offering over others.

There’s no escaping that Azure is a long way off AWS regarding market share, and the support community behind it is smaller. Nor does it have the cutting-edge sexiness of Google’s technology, which includes the advancements it’s making in machine learning.

Azure does have a crucial differentiator in the sense of familiarity that it provides to organisations – especially those operating at scale. But this is not it only advantages. Here are six key areas where organisations may benefit when opting to use Azure:

  1. Familiarity

You often hear developers flippantly claim that organisations only select Azure because it’s based on the Microsoft technology they have always worked with. This implies there is a laziness or an unwillingness to adopt new ways of working. If this were the whole story, you wouldn’t have modern and progressive businesses, like Uber, choosing to build its infrastructure around Mircosoft’s .net technology.

You can’t ignore, however, that the familiarity of Microsoft may be a determining factor in the decision-making process. With Microsoft being the go-to enterprise software provider since the 1980s, many big organisations, including banks and universities, will have created bespoke internal systems using its features, such as Windows’ Active Directory.

[easy-tweet tweet=”Shifting a mission-critical system from an in-house environment to the cloud can be a stressful ” hashtags=”Cloud, Microsoft”]

Shifting a mission-critical system from an in-house environment to the cloud can be a stressful exercise for those involved. It can just make the job that bit easier if everyone is familiar with the technology provided by Azure.

  1. Safe and secure

Confidence in the technology is crucial, particularly when it comes to security. In this regard, Azure has a major advantage as many of its security features are ahead of the competition’s. These features include mutual SSL authentication, the management of certificates and private keys, and the isolation of hypervisor, host OS and guest virtual machines.

This security element is extremely appealing to large and expanding organisations, such as the Ubers of this world – especially as the security features on offer around Microsoft’s SQL technology cluster are in line with the demands of an enterprise level business. Government organisations may also be more comfortable working with these tried and trusted security features than they are experimenting with a new provider.

  1. Direct support

From a commercial perspective, there may well be an advantage in moving to Azure if you are already a heavy user of Microsoft technology – the licensing arrangement may also be a lot more straightforward. From a development perspective, however, the big benefit is direct access to Microsoft support teams.

Yes, it is possible to build with Microsoft technology in AWS (the cloud market leader but, if you need any technical support, you are in effect introducing a middleman. Support is available, but this would be a proxy request through a third party. Whereas, with Azure, you get to speak to the support team with direct access to the technology you are working with.

  1. Hybrid environments

Although there are clear advantages in building your infrastructure in the cloud, not every business will want to do this lock, stock and barrel. Some organisations prefer to keep mission-critical systems, applications and data in-house. For example, a government department may want to keep its user data and authentication closer to home, available for regular security audits.

To accommodate these demands, Azure has a large range of features that specifically support organisations developing a hybrid environment. This is allowing companies to benefit from a cloud environment for non-critical applications and data, and have that integrate smoothly with the in-house infrastructure.

  1. Tech advancements

Although Azure is not as renowned for making technological advances, in the way Google is for instance, it’s ensuring it’s up-to-date and supporting those that matter. For instance, Kubernetes, which was pioneered by Google, is available on Azure.

  1. Heavy workloads

When it comes to managing workloads, Azure may well hold a key advantage compared to other providers. For example, when an organisation has lots of users demanding access to the corporate network, domain control can be a major bug bear. Managing huge numbers of log-ins, the authentication processing can require the deployment of some chunky servers.

Azure, however, has a managed domain service which allows companies to off-load the workload involved here. Although there are managed domain services available elsewhere, they are more stripped back and less economical.

There are reasons why organisations may not want to work with Azure – and we’ve previously outlined key advantages to choosing Google Cloud and AWS as alternatives. However, if you are an organisation where stability matters more than the ability to experiment with leading-edge technological advances, then Azure may well be the best choice.

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Rob Greenwood, Technical director, Steamhaus

Rob is the technical director at Steamhaus, a cloud and network consultancy based in Manchester. Experienced in implementing large-scale solutions using open-source technologies, Rob has over a decades’ experience and was responsible for the build of the UK’s biggest public OpenStack and Ceph cloud. Prior to this he was technical director for one of Manchester’s largest managed hosting companies. Rob has also managed a top 10 Alexa UK traffic rank website, averaging over 15 million unique visitors per month.