Planning a move to Azure

Whether you’re planning a move to Azure to reduce your costs or want more flexibility and performance, the Microsoft Cloud offers a great deal of potential.  Migrating isn’t simple though.  There are many pitfalls that you can run into.  Having a good plan in place and a full understanding of your objectives from the start helps avoid most issues and makes the transition to the cloud more straightforward.

Azure was developed with enterprise IT in mind.  It was designed to integrate with other Microsoft products such as Office and Exchange and popular business applications from the start.  As such, the configuration of the Azure cloud for a business is intended to provide a familiar environment that works well and provides all the features such as instant back up and resilience that are required in a typical modern IT Strategy.

What Planning a Move to Azure entails

When you’re planning a move to the cloud, there are some questions that you’ll want to talk through with your Azure Consultant.  These range from governance through to budget, and getting the right answers for your business needs will help ensure that your move is beneficial.

How Much Does It Cost?

The simple answer is that when you move to Azure, the cost of your cloud will vary over time.  Supplier prices can change based on things like exchange rate, but the level of consumption that you have will also grow.  Many businesses come to Valto with an existing cloud environment and are seeing ever increasing bills.  While we can help to reduce Azure Costs, it’s important to know that the price you pay at the start when you’re moving a small number of applications and data is not the same as your subscription a year later.

Unlike a traditional legacy server where you buy the equipment and then it’s there whether you’re using it or not, your cloud bill reflects actual consumption.  In the long run the cost is lower – if you optimise your usage and keep track of what subscriptions you’re running.

How much do you know?

There is a massive shortage of experienced IT staff with a full understanding of the process of planning a move to Azure. While the deployment and management of Azure is now straightforward and familiar, there are nuances with machine spec and architecture that require expertise.

Having access to experienced support staff is essential.  Microsoft’s own support can be difficult to use – and comes at a cost.  Choosing a managed service for Azure is a worthwhile investment that will pay off the first time you have an issue with backups or identity.

How Secure Is it?

Azure is secure.  If you take precautions.  Modern business doesn’t take place in the office – we access sensitive data via multiple devices and through multiple networks.  This can be a recipe for vulnerabilities.

Securing your data is essential, so ensuring that identities and permissions are properly managed, using a firewall, and maintaining best practice security are all recommended.  Regular Pen testing will also help to identify any risks and take appropriate action.

If you’re thinking about planning a move to Azure, or want advice about your existing deployment, please contact a member of our team on 03335 779 009 and we’ll be happy to talk to you.

 

Reducing Problems with SharePoint

When it’s properly configured, SharePoint can make an enormous difference to your business.  It helps improve collaboration and teams can make better decisions as a result.  Sometimes though, things can go wrong, so having the ability to fix any problems with SharePoint is essential..

In organisations where SharePoint is core to productivity, fixing problems quickly is a priority.  Having access to experienced technical staff can help minimise the cause of problems and resolve them more quickly.

Why things go wrong in SharePoint

Most problems with SharePoint boil down to one of three areas, either incorrect configuration, insufficient server resource, or incompatible code in a 3rd party application or extension.  Diagnosing the cause of an issue quickly usually means faster resolution.

Most deployments of SharePoint are unique.  A company will usually need some functionality adding, or have special needs to fulfil certain requirements.  In most cases, the configuration is handled by the SharePoint consultants who conduct the initial development work.

In a lot of cases, shortcuts that were taken during the deployment lead to bigger issues later.  These might be workarounds that had to be put in place to futz a piece of functionality, or maybe some additional code that tied two systems together.

Compromise leads to compromise.  Often, when performing a project to fix earlier issues, it becomes apparent that changes were made mid deployment that led to configuration settings being changed.

Diagnosing this type of issue can be straightforward for an experience SharePoint support professional, however the resolution can be more difficult.  There will always be a way of fixing incompatibility between software, but beware of a change now that simply stores up a problem for the future.  It is sometimes better to consider what your long-term IT Strategy is and work towards that.

Hosting Problems with SharePoint

Far and away the most common root of problems with SharePoint such as the platform slowing down or not providing the expected level of performance is insufficiently powerful infrastructure.  A SharePoint farm uses multiple physical or virtual machines to power it.  Database, front end, and application servers coupled with a search engine mean that there are multiple points of failure.

In some cases, issues with hosting arise because of changes in scale of the application over time.  As more data is added and more users join the network, it will begin to creak.  A regular assessment of your cloud is useful.  If you’re hosting SharePoint virtually, then an Azure Consultant will be able to provide advice and support about whether you have the correct infrastructure to meet your needs and then provide guidance about the right steps to take.

Extensions causing problems?

Customisation is fundamental to ensuring that SharePoint does what your organisation needs it to.  Whether you have used off the shelf apps or bespoke development, there is a risk that two different extensions may conflict with each other.  This is particularly common when code changes due to updates.

Many organisations use a test environment for SharePoint to ensure that any problems can be ironed out before users experience them, but there is always the potential for something unforeseen to get through the net.

Summary

If you’re having problems with SharePoint, the chances are that a member of our team will be able to help you resolve the issue quickly and avoid major disruption.  Call us today on 03335 779 009 and we’ll get started right away.

Does Azure Cost More than You Expected?

For a lot of businesses, reducing infrastructure costs is one of the main factors in a cloud migration.  Using the public cloud allows a business to avoid many of the expenses of a traditional data centre such as power, maintenance, and acquisition of hardware.  With a Microsoft cloud subscription, the various components of the price are included in the single Azure cost.

However, what often happens is that once a business moves to the cloud, they find that their monthly subscription rises over time.  The increase in costs can be significant, and it’s incumbent on the IT strategy team to identify what the cause of the rising costs of Azure are, and how to address them

What Are You Paying For?

Azure is charged on a consumption basis.  You pay for the types of virtual machine that you have specified and for the amount of time that you use them for.  A typical deployment may include many different VMs performing distinct functions, and these may be running for different times depending on the demand.

What isn’t always clear in your Azure billing is exactly what makes up the price – what has changed since the previous month or how many instances you have.

Why is Your Azure Cost Rising?

There are two main reasons why your costs for Azure rise.

The first is somewhat out of your control.  Exchange rate changes can have a substantial impact on your bills.  Microsoft, and other cloud providers will vary costs around the world so that there’s very little room to save money by billing through a different territory.  If the currency rates change, the chances are that your bill will go up to reflect it.

The second reason is that you might be using Azure more.  Deploying new machines is straightforward, and not all businesses have full oversight into what’s being used.  Your development team might need to add a machine for testing, or change the spec that’s being used for a function.  You might have more staff working and accessing data than in the past.  Natural growth in the amount of data you have stored can be a cost factor – your IT team may need to add extra hard drives or database servers to cope with demand.

A regular audit of what your subscription includes and what you need to function is important, and speaking to a qualified Azure consultant who can analyse the data that you have can pay for itself quite quickly thanks to a reduction in Azure cost that can be quite significant.

Are You Turning Things Off?

One of the biggest advantages of Azure is that you only pay for what you use.  If you manage your IaaS correctly, you can see significant cost savings.  You can reduce the spec of a VM overnight or turn it off if you don’t need it.  You can reduce the amount of hard drive space that you pay for if it’s not being filled.

Properly auditing your usage is essential.  Contact Valto today and one of our consultants will talk you through your options.  The chances are that we can help you reduce your Azure costs.  Call us now on 03335 779 009 to find out how much!