When you’re working in internal IT, it can often feel like it all falls on your shoulders alone. Regularly, we speak to internal IT staff who are responsible for hundreds of users, endpoints and assets, and may be a one-man band, or a team of two or three technicians.

The cloud is a great time-saver and productivity boost for internal IT, providing ease of use, scale, collaboration and security, to name just a few benefits. In terms of choosing a cloud provider, Azure is often called the “enterprise choice”, with more businesses choosing to deploy and manage their cloud on Azure than any other. If you’re just starting your Azure cloud journey, let’s dive into 5 best practices that can help you to get it done right.

1. Create a thorough roadmap of what functionality you want to leverage

There is so much that you can do using Microsoft Azure, but that doesn’t mean that it’s all right for you on day one. Consider all the different paths you could take, and the Azure services that would best suit your needs. Here are a few starter choices, and some information on the lingo you’re bound to encounter first and foremost:

  • Virtual machines: VMs are where your apps and services are held, just like if they were in your own data center. You can use templates, or create your own custom images on either Microsoft or Linux.
  • Databases: Azure will manage your SQL databases as-a-service, so that you don’t need in-house expertise. You can start with anywhere from a single relational database, and scale up to as many as you need.
  • Active directory: You’re probably used to AD on-premises, and Azure Active Directory is the same. Manage policies, authentication and user access, and make security top of your roadmap on the cloud.
  • Application development: Azure WebApps is your first stop if you’re looking to create your own web applications for your business. Azure apps will be platform agnostic, and you can develop using APIs for services such as 365, Salesforce and more.
    Storage and backup: This is often a business’ first step on the cloud, providing secure, accessible data storage and smart back-ups in case of an emergency, or an outage. Make sure to choose the right tiers for your access needs.

2. Get acquainted with logs

Logs are the way that you gain visibility into all of your security and operational needs, and on Azure – your logging is everything that you make of it! You can drill down into diagnostic logs that show you how the network is performing, perhaps highlighting a bottleneck or an outage, as well as IIS logs that show you traffic patterns and activity on your web servers. You can also define errors ahead of time, so that you can gain insight into operations, such as what activities are causing slowdowns. You can then report this back to management to get buy-in for improvements.

3. Take security seriously from day one

The shared responsibility model means that you are responsible for security IN the cloud, while Azure is only responsible for the security OF the cloud. Infrastructure is on Microsoft’s shoulders, but apps, data, user access and networking is all down to you. Check the Azure Security Center often for updates, use Single Sign On, and make sure you implement 2FA. Limit the subscription owners to reduce risk, and ensure you are keeping control over the cloud environment. Create layers of security around your cloud, starting with Azure firewall, followed by Network security groups that filter traffic, and perhaps a site-to-site VPN.

4. Look for smart cost optimization opportunities

The cloud is often touted for its cost savings, but if you make quick choices without being fully informed, data transfer, storage and compute can add up fast. Consider storage tiers on Azure for example, which are sold by “hot”, “cool” and “archive.” The hot tiers will cost the most, but you can access your blob storage whenever you choose. In contrast, if you don’t need access to the data regularly, and you’re happy with flexible latency requirements, you can use the archive tier. This could be a perfect fit for compliance data or archives, as long as you’re happy for them to stay stored for at least 180 days.

Another example of cost optimization is for data transfer. If you use a content delivery network, rely on egress traffic, or even send data to private endpoints – this will all cost you on your monthly invoice. Instead, try to keep everything inside your VNet, as each Azure subscription can create up to 50 VNets and this will save you unnecessary cloud spend.

5. Listen to the Azure advisor

Imagine you had a friend who knew all the best practices for Azure – wouldn’t you keep them close to hand as you deployed your cloud environment? That’s exactly what you get with the Azure Advisor. It will analyze your configurations and your usage, and then come back with smart recommendations for how you can do more with your environment. All advice, on security, cost, optimization, databases and more can all be found in a single place, with smart options for implementing changes or getting additional information. Best of all – Azure Advisor won’t cost you a cent, so is a great way to get more benefit out of your relationship with the cloud giant.

Internal IT – the time for cloud is now

Azure is going from strength to strength, with 50% growth announced in the last calendar year. As the pandemic proved the value of the cloud more than ever before – it’s time to make the leap. Internal IT can support their company in being ready for the cloud by preparing ahead of time for what services to leverage, how to save costs, keep security tight, and focus on operational success.

Want to know more about how Atera ensures security and privacy on the Atera cloud? Read our Knowledge Base article, here.

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