Recently, we caught up with an Azure specialist with an inspiring story. He kindly let us quiz him on the potential of Azure to transform small and medium sized businesses. But first, an introduction…
Daniel Baker, AKA AzureDan, is an Azure Evangelist for Microsoft. A long-time diabetic with all the complications that involves, Dan was told in 2018 that his condition was deteriorating. This was despite rigorous adherence to his treatment regime. On the trajectory he was on, he may have eventually lost his vision.
Drawing on his expertise, for a few years Dan had been running his own Azure system called IoMe (short for The Internet of Me). This integrated a series of monitoring devices and apps onto one platform and incorporated it into his smart home.
It did super clever things. Like permanently display his levels on a smart mirror so his family would have real-time information on his condition while he was away. And automatically turn on lights and an alarm in the night if his levels drop, to prevent him falling into a coma.
After the bad news of his deterioration, Dan decided to seize the initiative. He flooded his brain with every text book and piece of research he could get his hands on. Combined with the powerful data analytics that his Azure platform was giving, he embarked on his own diet and exercise-based treatment aimed at reducing his insulin resistance.
Remarkably, after eight weeks, he stopped all medication (that he had been taking for 20 years) and his glucose levels remained at safe levels. It’s not the end of the story for Dan, but it is a dramatic twist thanks to his own perseverance and the power of Azure. Dan concludes: “By reducing the problem to data, I had a clear unbiased view of my body. I could see how it was changing and what I could do to support its recovery.”
Inspiring stuff. So let’s hear what Dan has to say about Azure for your business.
Can you describe Azure in 60 seconds?
Sure. In fact if you have ever built or worked with a company’s computer system, you’re halfway there!
In simple terms, Azure is an expanding set of cloud services that gives you the freedom to build, manage and deploy applications on a global scale. It’s still computer, memory and storage, but removes the need to buy expensive equipment. It allows you to build solutions faster and potentially cheaper than ever before.
Think of it as a utility. We don’t own power stations. We simply purchase gas, electricity and water from a provider and are charged on what we consume. This is what the Cloud does for business. It moves you from a capital expenditure model to an operating expenditure model whilst aligning to your favourite tools and frameworks.
It’s designed for business. So what inspired you to try it in your personal life?
While many feel that the cloud is designed for business, our goal at Microsoft is to “Empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more”.
Now I could have obviously built this system to run on my home computer. But that would mean running the system 24/7, exposing the system to the Internet and ensuring that the system was highly available. This would not only consume electricity but would also put my home system at risk.
By building it in the cloud, I was able to take advantage of the economies of scale. You see companies like Microsoft buy and build systems in bulk, yielding cost savings that are passed onto its customers. In fact, for many services we have free tiers meaning that I can build personal solutions for next to nothing.
This is what I did with the IoMe project. I ran it on a free database, which connected into a free WebApp. So you can see, the Cloud really was a no brainer 😊
What is the number one reason holding people back from trying Azure in their business?
This is a tough question because if I am honest, most of the time it’s a combination of fears.
And I get it, moving to the cloud is a big step and whether we like to admit it or not, change is scary. Will I lose control of my assets? Will it be secure? Will my data be protected? These are the questions I get asked repeatedly, so let me try to answer as best I can.
Moving to the Cloud is an evolutionary step for any business because it provides agility: agility in scale, agility in cost and agility in security. Yes, you could argue that you lose the ability to deploy a solution on the server on premises. But doesn’t that also mean you win the freedom to deploy the solution with no fixed allocation? That you’re able to deploy the solution on faster systems, larger systems and newer systems?
What about security? Most companies will have a security officer, maybe firewalls and an intrusion detection system. But how many invest over a billion dollars a year in security? How many employ a global workforce tasked with securing resources and responding to threats? How many companies employ the latest advancements in artificial intelligence to proactively detect and mitigate risk?
The fact is, in the Cloud, you are better protected. What’s more you’ll also enjoy comprehensive compliance coverage – including meeting the requirements of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
Can you provide a couple of scenarios of how Azure can be used, say for marketing or finance?
So, one of the great things about Azure is its diversity, especially when we move into platform-based services. Now one of the ways that I have used this is to detect the sentiment of my social media followers by using a combination of sentiment analysis and serverless computing through logic apps.
As you will recall from when we last met, I use this to give me rich insight into how my messages are landing. It enables notifications if the system detects that a negative response has been found.
And what company wouldn’t want that? To be able to better understand customers, or how well a message or product has resonated with the target audience is immensely valuable. The fact is, in the past companies may have paid for these services. But today they are relatively quick and cheap solutions that can be deployed in the Cloud.
What are the top benefits that you would expect people to see in their business when they adopt Azure?
I think that by moving to the Cloud every company will see value. However, how much is dependent on the type of migration you undertake. Let me clarify, a company could simply move virtual machines (VMs) from on premises to the Cloud and by doing so they could decommission old tin and make better use of computer resources and elevated security.
However, by refactoring applications to platform-based micro services, companies would yield better cost control and greater agility and cloud scale.
These are many of the considerations companies will need to think of when beginning their journey, which is why we have a rich ecosystem of partners like Nebula IT that are on hand to support.
Do you have any top tips that you can share for getting the most out of Azure?
Marry yourself to the system, learn the product and play. I mean we have free trials, we have free training and an abundance of online resources at www.azure.com for you to really get your hands dirty with the product.
It’s a fantastic time to be in technology. The pace of change and advancements in what can be achieved is breath-taking. What’s more, the democratising nature of the Cloud levels the playing field. You don’t have to be the biggest company. You don’t have to have the biggest budgets. You don’t even have to own any servers.
From a simple laptop you can open a treasure chest of technology: a hybrid cloud that has more regions and more compliance offerings than any other. It means that if you can dream it, chances are, you can build it!
Will we see evolution or revolution with Azure over the next ten years? What are your predictions?
Azure is a platform with over two hundred services that continues to evolve. This means that it can take many directions and will really be governed by individual business needs. My predictions are that artificial intelligence and the intelligent edge will continue to gain momentum. I’m excited to see what this means for smart cities, connected homes, autonomous vehicles and environmental health.
Talk to us about how you could start using Azure for your business
At Nebula IT, we are just as excited as Dan about what Azure can do for business. If you are still not quite sure how it could work, have some doubts or fears, or are incredibly excited about the opportunities Azure presents, get in touch with us. We can talk you through how you could benefit, and how we can help, so call or message us today.