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Many charities and non-profits struggle with ageing servers running old, legacy applications that are too complex to move to the cloud quickly.
Microsoft Azure is a great alternative to running your own physical servers or paying for space in expensive Data Centres. The best part is that Microsoft give non-profits $3,500 per year towards the running costs, which can make it incredibly cost effective and far more resilient and environmentally friendly thank buying new server hardware.
In our latest video, Adam Monnery, Technical Director at Smartdesc discusses Azure, what it is and how it can improve security, scalability and resistance for charities and non-profits.
Click below to view the full interview:
At its core, Microsoft Azure is a public cloud platform that allows organisations to build, deploy and manage services and applications without the necessity of managing physical servers and hardware.
It can be used for hosting infrastructure and can be used for services such as storage, virtual computing and networking and much more.
Honestly, it would take a whole book to cover the full range of services in Azure, the Azure cosmos is constantly expanding, and it is flexible so you can use it in any way really to transform your IT environment.
How can Azure make charities and not-for-profits financially resilient?
As the services in Azure are scalable and flexible, charities will only pay for what they need, when they need it, with no up-front costs.
Azure provides the ability to create, add and scale resources up and down when needed. For example, you can increase computing capacity by adding more RAM or CPUs to a virtual machine, increase and decrease storage space and scale apps.
If an organisation had an increase in traffic, they could quickly scale servers to handle the increase without having to pay a sudden large upfront cost to buy new servers.
With a CapEx model, which is buying fixed assets upfront, an organisation could risk getting stuck with capacity they do not need, thus losing money on unused services.
An OpEx pay-as-you-go model is more advantageous here as the ability to scale elastically and create new resources when needed allows an organisation to have the right amount of IT resources for them.
As the hosted infrastructure is provided by Microsoft’s data centres, organisations will not have to worry about replacing out-of-date or faulty hardware and they will not have to worry about electricity and cooling costs to keep servers running.
The time of IT staff can be freed up as they can focus on new, complex projects rather than focus their energy on general IT system upkeep.
Does Microsoft offer any financial benefits to not-for-profits in particular?
Certainly. As part of Microsoft’s non-profit programme, not-for-profits can claim and get access to Azure service credits for free (currently £3,500 annually), alongside free or discounted Office 365 licenses, to improve their technology capabilities.
This is important to raise because many charities can be missing out on grants and discounts on services because they do not have the resources or time available to spend researching online about this.
How can physical servers be replaced? What about legacy apps?
One of the most common and basic Azure Infrastructure as a Service scenarios is replacing a physical server with a virtual server, which runs in Azure’s data centre.
Organisations can then create virtual machines, virtual networks and storage and run their services in the cloud.
Even traditional legacy apps that run in on-premise servers can be moved to Azure to have the apps running from there.
In the app modernisation journey, there is the lift and shift stage where you get your apps and services in the cloud infrastructure by deploying your apps to virtual machines. Apps are then modernised using Azure containers.
It is important to mention that Azure does offer a hybrid approach for organisations, with a gradual transition from on-premise to cloud, which can work for some organisations that have recently invested in on-premise equipment.
There are sync tools which create a bridge between on-premise and Azure. You can use Azure AD to synchronise on-premises directories and enable single sign-on.
As an example, you can protect on-premise apps by connecting them to Azure AD which will then provide secure hybrid access.
Will Azure make an IT environment more secure?
Security is paramount for charities and not-for-profits due to the sensitive information they hold about their beneficiaries.
Azure’s identity and access management solutions can safeguard staff credentials with access controls, identity protection tools and strong authentication options.
A service like Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) is another benefit that Azure has over on-premise storage solutions.
You can use Azure AD to require multi-factor authentication when accessing important or sensitive organisational resources.
Another important service is role-based access control which ensures only relevant users have access to certain information within the organisation.
These services provided by Azure protects your organisation, not only from external threats, but from errors made internally too.
How accessible is Azure and how does it integrate with other cloud services?
Azure can integrate with your Active Directory to provide identity and access management in both cloud and hybrid environments.
Interestingly, Microsoft’s cloud services are interconnected at core levels.
So, if you are on Microsoft 365, you can manage users and devices through the Azure AD portal. Azure AD can be described as a link between Microsoft 365 and Azure.
Azure AD creates a single identity solution that saves time for staff.
The solution provides a secure single sign-on to the cloud which means staff will only have to remember one username and password to log onto their computer and access Teams, OneDrive etc.
SaaS cloud applications, like Salesforce and DocuSign, can be linked as well for single sign on.
Active Directory integration with Azure is an open door to manage and maintain access to your tools.
Smartdesc is dedicated to working with charities and non-profits. Our Charity IT Directors and highly experienced Charity Project Managers have great insight in how to run a successful project from the outset all the way through to implementation and monitoring. They have been working with and implementing Azure in the charity sector for many years.
Get in touch to discuss or to book an initial consultation.